Every summer I work as a private chef for a family in the Hamptons. When I applied for the job, there was one dish they really wanted me to make: chicken quesadillas. Sure, I could sous vide a steak and make perfect hollandaise, but their former chef evidently made a pretty great quesadilla, and they wanted to see if I could live up to it.
Quesadillas are a ridiculously uncomplicated dish: tortillas stuffed with cheese and whatever else your heart desires, pan fried until the interior is melted and oozing and the outside is crisp. But like anything else simple, there is an art to making them well. So I set about making the best version I could imagine. I used three kinds of cheese and a homemade Mexican spice rub that adds a gentle heat to the chicken and peppers. A touch of oil in the skillet helps to really get the tortillas crisp.
I got the job. And I still make these quesadillas for my clients to this day. Serve them with a simple guacamole and some sour cream, and dinner (or breakfast, or lunch, or an afternoon snack) is done. —Farideh Sadeghin
What You Will Need
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1⁄2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 1⁄4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2)
- 1⁄2 cup olive oil
- 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 medium red onion, 1/4 minced, the rest thinly sliced
- 1 avocado
- 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 1 tbsp. minced cilantro
- 1 tomato, cored, seeded, and minced
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 10 flour tortillas
- 8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
- 8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 4 oz. queso fresco
- Sour cream, to serve
- Combine cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, coriander, salt, onion powder, paprika, and oregano in a bowl; mix half with the chicken. Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high; cook chicken, flipping once, until half way cooked, about 8 minutes. Add remaining seasoning, peppers, sliced onion, and salt and cook until peppers are soft and chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and rest 10 minutes before thinly slicing.
- Cut avocado in half lengthwise, then remove and discard pit. Make crosshatch incisions in avocado pulp with a paring knife. Scoop pulp out with a spoon, then transfer to a bowl with minced onion, lime juice, cilantro, tomato, salt, and pepper; mix. Chill guacamole until ready to use.
- Working in batches, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet; place one tortilla in the skillet. Top with 3 tablespoons of both cheddar and Monterey Jack; place 1⁄5 of onion and pepper mixture and some slices of chicken on top. Finish with 1-2 tablespoons more of each cheese and some queso fresco, as well as another tortilla. Cook for 2 minutes, until golden, then flip over and cook a further 1-2 minutes until the other side is golden and the cheese has melted. Transfer to a cutting board and slice into 6 pieces. Serve with guacamole and sour cream.