Monday, April 30, 2012

Bomb-Ass Buffalo Chicken Quesadilla (updated)

This is one of my all-time favorite things to eat, ever, and definitely, hands-down the best quesadilla I've ever had in my life. Just thought I'd throw that out there. Now if only I could take credit for the basic recipe. Unfortunately I can't- I learned to make it during my very first cooking job, back in the late 90's, at a franchise pizza restaurant chain that no longer includes pizza as part of their name. I just checked their website and they still offer a buffalo chicken quesadilla, however, I've not eaten there in years (they don't have any locations in my area, or in my previous area of St. Paul, MN) so I don't know if it's the same as it used to be when I worked there. But that don't matter either way, because after you read this, you too can partake of the Bestest Bomb-Ass Buffalo Chicken Quesadilla in the History Of Ever in the privacy of your own kitchen (or basement or bedroom or wherever), no 'Pizzeria Something Or Other' locations necessary. As a bonus, it's a total cinch to make.

Necessary stuff:

Pizza/bread dough*
Panko bread crumbs
Vinegar based hot sauce (Frank's, Louisiana, etc.)
Red onions
Chicken, preferably grilled
Cheese, preferably Muenster

Tasty Garnishes, if you like:

Sour Cream

Let's start with the chicken, just to get it out of the way. Grilled is best, but pan-fried or baked in the oven should be fine too. Sliced or diced, however you like it cut, just be sure and brine it, please. It really makes a world of difference. I rarely, if ever, cook chicken without first brining it. If you're not familiar with brining, it's basically just a soak in salt (and sometimes sugar, as well as herbs) water to help keep the meat from drying out. It doesn't have to be complicated- I usually go with about 1/4 c salt and 1/2 c sugar to 1 gallon of water. Let soak for about an hour, though as little as 20 minutes should be fine too, depending on how much meat you're doing.

Next up, take a ball of your favorite pizza/bread dough (5-6 oz should suffice for a decent-sized 'dilla, though after trying this one for the first time, you may find yourself going much bigger) and press it out in a bowl/dish of panko bread crumbs. It's hard to describe the exact technique, though I think once you get going, it'll come naturally. You can do it in a large mixing bowl, in a cake pan, or even on a square sheet pan. Basically you want some sort of dish to hold in the bread crumbs while you simultaneously press them into the bread dough/roll it out flat. I find working by hand (i.e. don't use a rolling pin) works best.

I started off with the dough ball in the mixing bowl, then transferred it to the little sheet pan. Press and turn, press and turn. Flip it occasionally, keep it covered with plenty of panko. When it's the size you want, it's just about ready to go. Splash it liberally with your favorite hot sauce so it looks like a scene from Law and Order SVU or whatever, and then toast it up. It's best if you have a grill to toast it on, but if not, putting it on a sheet pan and toasting it under the broiler in your oven until it's nice and golden/slightly charred, works fine too.

At this point, you're halfway home. Cover half of it liberally with your cheese of choice (I think Muenster is best- it's what we used back in the day at the restaurant- and I've recently found that Havarti is a great choice, but a cheddar/jack/mozz mix or colby-jack would probably be decent too), add the chicken, sprinkle liberally with some diced red onions (very important! They don't necessarily have to be red onions, but don't leave these off. I did one time, because I didn't have any, and the difference was profound, profound I tell you!  If you don't like onions or whatever, put them on anyway. You'll somehow like them on this, I promise. Guaranteed, or your money back), and maybe some more cheese and hot sauce on top. You're pretty much home free at this point. Pop it in a very hot oven (400+) until everything's melty/toasty. Shouldn't take more than 10 minutes, tops. Probably 7-8 or so.

Perforate the center of it along the cheese with a knife edge, then fold it over and cut into 4 (or 3 or 2) wedges:

At this point, I like to douse it liberally with Louisiana hot sauce and chow down (Frank's used to be my favorite vinegar-based hot sauce, but since I've tried Louisiana, I'm a convert). I'm not a huge fan of sour cream, but I can see how it would be good on this if you like it, and salsa and guac definitely make for great condiments.

* if you don't have a decent recipe for pizza/bread dough, I've got one I love and use pretty much every time. I was looking on for a baguette recipe, and found one but used it to make flatbread instead. It was the best flatbread I'd ever had. So I ended up messing around with it and making it even better. Here's my version:
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 T wheat gluten
  • 3 T potato starch (not potato flour) 
  • ~ 1 c warm water
(For what it's worth, for the wheat gluten and potato starch, I use Bob's Red Mill brand.)

Mix all the dry stuff, then add water until a nice dough forms (you should only need slightly less than 1 cup). Because of all the extra gluten involved, this dough will quickly become pretty stiff and hard to knead. And for that reason, I wouldn't bother using a food processor to mix it up. Once you've got the dough ball, it should only take a few minutes of folding and kneading before it gets too stiff to bother with anymore, so to me it's not worth it to get out the food processor just to save a few minutes' work. Plus, unless you've got a super-duty Robot Coupe or something similar, it'll probably just bog down anyway. When it's ready, cover it and stick it in a warm spot for a few hours. I usually let mine rise at least twice, and sometimes I'll let it go all day or overnight while rising.

This recipe makes the best flatbread I've ever had, and it's my go-to recipe every time.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

As seen on a bag of Krunchers Jalapeño chips...

Artificial parsley? 'Cause the real stuff is just so damn expensive, or what?