Yes, all hail the quesadilla. While about as authentic as the burrito in the form we make them in the US, we all know that they’re damned tasty. You just can’t beat them for the convenience of feeding your hunger at any point; especially when drunk.
Of course, when hitting up Europe, the lovely gooey cheese of the quesadilla becomes a fond warm memory one waits to return home to. But, it is possible to travel dilla-enabled if one so desires. Tortillas are everywhere and the cheeses can get close enough to what enjoy stateside to still taste really good. Our success in creating the dilla was so good that we actually ended up making them for any friend or family member we stayed with for more then three days.
In Serbia, we made them for my cousin and he loved them. Of course, he just loves eating, but he actually asked the recipe to make some day in the future, since it is perfect bachelor food. And yes, you can actually get everything you need for a quesadilla in Belgrade. They have tortillas and all the necessary ingredients. The only tricky thing was the cheese, which we ended up finding in the form of a great Dubliner from Ireland that worked wonders.
In Slovenia, the dillas were again a hit. For my cousin there, we made them, he and his girlfriend loved them, and they even made them again after we had visited. The tortillas were easy to find at the local supermarket, which was a shock given that Slovenska Bistrica is a pretty small town in eastern Slovenia. Cheese was the oddball again, but we found that Edamec (Edamer in Slovenian) worked pretty well and while not as robust as cheddar is, was still quite tasty.
Lastly, we hit Spain while traveling the Dilla Train. Americans might be surprised to find that Spaniards haven’t heard of quesadillas, but I must again emphasize that Spain is not Mexico. The word makes sense, but people don’t really know what it is unless they’ve been to a Mexican restaurant, of which there are few. But even though Spain is not Mexico, tortillas are definitely easy to get. We didn’t take any chances and went with Edamer again like we did in Slovenia. End result: delicious.
So, this being one of our favorite “dishes” and our having prepared it in several countries outside North America, I present:
The Quesadilla Survival Recipe
- Find tortillas or any kind of thing from northern Africa that looks like a tortilla, but isn’t pita bread, because that’s just too thick.
- Get meat. This can be pork. This can be chicken. It can basically be anything as long as it’s ground meat. When in the Balkans, try a “ćevapčići mix” and put together a half ground beef and half ground lamb mix.
- Get tomatoes and onions, then dice them up.
- For spices, all you need are garlic, salt, and pepper which you can get anywhere.
- Cheeses are the hardest part. Ideally you want a sharp cheddar and in an ideal work, a touch of blue or Gorgonzola, but these last two are unneeded if you can’t find them. In place of the cheddar, most firm or hard cheeses with a good degree cheddar-esque qualities to them will work. Like I mentioned earlier, Edamer seems to work surprisingly well. Gouda wouldn’t be so good nor would Ementhaler. Just smell the cheeses and think about if you want to eat a melted pile of what you’re smelling. If so, get it.
- Cook up the meat, tossing in the onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. I like about a head of garlic to a kilo of meat, but that might be too much for some folks. If in the Balkans, avoid added paprika. It doesn’t go so well with the cheese.
- Find a heavy skillet or steel plate or something that can be a dense, as opposed to intense, heat.
- Toss on one tortilla. Put on the cheese. Put on the meat. Put on the tomato. Put on another sprinkle of cheese. Dust it with the blue or other cheese you might have.
- Let it melt. Toss on the other tortilla and flip. The other side will cook pretty fast, so your dilla is nearly there.
- Take it off once the other tortilla gets crisp. Let it sit and cool until the cheese congeals a little, then cut it up and serve. Don’t worry if it’s a little black. That’s to be expected and the mark of a good dilla, because it’s been cooked, but not completely burned. It’s about one ‘normal’ (about 20cm across) tortilla per person to fill people up, so plan accordingly.