Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dinner and Drinks: Chicken Quesadillas and Spanish Rice

You know what's good? Mexican food. There's nothing quite like authentic Mexican cuisine. Spicy, flavorful, filling. Mexican food is one of my favorites. I don't know how to make real Mexican food, so what I'm going to talk about here is not that. Sorry. Like most Americans, I think Mexican food consists of tacos, fajitas, and made-up words like most of what passes for the menu at Taco Bell.

That's okay though, since Americanized Mexican cuisine can still be pretty good. A quick and easy meal is the good old quesadilla. It's basically a Mexican pizza in that you can put whatever you want on it, so it's great for kids. Since it's not fast food if you get a side dish that isn't french fries, I tried to make spanish rice for the first time, and damned if it didn't turn out delicious.

Sorry, this is not the greatest picture. I blame the wine.

Chicken Quesadillas and Spanish Rice


Quesasdillas:

8 large soft tortillas
2 skinless chicken breasts
1 cup black olives, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 cup jalapenos, diced (optional)
1 cup Mexican cheese blend
3 tbsp olive oil

Rice:

2 cups rice
2 cups water
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onions, diced
1/2 cup green peppers, diced
1 large tomato, pulp removed, diced
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350o.

For the chicken, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken as you like; I use salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder. Once it's done, cut into small cubes and set aside. I have a second skillet going to cook the the peppers and onions, but do as you will. I add a little dash of cumin to the veggies, but that's optional. Saute√® those veggies until they start to turn soft.

For the tortillas, you can use them "as is" and still be regarded as awesome by your patrons. I heat a large skillet and drop a little canola oil in it, wiping the excess out with a paper towel. Heat the oil and cook the tortilla for one minute a side. You want it to firm up a little without getting crunchy.

Spread the veggies and chicken on a tortilla. Spread some shredded cheese over everything and cover with another tortilla. I heartily encourage using fresh shredded cheese whenever possible. Tonight all I had that would really work was some bagged Mexican blend cheese. Don't judge me.

Before you pop the quesadillas into the oven, start making the rice in that same large skillet you cooked the tortillas in. Add the olive oil and heat it up over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, peppers and onions and sauteè until the begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add the water, spices and tomato paste and mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil and add the rice. If you're using Minute Rice, make sure it is at a boil then remove from heat. Stir continuously until the rice is soft, about 3-5 minutes. If you're using regular white rice, add it then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes covered, or until rice is tender.

The quesadillas need to go into the oven for about 10-12 minutes to get the cheese nice and melty.

Once done, I quarter the quesadillas and serve with a dollop sour cream dusted with cilantro. If I had it to do over, I probably would have tried to make some salsa. Oh well. I made rice; get off my back.

For the 'drink' portion, I stayed on the malbec kick I've been on for a while now. I bought a bottle of Layer Cake malbec. I'm not one of those people who thinks you have to drink red wine with red meat and white wine with fish; the bottle was open so I drank it. It's probably not the ideal pairing, but it was pretty good. To be honest, I think it finished a little better than the Red Rock malbec I had with the chicken parmesan, but overall I think the Red Rock is a better wine, especially since it's about $4 cheaper, but to each his own. The Layer Cake had one of those little tags on it with a score from some snobby wine ranker or other, so I wanted to try it. Not bad at all. Now that I think about it, I should have a beer.

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