Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Adobo-Marinated Chicken Quesadillas

I love good Mexican food.  And I have found that truly good Mexican food is hard to find.  So I have started making my own, although I don't claim that my version of Mexican is authentic.  I basically just make it up as I go along, sometimes with a little help from Google, a restaurant I have eaten at or a cookbook.  For instance, for tonight's dinner I got the idea from the chicken mole quesadilla at our local Mexican joint, The Great Burrito.  And then I looked online and in Rosa's New Mexican Table by Roberto Santibanez.  Then I sent Alex to Zabar's to pick up some dried chilis and we improvised like we always do.

Our past two meals have been smashing successes (which is exciting).  Last night's Pork Vindaloo was delicious, but I might have preferred these quesadillas for a variety of reasons.  First, while this chicken has a brief marinating period, the entire dish comes together much more quickly than the pork did.  One problem with braising pork is that it takes forever, whereas sauteing up some chicken strips takes less than 10 minutes.  Both dishes were very flavorful and tender.  I just feel like this dish is one that everyone will like, whereas the pork is only going to appeal to some.  So I'm not sure that I necessarily preferred the flavor of these quesadillas over the flavor of the vindaloo, but I think as an overall dish and experience I preferred the quesadillas.  There was a tiny bit of heat from the chilis in the adobo, and a bit of tang from the apple cider vinegar.  I'm glad we used apple cider vinegar instead of regular white distilled vinegar, because that gives the chicken a tiny bit of sweetness which works really nicely with the cinnamon and cloves.  I think this chicken would make a really nice topping for a taco salad, tacos, or a tostada.  You can use the marinade to create all kinds of different Mexican dishes and I bet they would all be delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Adobo-Marinated Chicken Quesadillas

1 ancho chili, stemmed, seeded and soaked briefly in warm water
2 chilis de arbol (with seeds), soaked briefly in warm waer
3 large garlic cloves
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 tsp ground Mexican cinnamon (aka canela)
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips (we bought the pre-cut stir fry strips)
1 cup Mexican cheese blend (we used a 4 cheese blend from Trader Joe's)
6 whole-wheat tortillas

Put all ingredients, except the chicken in a mini food prep or blender.  Blend until a marinade forms.  It's ok if the marinade isn't fully pureed or smooth.

Rub chicken breasts with salt and put in a shallow baking dish.  Add marinade and rub it into the chicken.  Cover the chicken and allow it to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (or you can marinate in the refrigerator overnight).  If you marinate in the refrigerator, remove the chicken and let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes to come up to room temperature before cooking.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Heat a cast iron pan, or other skillet over moderate heat.  Cook chicken, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 5-8 minutes.  Remove to a cutting board.  Allow chicken to rest on the cutting board for 5 minutes and then dice.

Heat another cast iron pan or griddle over medium heat.  Add a slight drizzle of vegetable oil to the hot pan.  Add the tortilla, flipping once it is well-browned in spots and starting to bubble up.  Flip the tortilla with tongs or a spatula.  Top immediately with a thin layer of cheese, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge of the tortilla bare.  Arrange diced chicken over one half of the tortilla.  Fold the tortilla in half and press down firmly to seal.  Flip over and allow to cook for a few more seconds.  Using tongs or a spatula, remove the quesadilla from the pan and place on a cookie sheet in the oven to keep warm.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.

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