Chicken Quesadilla

Had you been around downtown San Francisco in the latter half of last week, you would have seen a mighty fine sight; 22,000 plus people had descended upon the city. 21,999 people dressed in black (one was dressed in blue). The AIA convention was in town and there were architects pouring out of the woodwork. Building administrators huddled nervously in dark corners when they saw the dark hordes descend, wondering how much of their buildings would be critically poked and pried and verbally taken apart and if it would ever get put back together again. But then building administrators are such a nervous lot as a rule. I think it must have something to do with having people yell at you about recalcitrant plumbing all day long.

The convention was at the Moscone Center and if you don’t know where that is, let me tell you that its a great place to have a convention. It is a stone’s throw from lots of (fun) places and best of all, since this is San Francisco, you can walk to all of them. And talking of throwing stones, there’s a good chance that within a 5 mile radius of throwing that stone, you would have bopped the head of an architect staring up a building. Or you could have hit a tourist. The swine flu means Mexico has closed ports and even more cruise lines have forcibly added San Francisco to their itinerary, which has created a huge influx of tourists in the city. Gavin Newsom must be sitting at City Hall mighty happy about the shot in the arm the city’s economy got this week-end. Anyway to add it all up, there were architects plus tourists plus local architects plus locals all over the place. A good dose of rain jumped into the sum, rounding everything off nicely. I spent a couple of educational yet fun days throwing around ideas and discussing issues with a few old friends and new acquaintances alike.

If you wonder, why indeed do architects wear black, don’t ask me. I don’t know, though I do know that I have favoured it in my clothing since I was a child, way before I even thought of becoming an architect. Cannot understand it …..even though I love colour, I chose to wear a lot of black. I am consiously trying to change that now. But it puts up a tremendous fight and I’m not succeeding too well.

This weekend after the engaging yet tiring days of the convention, we thought we’d try a take on quesadillas, what with it being the beginning of May and all. We had some left over rotisserie chicken from the Farmers’ Market that we shredded and used. Also used was one of our favourite US finds, smoked chipotles in adobo sauce, to make a base sauce for these.  If you’ve never tried this, do so with caution. This is potent smoky heat. You put the contents of the can in a processor an give it a whizz. What you end up with is a superb chilli puree from which you can make countless tasty gems.

Chicken Quesadillas
Makes 6 quesadillas

Whole wheat tortillas – 1 packet, regular size (12 tortillas)
Chipotles in Adobo Sauce – 3 tbsp
Onion – 1/2, slivered
Roma Tomato – 1 , diced
Pepper strips – 1 1/2 cup
Mushrooms – 1/2 cup, chopped roughly
Spinach leaves – a handful
Rotisserie chicken – 3/4 to 1 cup, shredded
Low-fat sour cream – 2 tbsp
Cheddar cheese – 1/2 cup
Monterey or pepper jack cheese – 1/2 cup
Lemon – 1/2
Olive oil – 1 tsp
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce base and cheese:
– Mix the chipotle sauce and sour cream together thoroughly.
– Mix the cheeses together in a small bowl

For the veggie and chicken mixture:
– Heat oil in a pan. In this, fry the onions till they are translucent.
– Add the pepper strips and fry for a bit.
– For the tomatoes, before you dice them, scoop all the seeds out and dice the rest. Add the diced tomatoes to the pan and mix. Follow with the mushrooms and lastly the spinach. Cook the mixture through. Make sure any water from the vegetables dries out sufficiently enough that the mixture is just moist but not watery.
– Add the shredded chicken about 5 minutes before you take the pan off the heat. Squeeze the lemon half over the pan and mix to incorporate.
– Add salt and pepper to taste. (Not too much though, there is salt in the cheese and in the chipotle sauce).

To make one quesadilla:

– Put a (preferably non-stick) griddle or large flat pan on the heat.
– Toss one tortilla on it to heat. Depending on how hot your griddle is this can take as little as 30 seconds. Take it off the heat and place it on a plate with the heated side up. Toss another tortilla on the griddle.
– Meanwhile, put some sauce on the heated side of the first tortilla, a little bit, like you were very lightly buttering bread. Next, add about 1 heaped tablespoon of the veggie and chicken mixture and spread on the tortilla. Sprinkle a layer of the mixed cheese on top. Take the second tortilla and place it heated side down on top of the cheese like the other end of a sandwich.
– Now return the entire quesadilla to the griddle to heat the unheated sides of both tortillas. Just a few seconds on both sides.

Take off the heat and let cool a bit before cutting it into quarters. Serve with salsa and/or this guacamole.

Cook’s notes:-
Even though it took a short while to make this from scratch, all the prep for this dish can be done earlier to save even more time. If you prefer your tortillas crisper, then I would suggest that you heat each one on both sides to achieve the desired crunch before you assemble the quesadilla on a plate, off the griddle. Just make sure the one you put right on top of the cheese is hot when you do place it. This will help the cheese to melt and the entire assembly to become cohesive. Keep the quantity of sauce minimal otherwise the cheese won’t be able to glue everything together successfully. If all your layers are minimal and spread evenly thin, this should happen easily.

There is no need to chop the spinach as it wilts easily. Adding it towards the end will ensure that it doesn’t do so completely. I used baby spinach here and I think I’d encourage the use of fresh leaves. Frozen spinach may bring too much water to the dish. You may find yourself with an excess of the veggie-chicken mix since this recipe intends to create a little more than what is required, in case the veggies you are using lose a lot of their water. Any leftover can easily be used in a pasta dish or in an omlette (that’s what I did with mine). If you have some tortilla chips and leftover guacamole, you could toss this on them and make your own version of nachos too. Also I might add, I thought about using chapatis for this, but I’m not sure they will work (maybe if they were made from all-purpose flour??). Chapatis just aren’t as stretchy as tortillas and are also dryer in texture.

The chipotle sauce adds a significant kick to the quesadilla. You might want to test the sour cream and chipotle mixture to see how potent you’d like it. Reduce the quantity of chipotle and increase the sour cream accordingly to suit your taste. This is a perfect recipe for the upcoming Cinco de Mayo.

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