Ingredients: flour tortilla, egg, milk, cheddar cheese, cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, butter, crème fraîche, cilantro, chipotle pepper, lime juice.
If I could have 3 wishes, I’m pretty sure one of them would be the everlasting power to snap my fingers and conjure up a perfect quesadilla out of thin air.* See, whenever I want a quesadilla, I want it immediately. I want it right now. So I end up making it in the microwave, and it comes out floppy and bland. Then I have one of those moments where I’m eating something totally mediocre and must convince myself that it’s worth the calories. Tragic, considering that I’m fully capable of constructing a proper specimen.
I learned how to make quesadillas at a fairly young age, perhaps 8 or so, from my late Aunt Norma. It’s one of the earliest memories i have of being interested in cooking. I remember the feeling of revelation when Aunt Norma, who was originally from Mexico, explained that both sides of each tortilla should be browned. It was counterintuitive to toast the side that would end up facing inward, but it made sense… the cheese would inevitably soften the tortillas, so why not crisp them up preemptively? I learned more than how to make quesadillas that day; the real lesson was that cooking is about technique as much as it’s about ingredients. I wanted to know more tricks!
But let’s get back to business. I started by shredding some cheddar cheese into a container, then seasoning it with salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper. I toasted 2 tortillas in a hot dry skillet, one side only for each. The toasted sides face inward; the outer sides get plenty of browning when returned to the skillet later.
Lately I’ve been adding a thin layer of scrambled egg to my quesadillas. I like how the egg adds mass without adding heaviness, and the flavors blend together quite nicely. So my next step was to beat 1 egg with a little milk, salt, and black pepper. I add a bit of butter to the skillet, then drizzle in the beaten eggs. Once they thicken a bit (but before completely setting), I slapped on one of the tortillas, browned side down. The omelette then sticks to it like glue and can be easily slipped out.
Next, I put the other tortilla into the skillet, browned side up. Then I sprinkled it with the seasoned cheese, and immediately closed the quesadilla with the eggy half. I turned the heat down to low, and let it melt inside. After a couple minutes, I flipped it in order to brown the final tortilla surface.
I served the quesadilla with a Tex-Mex crème fraîche (thick sour cream), flavored with cilantro, lime juice, and chipotle paste. For a pretentious artful touch (as if French sour cream were not enough), I squeezed the mixture through a makeshift grocery piping bag.
* – Don’t scoff at me for my magic wish. I’d also use it to end world hunger.