~ Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas ~
My public opinion of Buffalo chicken wings is the popular and safe one: everyone loves Buffalo wings. My private opinion is: serving them needs to be better regulated. Just so there are no misunderstandings, I like wings, but, a finger food drenched in a vivid orangish-red sauce guaranteed to stain my pretty French manicure or ruin my silk blouse ticks me off. There's more: To those who serve wings in a sauce so hot it forces tears to my eyes that causes my mascara run: Extremism is a dish best saved for yourself, not served to your unsuspecting guests.
"Primum non Nocere." -- Latin for "First, do no harm."
Know your crowd. In my cooking classes, I preach this all the time. If you've taken one of my classes, I have speechified this to you and you have paid me good money to do it. If you have ever been entertained in my home as a guest, my kitchen has many faces and you only get to see the one that is appropriate for that given occasion. I'm proud to say it's a smart and skillful art that has earned me a broad base of very diverse friends which I have learned a lot from.
At risk of sounding sexist: Buffalo wings per se are man food. To state it another way, if I'm inviting a group of women to my home for lunch, serving chicken wings is "off the table". If I'm inviting men, chicken wings are "on the table". That said, for a casual gathering for men and women, there are ways we can all work together to bridge the gender gap to include user-friendly buffalo-style snacks and appetizers for all to enjoy that "do no harm" to anyone.
The Buffalo-style Chicken Quesadilla: All the classic flavors present & accounted for & sandwiched together in a safe-to-eat sandwich.
When put to a vote of family and friends, the vast majority would rather eat these quesadillas than Buffalo wings. They deliver on all of the classic wing flavors (and textures) too: chunks of tender white-meat chicken in every bite mixed with the vinegary heat of Buffalo-style hot sauce and some sliced scallions, blue cheese combined with a bit of Monterey Jack for some ooey-gooey meltiness, and, in the case of my recipe, store-bought slaw mix tossed together with blue cheese or Ranch dressing to mimic the crunch of the celery and carrot sticks too. Once all things are sandwiched together between a slightly-crispy hot-out-of-grill-pan quesadilla, not one person who has ever tried them has ever said, "I wish you would have made wings instead."
3/4 cup prepared Buffalo wing sauce, your favorite brand, not cayenne pepper sauce
1 quart cold water, for poaching chicken tenders
1 tablespoon sea salt, for poaching chicken tenders
1/2 cup very-thinly sliced scallions, white and green part only, save tops for garnish (about 2 ounces)
16 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded, about 4 cups, total throughout recipe (Note: 1/2 cup gets stirred into the chicken mixture and 7 tablespoons -- 1 tablespoon shy of 1/2 cup -- gets sprinkled onto each of 8 flour tortillas.)
3 cups store-bought coleslaw mix (about 8 ounces)
3/4 cup chunky-style blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing, your choice
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
8, 8" round flour tortillas
vegetable oil, for cooking quesadillas
~Step 1. Place tenders in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, then add the water and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust heat to a gentle simmer, partially cover pan and cook until soft and tender, 30 minutes. While chicken is simmering, slice the scallions, grate the Jack cheese, and set both aside. Remove chicken from heat, drain into a colander, and allow to cool until you can handle them with your hands, about 15 minutes. Using your fingertips break chicken in chunks, then pull it into small bite-sized bits and pieces, placing it in a medium bowl as you work.
~Step 2. Add the 1/2 cup of scallions and 1/2 cup of the Jack cheese to the pulled chicken. Using two forks or two spoons, toss like you would a salad, to thoroughly combine. Add the Buffalo wing sauce and toss again, making sure that everything is completely coated in sauce. Speaking privately, my favorite store-bought wing sauce is Frank's -- use what you like best.
~Step 3. Add the slaw mix to a medium bowl. Add the blue cheese dressing, and using two forks or two spoons, toss like you would a salad, to completely coat. Crumble and add the blue cheese and toss again. Go ahead, take a taste, that's some kinda kick-ass blue cheese slaw. For the public record, it's great on 'burgers too.
~Step 4. Spray a 12"-round grill pan with no-stick cooking spray and place it over medium heat (medium-heat on my gas stove is medium-high heat on an electric range). Place a tortilla on the grids and sprinkle 7 tablespoons grated cheese (1 tablespoon shy of 1/2 cup) over the entire surface of the tortilla to within 1/2" of the perimeter all around. Place a generous 1/2 cup of chicken filling atop the cheese on half of the tortilla, followed by 1/3 cup of the slaw mixture. When the bottom layer of cheese has melted, which takes about 45-60 seconds, use a spatula to lift and fold the cheesy half of the tortilla over the chicken-filled half and allow to sit on the heat about 15 more seconds. Remove from heat and transfer quesadilla to a cutting board. Repeat with the remaining seven tortillas.
Smile for the camera & have a bit of patience...
Special Equipment List: 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; colander; cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held box grater; 12"-round grill pan or nonstick skillet; wide spatula
Cook's Note: I have quite a few recipes for quesadillas. Sometimes, I combine them to serve a quesadilla buffet. ~ Cheesey Roast-Beef Pepper 'n Onion Quesadillas ~ is one you might want to check out in Categories 1, 2, 13 or 27.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)