Saturday, December 10, 2011

Party Quesadillas (Veggie, and Green Chile/Chicken) With Bean Dip and Guacamole

My husband, Dr. Smartypantz, told me that there was a party for his department, and that we were to bring a dish to share.  Also cookies.  And maybe bread.

Ok, then.

Sweet man that he is, he made the cookies himself, and made bread dough.  All that was left was quesadillas.  Since there are several vegetarians in our crowd, I decided to make one batch with veggies, and one batch with my personal favorite, chicken with green chiles.

I piled up most of the ingredients I thought I'd use here.
Avocados, mushrooms, limes, jalapenos, bell peppers (yellow, red, green), celery, carrot, cilantro, oil, tortillas, canned black beans, onions, chipotle spices, salsa, garlic.  And a partridge in a pear tree.

First up, I needed to start my black bean dip.
I diced up a celery rib, a carrot, and 1/2 of a big white onion.  Also a whole jalapeno (including seeds because I can HANDLE the heat). 

Notice how finely I chopped all of this?  I'm not going to be able to puree it later, so I chopped verrrry finely.
Added some oil into the pot and sauteed until extremely soft.

Now, this left me with a LOT of veggies.  Even for me.  I suspected that I might not need them all, so I offloaded about half of them or more into a separate bowl.  I'll find a use for them someday soon.
Extra veggies.

During this sauteeing, I grabbed two large (frozen) chicken breasts and tossed them into a big cast iron skillet with enough water to nearly cover them and simmered.

I had to remember to simmer slowly, because I tend to rush and burn things.  You'll notice the teakettle in the background here.  I keep it full of water so if the liquid boils off, I can quickly slop in some more water.

Whilst the veggies were sauteeing and the chicken was simmering, I began to work on the veggies for the veggie quesadillas.
Here, I'm cutting up a few mushrooms and a variety of bell peppers into thick strips.  I'm also going to cut fairly thick pieces of onion.  The jalapeno I'm going to finely dice.  Nobody wants a mouthful of jalapeno, methinks.

The chicken is getting just about fully cooked.  I'm going to start shredding it now, using the wooden spork (I love my wooden spork) and a table fork.

Did you forget that we were going to make a Black Bean dip?  Yup.  Me too.
I opened a large can of black beans (normally I will make them from the dried beans, but who are we kidding, here?  I had no time for that.)
Also, you will see the big secret of my beans' success:  CILANTRO STEMS.
I chop the stems off of a bunch of cilantro and toss them into the cooking beans. It gives an awesome bright flavor without being overly cilantro-ey.  I also added HALF of one chipotle spice cube. Sadly, I think my dogs found the other half on the floor.  I'm not sure, but they DID go through about 4 bowls of water that afternoon.

Into the bean pot with you, my lovelies. 
 Getting back to the chicken filling, I shredded up the two chicken breasts.

Then I open a large can of diced green chiles.  I used MOST, but not all of the can.  I could have used it all, I guess.  But I was cooking for musicologists.  I did not know how intense their love for green chiles is.  NOTE:  Green chiles are NOT jalapenos.  They are not terribly spicy (well, the canned ones aren't -- go to New MExico and WATCH OUT).  But they have a lovely amazing depth of flavor.

I cooked the chicken/green chile mixture until nearly all of the water had evaporated, then removed it to a bowl to cool a little.  And because I needed the pan.
Chicken/green chile filling

Did you remember that I also had to accommodate our veggie friends?
Here you see red, green, and yellow bell peppers; onions; mushrooms, some garlic (not visible) and a chopped jalapeno.
I heated that pan up until it was HAWT, y0. I added a little oil and dumped in about half of the veggies I had cut for this purpose.  Do NOT crowd the pan or you'll get flabby STEAMED veggies instead of awesome slightly BLACKENED crisp veggies. 
I removed these to a bowl and repeated for the other half of the veggies.
Batch 1, cooling in a bowl.

Batch 2
It seems important to LEAVE THE VEGGIES ALONE while they are blackening.  You don't need to stir them all the time like you would in a stir-fry.  WAIT.  That's why they call it STIR FRY!  (feeling very smart now)


Remember our bean dip?  It's been simmering very slowly, letting the liquid reduce.
 See how thick it is?  Those veggies are barely holding together, they're so soft. Almost ready, but not quite.  Simmersimmersimmerstirsimmerstirstir.

Now, there's another thing I was supposed to make.  GUACAMOLE!
I'm making a much bigger batch than usual (I usually make it 1/2 of an avocado at a time so I don't gorge myself, but today I'm using FOUR avocados. eep!).  I will be a little careful adding ingredients so I don't screw up the proportions.

First, cut the avocado in half.  Make a note to yourself to NOT cut towards yourself, no matter how safe it seems.  Knives tend to skitter around once they hit that center seed.
This one has some bruises because it led me a merry chase at the grocery store.  It fell out of the cart and rolled under the grapes display.  Then I kicked it. It ended up near the cabbages.
Gently slap the seed with the knife to "grab" the seed with the knife, then rotate the blade to get the seed out.  
This is my method.  Squish it.  The insides fall out.  Squish it harder and all the other green goodness will squish out.

LOOK! A bowlful of avocado!

 Now, grab a handful of VERY finely chopped cilantro.  You don't want enormous sprigs.

 A few tablespoons of VERY finely chopped onion,
and about 1/2 of a very finely chopped jalapeno.

Now for the lime juice.  I like to "roll" my limes before I juice them.  I hear it makes the juice easier to get out.  I have no idea if that's true, but I still do it.  Just lay the lime down and push on it while rolling back and forth a few times.  (Like when you were a kid playing with Play-Doh, making snakes. Just like that.)
 Cut the lime in half and juice away, right into the bowl.  This particular one was like the lime equivalent of a clown car.  I could not BELIEVE how much juice came out.  So I only used one lime rather than two.

Eviscerated lime halves.

Then I stood there like an idiot, thinking "I need to mash up the avocado.  Whatever shall I use?"  Then, like a bolt of lightning from above, came the answer.  

 Mashmashmash.  I didn't want to get it completely smooth, though, so I left some chunks.

I tasted, added a bit more jalapeno, some more cilantro, a little salt, and then decided it was lacking something.  I added a good teaspoon or so of my friend, GROUND CUMIN.

 Then, for just a little more flavor, I added a blop of a pretty good salsa.

DONE!  Now, I needed to make sure it wasn't going to get all brown and nasty, so I squeezed a little more lime juice over the top and then pressed a piece of Saran wrap right onto the surface.
Heavens to Murgatroid!  The bean dip!
Using the same masher, I mushed up the beans and veggies into an obedient dip.
See?  Lovely.

 Our next phase:  Making the actual quesadillas.  Our ingredients:  small flour tortillas, Mexican-style cheese, and the cooled veggies and chicken fillings.  (The cilantro and limes are for garnish later.)

Heat the pan to medium.  Pull out your baking spray and spray one side of the tortilla (not the pan).  Flop it into the pan, sprayed-side down.

Add some cheese, then top with some veggies.

This tortilla is really cheesed!  (heh)

 Add MORE cheese (to glue together, then the other tortilla.  Spray the top tortilla.

 Mash the two together by pushing down with a spatula.  This will make sure it all sticks together before you flip it.

Spraying top tortilla with baking spray.
TA DAH!  I flipped it!

This is me using a tortilla to fan the pan when it got too hot. 
Pile o' quesadillas.
 We ended up with the following:

FIVE veggie quesadillas (each cut into six wedges)
EIGHT chicken/green chile quesadillas (each cut into six wedges)
Black Bean Dip (vegetarian, too!)
Sour cream

I served them room-temperature on platters garnished with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs.  The salsa, sour cream and guacamole I served in martini glasses of varying heights.  I served the bean dip in a little crock.

All got rave reviews from the crowd! 

When using a big pile of ingredients, it's important to NOT use ALL of the ingredients in ALL of the dishes.  You don't want everything to taste the same.

Also, don't try to multi-task when frying quesadillas or you're gonna end up with a smoky kitchen.

Finally, martini glasses make lovely containers to serve dips, because you can shove them right up next to the serving platters without having them get in the way.

FLAVOR PROFILES of the dishes I served:
  • Guacamole tasted very citrusy and clean, full of cilantro. 
  • Bean dip tasted  deep (the sauteed veggies did that), with a fresh undertone (cilantro stems).
  • Veggie quesadillas tasted smoky (in a good way) and healthy.  The mushrooms lent a bit of "umami" (or "yumminess") without much mushroomy flavor. Were I making this for myself only, I'd have used more mushrooms.
  • Chicken quesadillas were delightfully green-chile-ish.  It's a wonderful flavor.

Chicken: $2
Avocados: $4
Tortillas:  $4
Veggies/Fruit:  $3
Salsa/Sour Cream: $4
TOTAL: about $17

TIME: I started it ALL at about 2:30 in the afternoon, and finished up (not counting packaging it for transport) at about 4:30.

I give this a total A+

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