We don’t really think that people need instructions on how to make a quesadilla. After all, it’s simply toasting two tortillas with a filling mixture between them. However, you might not have thought of using Brie cheese in your quesadilla, but we did. And, for two good reasons: one, it melts great, and two, we think some people are too worried about mixing iconic foods from different parts of the world.
We remember reading a book in which the author (possibly a chef) stated that one should never try to make a meal by fusing Mexican and Italian cooking. It just doesn’t go together. All we could think of was that Italian cuisine is known for tomatoes (new world produce), potatoes, as in gnocchi, (also new world), and corn, as in polenta (yep, new world), each of which is also widely used in Mexican cuisine. It sure sounded like a perfect pairing for fusion.
So, we figured, quesadillas are, by definition, made with cheese: why not use a cheese from France, a country renowned for its great cheeses?
Not ready for a Frenchified quesadilla? Feel free to use another cheese. We do suggest that, if it’s a hard cheese, such as Cheddar, that you grate it for easy melting.
Procedure in detail:
Cook filling. We need to do a couple of things. Cook the cumin seeds to bring out some flavor, cook the mushrooms to release moisture, and cook the corn kernels so they don’t taste like raw corn. We can do that all pretty much at once by heating the oil a small skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the cumin — it’ll sizzle and pop — and cook, stirring until fragrant, about a minute. Stir in the mushrooms and corn, and cook until the mushrooms have released their moisture and it’s evaporated, and the kernels are bright and glossy, indicating they’re cooked through. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.
Season. We haven’t added any seasonings, except the cumin, so let’s do that now. Sprinkle the mixture with salt, add the chili powder, and finish with a few grinds of black pepper. Give everything a stir and a taste. Adjust those seasonings until it tastes great.
Cook one tortilla. Since we made our own tortillas (well, actually piadinas), we had to cook up both of them. We guess that you could assemble the quesadilla at once and cook on a griddle, just getting the outside of the tortilla browned, but we think you should spend the extra minute to cook both sides of each tortilla. So, heat up a griddle or a large skillet — cast iron is perfect– over medium heat. When hot, drop in the tortilla and cook for about a minute on each side. Long enough so that both sides have small browned spots. Remove that tortilla from the skillet and set aside.
Make quesadilla. Place the second tortilla in the skillet and cook one side until lightly browned. Flip, then layer your quesadilla. We layered our with the corn mushroom mix, followed by the Brie cheese, which should melt, holding the corn mixture together, then the arugula to add a peppery bite, topped off with the other tortilla. Continue until the tortilla is browned underneath, then flip to cook the other side and reheat the other tortilla. We had to flip our quesadilla by sliding it off onto a plate, setting the griddle upside-down over the quesadilla, and flipping everything over (hot pads are essential, of course). Now, let everything continue cooking until the underside is browned and the cheese is nice and melty. To serve, we sliced the quesadilla into eight wedges.
We don’t have quesadillas all that often — to us, they’re sort of bland — but we thought these were pretty good. The corn and mushroom mixture was a nice change from just cheese, and we liked that they were slightly spicy. We might consider adding some smoked paprika next time. The Brie cheese gets really melty, of course, so the quesadilla is nice and gooey, which is the best, but it was interesting to have the flavor of the rind of Brie mixed in. Perhaps it should be removed. Even so, four stars.