International Food Fun: Quesadillas from Homemade Tortillas

Like many of the things I intend to do on a regular basis…International Food Fun kind of fell by the wayside for a while.  But, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to revive it.  So (drumroll please) here you go:

I’ll be frank:  quesadillas are nothing new for my family.  They are one of my go-to meals when I can’t think of anything else to make.  However, this was the first time I have ever made them with made-from-scratch tortillas.  The verdict?  The entire family voted unanimously to keep ’em comin’.

I did a little research and learned that quesadillas originated in Colonial mexico.  Queso is the Spanish word for cheese, and this tasty little dish is traditionally based around just that.  It’s simply a tortilla filled with cheese and toasted, the Mexicali version of the grilled cheese sandwich.  The fun part is that you can add anything else that you want as a filling, to go along with the gooey melted cheese:  meat, beans, onions, salsa…literally anything.

So, quesadillas are simple and quick and easy.  But they take on a whole new dimmension in taste when you change the game plan with a homemade tortilla.

Tortillas are ridiculously simple and fast to make.  Considering the huge boost in flavor they add, they are well worth the small investment of time.  And the cost to make them is literally pennies.  If you do any cooking at all, I guarantee you’ll have every single ingredient you need in your cupboard right now.

Mix all the ingredients together.

You want the dough to be moist, yet firm.  If it is spiky and sticks to your dough hook like this, you should add a little bit more flour until you get a consistency that looks more like this:

Once you have the dough mixed, it’s important to let it rest for about 10 minutes.  During that time, I recommend you assemble the other ingredients for your quesadillas, since things will go pretty quickly once you start cooking the tortillas.

After 10 minutes, divide your dough into cute little balls, about the size of golf balls.  Flour your working surface generously, then quickly pat one of the little balls into a flat circle.

Take a rolling pin and roll it out as thin as you can without ripping it, pressing down with the rolling pin too make a nice, big circle.  It’s a small piece of dough, so it won’t take long.

See how thin this one is?

Drop that dough flat onto your griddle and start rolling out the next dough ball.  By the time your second tortilla is ready to drop onto the griddle, the first one will be ready to flip over and cook on the other side.  You’ll know it’s ready to turn because it will have formed little bumps and bubbles on top.  It only takes a minute to roll the dough out, and a minute is just about all it takes to cook and toast the tortillas nicely.

This electric griddle has reached Most Favored Status in my kitchen, and I highly recommend you use one of these for frying your tortillas.  I’ve made them in a pan on a stovetop before, but I find it is easier to burn them on the stove.  Plus, you can make two or three at once on a griddle.

Once you have a plateful of tortillas (which won’t be long–they really are that easy), you can begin turning them in to quesadillas.  Throw two tortillas back onto the griddle, pile them with cheese (I used Monterey Jack) and whatever else you feel like, and top them each with another tortilla.  Let them cook for 1-2 minutes before flipping them over to get nice and toasty on the other side.

When the cheese is nice and gooey, you can take your quesadillas off the griddle and use a pizza wheel to cut them into wedges.  Note how my tortillas and quesadillas aren’t perfectly round; in the gourmet world that’s called “rustic” and is considered tres chic. 

Along with cheese, I filled our quesadillas with shredded chicken (straight from a can) and green onions.  We topped them with sour cream and salsa.  I love guacamole with my quesadillas, too, but didn’t happen to have any, this time.

The beautiful thing about quesadillas is that we can add or subtract fillings and toppings according to the likes and dislikes of each member of the family.

And let me fill you in on a couple great things about homemade tortillas:  I made mine from scratch not to show off, but because I actually didn’t have any purchased tortillas on hand, like I thought I did.  It took about 30 minutes to put the entire meal together using tortillas from scratch–the same amount of time I would have spent running to and from the local grocery store to purchase them.  I saved mileage, money, and avoided the fillers and preservatives of processed tortillas.

And the flavor?  Absolutely incredible.  Trust me, substituting homemade tortillas for purchased tortillas brings a dish to a brand new level.  My mother in law taught me to make these; she uses them in chicken enchiladas.  Yum!

Homemade tortillas can be frozen (between sheets of waxed or parchment paper) or stored in a sealed bag or container in the fridge for several days.  It is definitely possible to make them ahead and use them later.

Did you know Superbowl 2012 is taking place just a ways down the road from where I live?  Make some quesadillas to snack on during the big game and think of me.  Here are a couple of delicious ideas for quesadillas that paired with  homemade tortillas will totally rock your Superbowl Sunday!

Grilled Chicken and Pineapple Quesadillas from The Pioneer Woman

Cowboy Quesadillas from Our Best Bites

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