SQUASH BLOSSOM QUESADILLAS
Quesadillas de flor de calabaza
Makes 12 quesadillas
2 poblano chiles, charred, peeled, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon safflower or corn oil
1/4 cup white onion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
12 oz (about 8 cups) fresh squash blossoms, rinsed, dried and chopped
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
8 oz Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 cups instant Maseca corn masa flour, if making fresh masa tortillas, or substitute 1 package store-bought corn tortillas
1 3/4 cups water, for the masa, if making fresh masa tortillas
To Prepare Filling:
Place the poblano chiles on a tray under the broiler, directly on the grill, or directly on the open flame or on a comal or skillet set over medium heat. Turn them every 2 to 3 minutes for a total of 6 to 9 minutes, until they are charred and blistered all over. Transfer them to a plastic bag, close it tightly and let them sweat for 10 to 20 minutes. Working under a thin stream of cold water, peel off their skin; make a slit down the sides to remove and discard the seeds and veins, then remove and discard the stem. Cut them into 1/2-inch-wide strips or squares.
Add butter and oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter is bubbling, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened and fragrant, for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the prepared poblano chiles, then the squash blossoms and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the blossoms exude their juices and the mixture begins to dry out. Remove from the heat.
If Using Fresh Corn Masa:
Mix Maseca or instant corn dough masa with the water and knead for a few minutes until soft. Make 1-inch balls and flatten between plastic rounds on a tortilla press.
Place 1 tablespoon of the cheese and 2 tablespoons of the filling at the center of the dough disk and, leaving it on the plastic round of the tortilla press, fold it over and press to seal the edges. Repeat to form the rest of the quesadillas, using all the dough and filling.
In a deep and large skillet, add enough oil so that it’s at least Â¾-inch deep; heat over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, about 3 to 4 minutes later, add a few quesadillas at a time to the hot oil, making sure not to crowd the skillet. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown and crisp. Transfer, with a slotted spoon, to a paper towel-lined platter to drain. Serve hot, with the salsa of your choice.
If Using Store-Bought Tortillas:
If using pre-made corn tortillas, add the cheese and filling to the center of the tortilla. Place on an already hot comal, griddle or skillet, and let them cook until the cheese has melted and the tortilla has begun to lightly crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Quesadillas–the perfect marriage of heaven and earth, where the basic, simple tortilla meets the ecstasy of cheese. If you can find the right cheese, that is… So, where do you find great Mexican cheeses in the US? If you can’t find Oaxaca Cheese or Manchego, what can you use instead? What about Monterey Jack or Cheddar as a substitute?
In this episode I interview the fabulous Joe Yonan (who just came out with an equally fabulous cookbook!), who gives us a lot of cheesy advise.
Would it shock you to know that you don’t technically need to stuff cheese inside for it to qualify as an authentic Mexican quesadilla?
Plantain and Refried Bean Quesadillas
Quesadillas de Plátano Masa con Frijolitos Refritos
Makes 6 to 8, 5″ quesadillas.
Place the whole plantains in a large pot filled with boiling water. Simmer, partially covered, for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are thoroughly cooked. Remove from the water and let cool. Peel the plantains, slice, and place in a food processor along with the sugar. Process until smooth. If the dough seems to soft and runny, you may add some all purpose flour to thicken it a bit. You may also let it sit in the refrigerator, covered, for a half an hour so it will harden too.
Make round balls of about 1 to 2″. Press in between plastic rounds in a tortilla press or roll with a roller until you get a flat disk of about ¼”. Place about a tablespoon of refried beans right in the center and fold like a turnover. Press down along the edges so they will be tightly sealed.
In a large deep skillet set over medium heat, heat enough oil to have about an inch high. About 3 to 4 minutes later, when it is hot but not smoking, insert the quesadillas a few at a time. The oil should be bubbling around the quesadillas as you do. Let them fry, about 2 minutes on each side until nicely tanned and lightly crisped. Don’t let them brown too much. Remove them and place on a paper towel to drain excess of oil.
Serve with your favorite salsa.
Oaxaca-style Mushroom and Cheese Quesadillas
Quesadillas de Hongos con Queso Estilo Oaxaca
1 tbsp safflower or corn oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup white onion, chopped
1 chile serrano, or jalapeño, finely chopped (seeding optional)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lb fresh mushrooms, white or baby bello, or any that you prefer, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh epazote leaves, chopped, optional
2 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1 cup Oaxaca cheese, shredded (also good with mozzarella, muenster or monterey jack)
Corn tortillas, store bought or homemade
Salsa of your choice
Heat the oil and butter in a large sauté pan, set over medium-high heat. When butter starts to sizzle, add white onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the serrano chile and chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, for about a minute.
Incorporate the thinly sliced mushrooms and cook them for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Their juices will begin to come out and after a couple minutes they will begin to dry out. When they do, mix in the epazote leaves if using, and salt, stir and cook for another minute. The mushroom mix should be moist, not wet or too dry, which will be perfect for filling the quesadillas.
Heat the tortillas on a hot comal or dry skillet over medium heat for about 20 seconds. Place a tablespoon or two of the mushroom mix and a tablespoon or two of the shredded cheese (depending on how chubby you want them!) on the center of each tortilla. Fold it as if it were a turnover and press down. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, until cheese is completely melted and tortillas have begun to crisp a bit on the outside.
Serve with a side of a salsa of your choice.
What to cook for the Today Show?
With so many options being juggled in my head, I was growing restless as the date got closer.
As I started exchanging emails with one of the producers, I began to throw ideas: what about different kinds of Salsas, variations of that irresistible cold and wet Tres Leches cake, funky versions of Guacamole, or a sample of fresh Ceviches…?
Or, wait. How about something easy, tasty and flashy like Tequila, Cream and Chipotle Shrimp? It’s so much fun to prepare, I told the producer. You ignite the pan, the flames come up right after the shrimp begin to brown, and then they wind down right before you pour the cream. Your guests feel special and impressed…
I had to agree that we were better off staying away from igniting anything on the set.
Oh, I got it! A chicken dish. Everyone wants a good chicken dish in their recipe box. And one of the tastiest ways to eat chicken in Mexican kitchens, no doubt about it, is Chicken Tinga.
Although it comes from the state of Puebla, it is so popular, that it is eaten throughout the country. So of course there are countless variations.
I have a favorite version. One that I have tweaked through the years until I found a balance of flavors that needs no more tweaking, if you ask me…
Continue reading Chicken Tinga for Today (Show) and Everyday!
Each time I go back to Mexico City, even before the plane lands, I know there are some formal plans that can never, ever, be messed around with. They are all with my father and they all involve eating in the same places. Each single time.
One of the places is El Bajío. If you know my father, you know he doesn’t let me order. You also know that he knows the Restaurant manager, waiters, bar servers and valet parking attendants by name. And they all know him too.
Continue reading Bossed Around at El Bajío: Plantain Quesadillas
The last time I was at the Mexico City Chapultepec Fair was 20 years ago, with my high school friends. Going back last weekend with my own growing monsters, confirmed that it is not an ordinary Fair experience, ever, regardless of one’s age.
Yes, you find the balloons, with a mix of Mexican and American characters, right at the main entrance.
Continue reading Quesadillas at the Mexico City Fair
“You know how some people just light up a room? In Patricia Jinich’s case it’s more than just a smile, although hers is spectacular. Its her unique combination of grace, modesty, passion and energy that does it. She also happens to have quickly become one of my favorite cooking teachers in the city. When I finally made it to one of her classes…”