I've been through phases when it comes to what I order at a restaurant. And one of my favorite phases was my chicken quesadilla phase. The best quesadilla I ever ate was at Small Planet in Boston. They're no longer open, but the memory of that chicken quesadilla has stuck with me for years. It was the cilantro-lime sour cream. The perfectly seasoned chicken. Superb salsa. And equally as important, was the crunch of the tortilla when you cut into it and when you took that first bite. They were the ultimate crunchy cheesy chicken quesadillas. This is my attempt at recreating it.
The Pilgrimage to Boston for Crunchy Cheesy Chicken Quesadillas
There were special trips into the city for this quesadilla. Once the craving took over, I was in my car driving to Boylston Street. Nothing mattered. The tolls, the traffic, the parking - it was all part of that particular quesadilla experience. And I loved every minute of it!
Certain foods are an experience. And yes, even something as ubiquitous as a chicken quesadilla, when made properly, can fall into this category. I've tinkered with recipes over the years, and made insane amounts of chicken quesadillas. The one I'm sharing here is as close as I ever got to the Small Planet chicken quesadilla. And it's pure bliss.
With Quesadillas It's All About the Chicken... and the Salsa...and the Lime...
Quesadillas are one of those recipes where a lot of things need to taste good together. Like the Small Planet quesadilla, I wanted to make sure my flavors belonged together. It's equally as important to have an excellent salsa, lots of cheese and perfectly seared chicken. So for me, a chicken quesadilla must have crusty seared chicken, a top-notch pico de gallo-type salsa and fresh lime. One additional topping that pushed the Small Planet quesadilla over the top was the cilantro-lime sour cream. I know, I know - some of you absolutely detest cilantro so you have my permission to skip this part. But if you love cilantro, you will love making my simple cilantro-lime sour cream. It's a revelation.
First, let's start with the most important tip: don't crowd the pan when you cook the chicken and don't use too much oil. We've all been there - too much chicken in the pan and soon it's sitting in a pool of water. Slow down. Cook the chicken in two batches on high heat or use two pans and combine the chicken after it's seared. Don't keep moving it around the pan either. Spread it out and let it cook without touching it until it's browned (a crispy sear on the outside) and ready to turn. You won't believe the extra (and critical) flavor this brings to the quesadilla.
Salsa is a very personal choice and I get that. I like more of a pico de gallo-type salsa for these, but I do really enjoy On The Border mild salsa too. My first choice is pico, but if I can't find it, On The Border is my back-up plan. Use the salsa you love. Though I will say, I typically use Sister's Salsa and it's the best salsa I ever tasted. It comes from Maine and I'm not sure it's available outside New England. Anyway, here's a link to their site: http://www.sistersalsa.com/. I am not being paid to promote this salsa. It's just genuinely fantastic!
Lime. Remember when we used to eat at restaurants? At some point, a trip to Chili's was inevitable. You ordered the burger for some reason, but truly envied the people who ordered fajitas. The sizzling, steaming skillet was carried through the dining room like the holy grail. Just when you thought the smell couldn't get any better - the server would squeeze fresh lime all over the skillet. Boom! More sizzle! More amazing smell! That's lime. Lime is a treasure. It's an essential ingredient when making quesadillas.
Cooking Chicken Quesadillas for a Group or with Leftovers in Mind
Yes, I realize this recipe seems like a lot of food and is ideal for 6 people or if you want to put out a tray of quesadilla triangles for your next gathering. As part of my meal planning, I always make more than I need so I have leftovers for lunches. This will save you money. Eating take-out for lunch is going to run you $15+ per day. Do you have $300 per month to spend eating out lunch? That's a car payment. When you cook, make a little extra. Pack it in containers and take it to work for the next day or two.
I highly encourage you to get your kitchens and make delicious food. Gathering around a table to break bread with our loved ones is such an important part of the human experience. Our lives are busy and filled with technology all day long. Let's put the technology down and share a homemade meal with the people we love. Tell your stories, listen to others' stories and share your lives. I know when I do this, it always makes me feel better.
Need More Ideas for Your Next Meal? I Gotcha Covered:
- Crunchy Beef and Cheese Empanadas
- Southwest Style Chicken with Cheese, Beans & Salsa
- McCormick Fish Fry (can make fish tacos with this!)
- Super Bowl White Queso Dip with Crispy Crumbled Beef
- Easy Grilled Chicken with Mango Salsa
- Cheesy Fajita Stuffed Chicken