Quesadillas were never really my thing.
Key word – were.
It’s not that I disliked them per se, because what’s not to enjoy about two crispy tortillas sandwiched between copious amounts of melted cheese? They just weren’t something I would ever in a million years order when present on a menu. To me, there were infinitely more interesting items to choose from (regardless if I was at a Mexican restaurant or hole-in-the-wall bar), plus quesadillas are single-handedly the easiest thing on the entire earth to make at home…well aside from a PB&J or grilled cheese sandwich.
I’d always secretly scoffed at my dining companions immature palates when they’d order a plate of unexciting chicken quesadillas, and then have the nerve to offer me a bite. I appreciate the generosity, but I’m good with my mini corn dog nuggets thankyouverymuch. (Clearly my palate was much more refined than everyone else, because a mini hot dog dunked in batter and deep-fried is totally gourmet.)
At one particular dinner, and after an unfortunate kitchen mishap that left the table in front of me empty and a plate of quesadillas to my right and left…I conceded defeat and begrudgingly took a bite, certain I wouldn’t be tempted to scarf down more.
I finished the entire platter. Chipotle ranch dipping sauce and all.
What. a. revelation. I love quesadillas.
Shortly after this incident, I met my husband and found out, the guy loves quesadillas as well, further solidifying my newfound infatuation with them.
It’s not the first food I’ve written off in my holy-than-thou food days, I also claimed to not “like” wings, nachos, mozzarella sticks and about a million other insanely delicious snacks. It’s a good thing I’ve changed my ways, because all of the aforementioned foods are something that today, I would never ever want to live without.
But! I will say, I do appreciate a fancy quesadilla over a plain cheese quesadilla any day – in fact, the more ingredients stuffed in between those two flour tortillas, the better.
At first glance, these quesadillas may appear to be nothing more than your run-of-the-mill-nothing-special quesadillas you can find on a plethora of websites, bars and children’s menus, but rest assured they’re nothing of the sort.
First, the filling. Thin slices of sirloin steak are marinated in tequila, lime juice and garlic just until the mixture permeates the flesh of the steak. I’m not sure if I can think of a better flavor profile than the combination of those three ingredients; so simple, but encompasses SO MUCH flavor. Of course if you’re worried about serving alcohol to the kiddies, fear not, the liquor in the tequila dissipates when you sear the steak, but it leaves a sort of sweet and savory flavor, almost like white wine, but spicier. If that even make sense. Regardless it’s good. Really good.
Poblano peppers also play huge role here. It’s no secret that I adore poblano peppers. Documented here, here, here and here. They’re the perfect amount of spice, and add SO much flavor to whatever they’re paired with. Typically I’ll roast them, and peel the skin off, but I left them as is here; I tend to think there’s a bit more spice when you skip the roasting step, and I wasn’t really wanting a smoky flavor as I really wanted the steak to shine through.
So what’s a quesadillas without cheese? Nothing.
I wanted to stick to a classic Mexican flavor profile, so I went with an authentic Mexican melting cheese, Chihuahua, it has a similar texture and flavor to a monterrey jack, but melts a little bit better and is slightly more pungent. These days I can find it at pretty much any grocery store, but if yours doesn’t carry it, a monterrey jack or pepper jack will suffice just fine.
The finishing touch is a quick dipping sauce made up of light sour cream (I almost never use full-fat sour cream), lime juice, zest, garlic and just a touch of salt – addictive in and of itself. Seriously, I could slather this stuff on just about anything, and wasn’t past the point of licking it straight from the spoon…
These are the kind of quesadillas you’ll find in Mexico, chocked-full of ingredients, classic flavors and loads of lime juice. It almost takes me back…. Ahhh….
- 8 ounces sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon lime juice, divided
- 2 tablespoons tequila
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
- 2 poblano peppers
- 1 small onion
- ¼ teaspoon coriander
- 10 ounces chihuahua cheese, shredded (monterrey jack or pepper jack will also work)
- 6 tortillas
- 4 ounces sour cream
- 1 small garlic clove, grated
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon lime juice
- 1 ½ teaspoon lime zest
- In a shallow dish, combine steak, ¼ cup lime juice, tequila, grated garlic and honey. Marinate for 25 minutes. Once steak has marinated, remove from liquid and pat dry. Reserve marinade. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Heat a non-stick skillet to a medium-high heat, add 1 teaspoon olive oil. Sear steak on until golden brown on both sides. Remove from pan.
- Add remaining teaspoon of olive oil to the pan, along with peppers, onions, remaining tablespoon lime juice and coriander. Cook on a medium-high heat until slightly blistered and softened, 3-4 minutes.
- Once the veggies are softened, add the steak back in, along with the reserved marinade. Bring a boil and reduce to a simmer until the marinade has reduced and the veggies are very soft, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
- To assemble, take one quesadilla and sprinkle top or bottom half with cheese, top with steak and veggies, followed by more cheese. Fold in half. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
- To cook quesadillas, place in a large, dry non-stick skillet over a medium heat, cook until each side is golden brown and the cheese is melted. You can also preheat an oven to 375 degrees, and place the quesadillas on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, crispy and the cheese is melted.
- Serve with citrus sour cream
- Combine all ingredients.