Friday, April 19, 2013

The Parenthetical Chef: Masked Mom Makes (Inauthentic) Mexican Food

I'm not sure, but I think it was Son-Two who suggested homemade quesadillas the first time. I think he had gone out to eat with friends and really loved the quesadilla concept. I know for sure that it was Son-Two who suggested I fix the "chicken to cheese ratio" after I made quesadillas for the first time--those first ones were, in Son-Two's estimation, a little chicken heavy, cheese light.

It's been seven or eight years since the first quesadillas were produced in my kitchen and they remain a family favorite. As with many family favorites, there was no recipe to begin with, just guesstimation and trial and error, which is how my written recipes always ended up filled with parentheses. (That, and my passionate love of parentheses, of course.)

Quick & Easy Foldy Quesadillas
 
1 lb. cooked chicken breast, cut or torn into 1/4" pieces
 
1 envelope Chichi's Fiesta Restaurante Seasoning*

1 cup water

1 (10-count) package soft taco size (6"-ish) white flour tortillas

Butter, softened (I consider margarine to be culinary blasphemy, but I suppose it would suffice.)

1 bag (8 ounces) finely shredded Mexican blend cheese (not the seasoned kind, the kind with four cheeses, but no seasonings) or the shredded cheese of your choice (It's a good idea to have a back-up bag of cheese in case your handfuls are more generous than mine.)

Optional toppings/dips/garnishes: Ranch and/or bleu cheese dressing, salsa, sour cream

In a 10" skillet, heat chicken, water and seasoning packet to boiling, simmer about five minutes and remove from heat. Meanwhile, butter one side of the tortillas and heat griddle, skillet or electric griddle. (I use an electric griddle set to about 350O, so I would imagine medium or medium-high would be the right temp for stovetop cooking, depending on how heavy your skillet/griddle is.) Place tortillas, butter side down, on heated griddle. Place approximately two tablespoons seasoned chicken on one half of tortilla. Top chicken with a generous handful of shredded cheese. If desired, dressing or salsa can be added now. (I do not do this for my own, but various members of my family like ranch or bleu cheese dressing squirted in during the cooking process. Some others prefer to dip the finished product in dressings or salsa.) As cheese begins to melt fold empty half of tortilla on to chicken/cheese side and press to seal. Allow first side to brown and then flip to brown other side evenly. (Time varies, but not more than a couple minutes per side.) Repeat process until all quesadillas are finished. (I suppose quesadillas could be kept warm by covering and keeping in an oven on a low temperature, but usually what happens when I am making them is that people begin serving themselves while I am making more.) Makes 10 foldy quesadillas, which (in my experience with teenaged boys and quesadilla-loving relatives of all ages) serves about three people. (I routinely quadruple this recipe--or more accurately, this recipe is quartered from what I normally make.) I serve them with Spanish rice made from a package and Southwestern seasoned corn.

Q is for Quesadillas



*The seasoning is essential and the packets look like this:
 
And, yes, that is an entire case of Chi-Chi's seasoning packets, which were ordered from Amazon.com when the local grocery store discontinued them. If you cannot find this particular seasoning in your area and are not ready to commit to a case of seasoning packets, you can substitute one (4.25 oz) can diced chilies, drained; a handful of dehydrated chopped onions and a couple of heavy shakes of garlic powder or garlic salt. It is a passable substitute. The thing about the packets, though, is they are great not just for quesadillas, but for chicken tacos, and chicken chili. (Bonus parenthetical recipe: take the one pound seasoned chicken from the recipe above, put in a large saucepan with 2 cans (undrained) great northern beans and heat through. Voila, chicken chili! Sprinkle with cheese and serve with garlic bread. So good, easy and cheap.) Full disclosure: I received no compensation or consideration from Chi-Chi's for this post, but would not be opposed to receiving some retroactively. Hint-hint. 
 


13 comments:

  1. my kids love quesadillas too, but their preferred chicken to cheese ratio is no chicken, tons of cheese.

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    1. Son-Two would probably support that. ;)

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  2. This sounds yummy and easy!

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    1. It is great--and inexpensive, too, if you catch the chicken breast on sale. Plus, of course, you can really stuff them anyway you like. They're pretty versatile.

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  3. My recipe (and I use the term loosely) for quesadillas is strictly subject to what I have on hand. Same for tacos, burritos, tostadas, tamales and enchiladas. Never the same "recipe" twice. Gosh, now I'm hungry after reading your post. Better go check the icebox.

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    1. The problem with improvisational cooking is that when you make something AMAZING, it's impossible to duplicate. I threw a bunch of stuff in a pot a few weeks ago and made a soup that was so fantastic it was practically a religious experience, but I am certain that even if I could remember the ingredients list, I would never remember the quantities.

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  4. Thanksk for stopping by Witt Bits. Sons 1 and 2 would know better in my house. They'd be the ones cooking if they didn't like my ratios : )

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    1. I used to tell the kids if they didn't like what was prepared, they were welcome to make themselves a sandwich as an alternate. These parenthetical recipes, though, they have always been a communal effort. ;)

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  5. Margarine IS culinary blasphemy. Good call on that.

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    1. Thanks, Leah--I'm glad we agree on that. ;)

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  6. I make a similar recipe ridiculously often and enjoy them ridiculously much. I am fascinated by the Chi-Chi's seasoning, though. I've never used it and now MUST KNOW what it tastes like, so as to prompt the purchase of an entire case of it. I don't know if you have Grocery Outlets there - it's like the Big Lots of grocery stores and therefore, Nirvana - but I just stumbled upon a whole slew of Chi-Chi's brand sauces and stuff. Is Chi-Chi's (the restaurant) still even in business? This is a very long comment about taco seasoning, I realize, but I am fascinated - absolutely and not ironically fascinated! - by such things.

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    1. I do not think Chi-Chi's the restaurant is still in business--based upon my encyclopedic knowledge of restaurant chains (aka I haven't seen a commercial for their place in a while--on the other hand, I have a DVR so I hardly ever see any commercials for anything anymore). I'm not sure what exactly the magic ingredient is in the seasoning packets (MSG, most likely), but they're pretty yummy & they're much lighter and more subtle than traditional taco seasonings.

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  7. I HAD NO IDEA YOU COULD ORDER IT THIS WAY! I TOOK THE TIME TO DO THE SURVEYS IN THE STORE AND FILL OUT FORMS, ETC TO ASK THEM TO ORDER IT AGAIN! No results. Must get some asap!!!

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