Cheap Eats at Bloglander

1/16/07 | Quesadillas



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Cheap Eats - Quesadillas

OMG. WTF. It has been colder than a Witch’s Frozen Banquet Dinner where I live. Yes, I represent the wimpiness that is Southern California’s winters. It got down to 29 degrees F the other night. Man! Ok, stop laughing now.

I can’t believe I actually haven’t done a feature on Quesadillas yet. I know I’ve posted about them as fast food before (believe it was Del Taco’s, which tasted like crap boogers to me). But the humble quesadilla is a great staple here at Cheap Eats and for many grocery-challenged denizens around the world.

I was going to write up a lame “recipe” for it a la the infamous Ghetto food line that was so popular. But in the interest of time, I’ll just say: take two flour tortillas and some cheese that melts. Layer them in a pan. Cook. Done.

Ok, so there’s generally a good deal more going on for most quesadillas. But you get the gist of it. There are several great things about quesadillas, but two of my favorite are that they are massively movable (i.e. portable) and they function as both snacks and meals. Many a long and boring commute to UCLA was livened up by a quesadilla in one hand and KXLU on the radio dial. How does the Dr. Seuss rhyme go? I would eat them in a house, I would eat them with a mouse. I would eat Quesadillas stuffed with ham, I would eat them Sam I Am…

Cheap Eats - Quesadillas Closeup

As said before, you can pretty much get quesadillas at any fast food joint. However, these prepared ones just seem sad compared to the ones you can make at home for cheaper. I get the large sized burrito flour tortillas and use a large flat non-stick pan (they also make a grill-type pan similar to a pancake cooker that is ONLY for quesadillas). The cheese can be any type that melts – I favor Monterey Jack, Cheddar, and Mozzarella just because that’s what we usually have around the house. Harder cheeses like Parmesan don’t seem to fare as well, though you can mix some in for extra flavor. The important thing is to grate the cheese instead of cutting it up into slices or chunks (unless, you’re going the true ghetto route and using slices of American cheese).

You can also add different fillings like pre-cooked chicken or steak, mushrooms, bell peppers, beans, corn, ham, etc. I used to get the chicken or steak quesadillas at Baja Fresh and they were quite good but were REALLY pricey ($5-6) for semi-fast food. One warning – I would definitely always pre-cook any meat you put in your quesadilla because the length of time is not enough to completely cook most raw meat.

I just put a tortilla down on the hot pan and cook till it browns a bit. Sometimes, I’ll flip the first tortilla once it browns. Then I sprinkle on the cheese evenly, leaving a good amount of space around the edges to allow for Cheese-Expansion (2nd law of Quesadilla Thermodynamics states that cheese that is heated between two surfaces will tend to flow outward). Although, I don’t mind a little cheese leakage myself because it browns on the pan making these nice crunchy cheese bits.

Then after the cheese has melted a bit, you cover it with the 2nd tortilla and flip it over. You just wait a bit and you’re done. Remove to a cutting board and cut it up into wedges or slices. Garnish it whatever. Actually, that’s one of the best parts of the quesadilla – the garnish. I usually opt for the traditional sour cream and salsa, with simple Guacamole if I happen to have avocados around. Lettuce or salad goes great with Quesadillas too.

Price:Varies – $0.25 to $7.00
Cheap Eats Score: 8/10

24 Responses to “Quesadillas”

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  1. cybele Says:

    I like pepper jack or provolone in mine … or whatever’s around. Sometimes I’m really lazy and I make it in the microwave. The cheese turns out well, but the makes the tortilla kind of chewy.

    The other way I make them is to put the cheese on the tortilla rather thinly and throw it under the broiler until it bubbles and then fold it over quickly.

    Guac is the best accompaniment … mmmmmm, more fat!

    (Yes, people make fun of us when we complain about the cold, but it’s not like all of us have central heating … or insulation.)

  2. Ace N. Says:

    Fast food quesadillas are generally disgusting(soggy and flavorless), and you really have no excuse buying them because they are the easiest thing in the world to make.

    I find the best way to make a good one is to go to a good Mexican market and find some rustic-style flour tortillas and queso quesadilla to throw on a flat-iron griddle or any pan that gets super hot. It comes out crispy, melty, and yummy. Sometimes I throw in pickled peppers too.

  3. Brian Says:

    The quality of the tortilla seems to be directly proportional to the taste of the quesadilla. Generally speaking, if you wouldn’t munch on the tortilla by itself, it won’t make a good quesadilla.

  4. Andie Says:

    I love making these at home! I butter the tortilla before putting it in the skillet. Makes it nice and crispy with a golden brown color. :)

  5. adam barnett Says:

    I think it was Martha Stewart herself who called the quesadilla “mexican for ‘grilled cheese’,” and I have to agree they are so easy to make – I can’t imagine why they are so expensive to get out. My Beloved makes awesome ones at home out of chicken or turkey.

  6. Joes_Amy Says:

    “One warning – I would definitely always pre-cook any meat you put in your quesadilla because the length of time is not enough to completely cook most raw meat.”

    Uhm. Yeah. That would be like trying to cook a cheeseburger by putting the raw meat between two buns with a slice of cheese. It just doesn’t work that way.

  7. Marvo Says:

    I like to stuff some refried beans into it and top with salsa…lots of salsa. Maybe a few slices of bottle jalapenos. Mmm…quesadilla.

  8. chaos Says:

    ha we haven’t gotten above the 30′s for a week and a half now and got 4 inches of snow on tuesday and i’m in oregon. yea for snow days and no school
    taco del mar is awesome for queso and on sunday the kids meal is only a buck. now that’s good eats and cheap

  9. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    cybele – i like pepper jack as well. Yeah, no central air in my house, and insulation is pretty poor. We have a floor space heater mounted inside one wall that you can stand on though, which is rather nice.

    ace, brian – what brand of tortillas do you usually pick up? are there any mass-produced varieties that are decent?

    andie – i only recently (last 4 years) discovered that a little butter goes a long way. Butter was banned when I was growing up. =(

    adam – i made on the other day with cooked crumbled sausage – yum.

    joes_amy – i agree, it’s common sense. but you’d be surprised how many people I see writing about putting raw chicken or beef into one of those quesadilla makers and expecting it to be fully cooked!

    marvo – refried beans are godlike.

    chaos – I actually don’t mind terribly that it’s been in the low 30s recently over here. but I just wish it would snow. I feel like we are getting all the cons of cold weather without any of the benefits! Is taco del mar a chain?

  10. Wise Bread Says:

    Haha! I totally agree with you about this crazy SoCal weather. Yes, 29 degrees is not that cold for other folks… but for a sun worshipping, t-shirt and shorts SoCal boy like myself, it’s a clear sign of the coming global warming apocalypse! :)

    Great blog, btw! I love the pictures. Always gets me in the mood for some grub. Then again, it doesn’t take much to make me hungry!

    Cheers,
    Greg

  11. tanya Says:

    I can’t believe I’ve never cooked quesadillas which embody the very things I love about the things I eat – cheap and quickly made. Thanks for bringing my attention to these! Is that picture of the ones you made? It’s a great pic (dare I say I like it way better than the one in the header :0)

  12. Andie Says:

    Banned?! Ooooo how come? Sadly ever since margarine came about that’s all my mom ever had in the house. I on the other hand only have the real thing in my house. :)

  13. chaos Says:

    cheap eats editor http://www.tacodelmar.com i think that taco del mar is a small chain. it has the best and quesadillas and there buritos are hugh

  14. tina Says:

    Cheap, yummy, and nutritious… add a can of black beans and some green taco sauce. You don’t need much taco sauce, since it’s stronger than salsa. Cheap too in the ethnic aisle.

    We put ours in the oven… super crispy edges, and you don’t have to stand over a pan and watch them!!!

  15. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    wisebread – until recently, I could count the number of long-sleeved items I owned on one hand…

    tanya – yes, I’ve been debating switching out the header graphic once in awhile… the current pick was a stand-in. Although, it rather represents the “whatevers in the fridge” leftover philosophy pretty well – Chinese stir fried beef plus enchiladas, haha..

    andie – my mom has always had a “thing” against butter. Even when I explained that margarine isn’t much better (and in some nutritional respects, worse). She is SLOWLY coming around to using it, though.

    chaos – thanks for the info.. hmm i see they have it in all the major CA areas – except L.A!

    tina – oh yeah, is that the salsa verde in a small can? That’s great for cheap eats…

  16. Samantha Says:

    I have to say that your picture was almost enough to cause me to run out and pick up some tortillas. I haven’t even thought to make these in quite a while. My best friend always wants them when we go out no matter how crappy she knows they are. Perhaps I’ll surprise her this weekend with some homemade tasty ones. Yummy. Thanks for the inspiration.

  17. KJM Says:

    I’m a big fan of quesadillas, but I’m also a health nut, so I’ve come up with a delicious and nutritious quesadilla that is basically the only kind I make. I use whole wheat tortillas (because I buy into the white-bread-is-evil conspiracy), and reduced fat cheeses, but it doesn’t really drive the price up that much. For filling the quesadilla, I use a mix of black beans, corn, and salsa verde (which can be found in your the Mexican food section of your local grocery store). If I’m feeling frisky, I’ll add either spinach or chicken, but either way, it’s delicious!

  18. Michael H. Says:

    Just found your site and of course I had to read the article on one of my tried and true meals, the quesadilla. Not sure if you had ever thought of it, but I have found that the easiest way to cut a quesadilla is with a pizza cutter. It seems to cut easily while reducing the amount of cheese that spills out.

  19. Leslie Says:

    The quesadilla is our family’s standy-by meal. We ALWAYS have whole wheat tortillas in the house. I like to throw on a handful of seasoned chicken fajita strips (Market Day… school fundraiser), diced green pepper, diced chili pepper, a dash of salsa and a combination of whatever cheeses we have on hand (usually some form of cheddar). Serve with lots of salsa and you have a fairly balanced meal.

  20. Ten Says:

    I stayed with a Mexican girl who would spread cream cheese on one tortilla before topping it with shredded cheese and throwing it in the pan. It came out very tasty and it’s something I never would have thought of myself.

    To make this recipe even cheaper you could go as far as to make your own tortillas! The Hillbilly Housewife has a simple recipe on her $40 emergency menu.

  21. Kim Says:

    My quesadilla recipe is not an exact science but its something like this”

    2 tomatoes
    1 onion
    1 green pepper all of the above sliced then cut in half
    2 cloves garlic
    2lbs chicken
    lime or lemon juice ? ummm a little bit
    1 can refried beans
    flour tortillas
    1lb queso quesadilla, para fundir, some mex white melting cheese
    butter

    Cook the first 6 ingredients together in a pan while you grate the cheese.

    When chicken is done add refried beans to taste. I dont like the whole can in it, but you might. Also add half of the cheese to this mixture. Salt to taste.

    Butter a skillet or a griddle and warm both sides of your tortilla, when the second side just starts to get crispy spread some cheese on it and top with your bean mixture.

    Fold tortilla in half and serve hot.

    Dont make more quesadillas than you need. It is much tastier to reheat the filling and make them again later than to eat them soggy.

    You can also serve topped with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and guacamole. This makes them taste just like the ones we get from the Mexican restaurants in S. IL.

  22. James Says:

    The pizza cutter is such a worthless tool. It doesn’t even cut pizzas well. What you need is an Asian cleaver, professional pizza makers basically use a specialized version of it.

  23. Andi Lynn Says:

    Such a yummy thing quesadillas are, from the picture i almost thought it was crepes with strawberries and whipped cream (even after i had read the title). must be my pregnant mind embodying my cravings. mmmmm strawberries and whipped cream.

  24. Jo Says:

    I make my quesedillas on an iron skillet or on a pancake griddle set at 350 degrees. They both work great. I prefer diced chicken, mexican cheese; like monterey jack. It tastes a lot better if you add a sprinkling of diced Ortega chiles on top of the cheese and chicken. Heat one tortilla with toppings and when the cheese is melted put on the other flour tortilla and flip it right away. If you flip before the cheese melts you will have a real mess. I know! A dollop of sour cream and sliced avacadoes make it even better.




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