Quesadillas (Kay-suh-dee-yas) – are made by grilling flour tortillas that have been filled with cheese and sometimes with other ingredients added like meats, beans, and vegetables. They originated in the central and southern regions of Mexico after the Spaniards brought cheese making to Mexico in the 16th century. Traditionally, corn tortillas with queso Oaxaca (stringy melting cheese) were used. Eventually they were adopted in the northern regions where the flour tortilla was becoming popular and melting cheeses like monterey jack replaced the traditional queso Oaxaca.
Not only did the 16th century Conquistadors leave the Mexicans with beef, pork, chickens, cheese, flour, and smallpox, which pretty much wiped the Aztecs from the face of the earth, they also left them with a new name for tlaxcali, the ancient thin flatbread made from dried and finely ground corn. Thinking they looked like the round cakes from home called “tortas”, they renamed them “tortillas,” little cakes.
Although the flour tortilla is much maligned as not being “true Mexican”, in reality it is, even without the ancient pedigree of the corn tortilla. Quesadillas filled with cheese grilled in flour tortillas were originally from northern Mexico (which originally included much of Texas), and are part of most Mexican restaurant’s menus everywhere in the world.
Quesadillas con Camarones – Shrimp Quesadillas
- large nonstick frying pan
- 10 oz Shrimp, shelled and deveined (frozen is fine)
- 1 Jalapeno pepper, minced
- 3 tbsp Cilantro, minced
- 12 oz Monterey cheese, shredded
- 6 Flour tortillas, 8-inch
- 6 tbsp Vegetable oil
- 4 tbsp White onion, finely chopped
- Chop shrimp into small chunks. Stir fry in 1 tbsp oil until just cooked, about 2 minutes. Cool.
- Combine shrimp, jalapenos, cilantro and shredded cheese in a bowl.
- Fill one side of a tortilla with the cheese mixture, leaving about a ½-inch border. Fold other side over top and press to seal. Repeat until all six tortillas are filled.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add 2 folded tortillas and cook about 2 minutes, then turn over. Lightly salt and cook 2 more minutes until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and cover to keep warm. Repeat.
- To serve, cut each into triangles and place on a platter with separate little bowls of sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.
- Different melting cheeses may be used, even gruyere and swiss. Go nuts!