Saturday, July 12, 2008

Orchid's Quesadillas

When I mentioned to my friend ("the wombat stuffer") that I was going to post a recipe for quesadillas on my blog, he said something to the effect of 'aren't quesadillas just cheese and chicken basically?' He's a nice guy and a lot of fun to be around, but he sometimes unintentionally harshes my buzz. I hope some day to paper train him so he makes some lucky woman a pristine specimen of a husband. Okay, maybe not pristine, but at least a little less annoying and hitting the paper on occasion. I'm guessing that completely getting him not to have little accidents in the house will require more hands on time than I'm getting (or could possibly want).

Anyway, I told the old wombat king that my recipe is different because I prepare the chicken in my own special way. It's also different because it's mine, by cracky! Also, I can tell you how to do this with items you can get in Japan which is no small deal. People who live in California like dear Mr. Stuffer can saunter into any market any time and toss Tex-Mex ingredients in their shopping basket around the clock. Those of us in the land of raw fish and rice have no such luck.

First of all, let me say that you can make your own tortillas as I detailed in my former blog, but it's really a pain when it's so hot like it is now. I picked up mine from the Foreign Buyer's Club deli which delivers them frozen in about a week for the bargain price of about 55 yen per tortilla. They are also monster tortillas which are far larger than anything I've ever been able to make or buy in Tokyo. We bought 3 double packs and tossed them in the freezer for the future. This reduces the price to 45 yen per tortilla and makes the shipping cost more worthwhile.

Besides the tortillas I used natural mixed cheese from an average Japanese market, a couple of large chicken (1/2) breasts, a tomato and Pace Picante sauce and organic taco seasoning (which comes in a huge container like many spices do) from Costco. However, any salsa or seasoning mix will do.

Chicken preparation:
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (semi-frozen is easiest to handle)
  • 1 heaping tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 level tbsp. taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1-2 tbsp. margarine or butter (for frying)
Quesadilla assembling:
  • 2 flour tortillas
  • cheese as desired (depends on tortilla size and tastes)
  • 1/2 medium tomato (very thinly-sliced and diced)
  • 2-4 tsp. salsa (to taste)
  • olive oil (scant amount)
For chicken:
Slice the chicken in long thin strips length-wise. It helps if it is semi-frozen because it's easier to handle and slice thinly. Put the flour, salt and taco seasoning into a bowl with a lid or a Ziploc bag and mix them well. Add the chicken slices and shake to coat. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more.

Thinly slice about half an onion. Heat a frying pan over high heat and add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the chicken and onions and stir fry until the chicken is barely done and slightly browned. If the chicken seems to be very close to finishing but some of it is slightly translucent, turn off the heat and put a lid on it to allow the remaining heat to finish cooking the chicken. The chicken will be super tender if you don't overcook it.
Set the chicken aside and allow it to cool a little while you set up for assembling the quesadilla.

For quesadilla assembling:
Heat a second large frying pan over medium-high heat and add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Allow the oil to warm up and place a tortilla on it. Allow one side to brown slightly. Remove the tortilla to a plate (cooked side up) and apply a little more olive oil and place the second tortilla in the pan. Sprinkle cheese on the tortilla being careful not to get too close to the edges. I recommend leaving about a 1/2 inch around the tortilla "bare" of toppings. Place a lid over the pan.

While the cheese is melting, take about 1/3 of the slightly cooled chicken and onions and chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces (save the other 2/3 for leftovers - don't chop it until you are ready to use it as it'll dry out a bit). Sprinkle the chicken on the cheese after it has melted. Top the chicken with diced tomato and dab with salsa. Allow this to fry until the bottom of the tortilla is crispy and brown in spots.
Take the first tortilla and place it on top of the toppings (cooked side up). Gently press down until the cheese "glues" the top and bottom together. When you press, the toppings will squeeze out toward the outer edges and fill the space you left empty. Once you are sure the top and bottom are secure, carefully flip it over and reheat and brown the second tortilla. It's finished when the second tortilla is a bit crispy.

Remove from the pan and cut into 4 wedges. Two wedges are ample as a meal for one person as these are a bit heartier than some quesadillas. Serve with a leafy green salad and guacamole.

One point which is important is to not go overboard with the toppings. If you put too much on it, it'll be unwieldy and hard to eat. If you put too little, you won't get enough taste from the various ingredients. You can add other things to the toppings if you like. Sliced jalepenos or black olives would be nice, but my husband has conservative tastes so I have to keep it simple.

The chicken turns out incredibly good and the leftovers can be reheated in the microwave for a variety of purposes (more quesadillas is my choice, but you can eat it in a salad or just as is). If you make quesadillas again, heat the chicken just to a point where it is just a little warm. If you add cold chicken to the melted cheese, it will not heat up enough.

This is by far one of the best ways to utilize one of the cheapest cuts of chicken in Japan (breasts). Even if you don't like breast meat because it tends to be drier and less flavorful, you'll like it prepared in this way.


Anonymous said...

Another trick for tenderizing chicken, besides not over cooking it, is to use a little cornstarch to marinate them. Don't let it sit too long (hours) or it makes the chicken mushy, but it really works. It's called velveting.

Wombat said...

Just a note to follow Tess' suggestion: although starching the chicken will indeed tenderize the meat, this process alone does not make up "velveting". The full velveting process includes starching the meat, flash frying it to gain a crispy exterior, and then removing from the heat until later in the dish's preparation when it is re-fried in a flavorful sauce. This is obviously commonly used for stir-fries, as one can prep the meat beforehand and then add it in with the vegetables to finish cooking. This process is also what gives many Chinese-style dishes their crispy-yet-tender meat bits.

Orchid64 said...

Thanks to both of you for the tips. I'm very much going to keep it in mind. I wonder if part of what made the chicken so tender was the fact that there is cornstarch in my taco seasoning powder!