The inspiration for these quesadillas came to me while I was watching my son eat lunch. Now, if you have ever watched a toddler eat, you know that it can, at times, be less than appetizing. They have a way of creating such messy havoc of the food in front of them that it’s no wonder they get such a bad rap for being picky eaters. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to eat what’s on the highchair tray at the end of a meal either. Most of the time.
Today, I watched my little man take a slice of quesadilla, smash it on top of a chunk of mango, and unceremoniously shove it into his mouth. He chewed for while, swallowed, then looked at me with a surprised look on his face, as in, “Hey. Not bad.” Smart kid.
You know that mango salsa you get sometimes? This is the quesadilla version. The bright, summery quesadilla version. I love mangos, and I also love that you can get decently delicious mangos pretty much anywhere. This time of the year, they are so juicy, sweet, and perfect that I’ve started buying them by the case. They pair so naturally with the well-rounded heat of the blistered peppers that they really are the perfect candidate to be enveloped in melted cheese between two crisp-fried corn tortillas. Oh, and as it goes with pretty much everything I ever make, a few bits of avocado and cilantro on top don’t hurt either.
I used ancho peppers, because I had them, and they were perfect for these. Hot, but not lip-burners. Hot in a rich, smoky way. Doesn’t that make them sound sexy? They kind of are. Well… sexy as a vegetable can get at lunch on a weekday in the company of a toddler. If you can’t find them, I think that poblanos would be just as tasty. Or even some mild jalapenos. Ok, really any pepper with at least enough heat to be worthy of the name “pepper”. As for the cheese, it really doesn’t get any better than chihuahua when you’re talking quesadillas. It melts almost immediately, and is a great balance between creamy and stringy. And the flavor is perfect. A good substitute would be Monterrey Jack, but if you’re never used Chihuahua for quesadillas before, I really suggest you try it.
Today, because I was only making lunch for one (and a half), I made my quesadillas in a pan on the stove. However, if you’re making them for a crowd, or for at least two people for dinner, I’d suggest making them in the oven. It may sound strange to make quesadillas this way, but I’ve been fiddling around with making them that way for a while now, and it works amazingly well. The result is several hot, gooey quesadillas ready all at once, instead of standing over a pan or griddle before dinner, in which case the first one is always cold before you’re done. It’s the only way I make quesadillas for more than one person now.
Mango and Roasted Ancho Quesadillas
I’ve included amounts for the ingredients, but these are really just guidelines. Use more chiles, mango, cheese, etc. to suit your personal taste.
12 6″ Corn tortillas
2-3 cups shredded Chihuahua or Monterrey Jack cheese
1 Mango, peeled, sliced thinly
2-3 Ancho or Poblano chiles
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Chopped cilantro, avocado, and/or queso fresco to top them off
Begin by charring your peppers. Using a pair of long metal tongs, hold each pepper by its stem over an open stove flame. If your stove grates are conducive to it, you can rest the peppers on them over the flame and let them char. As each side turns black and burned, turn them. Once all sides are blackened and charred, immediately place peppers in a paper bag. (A plastic bag or container with a lid should work well, too.) * After 5-10 minutes, remove cooled peppers from bag and use your fingers to rub off the charred, blackened skin. No need to worry about getting all the black specks off, they add flavor! Remove the stem and seeds, and slice into thin strips.
To assemble quesadillas, top each of 6 tortillas with 1/3 cup shredded cheese. On top of the cheese, lay a few slices each of mango and chili peppers.Top with another sprinkle of cheese, and finally another tortilla.
Stovetop method: Heat one tablespoon of oil in a medium-sized pan over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Transfer one of the quesadillas into the pan. Cook until the cheese on the bottom begins to melt and the bottom tortilla is crisp and golden on the edges, about 1-2 minutes. Flip the quesadilla over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Oven method: Before you begin assembling your quesadillas, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a sheet pan (or two, depending on how many quesadillas you’re making) by brushing 2 tablespoons of oil on the bottom of the pan. Arrange filled quesadillas on the sheet pan(s), and brush the tops with remaining oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until both top and bottom tortillas are golden and crisp, and cheese is melted throughout.
Slice quesadillas into quarters, top with cilantro, and serve immediately.
*If you don’t have a gas stove, or don’t want to do this on your stovetop, you can easily get the same effect for putting the peppers under your oven broiler on a sheet pan. You’ll just have to watch them closely and then flip them over so all sides are charred.