Thursday, November 13, 2008

When Cubano meets Quesadilla

Gaze over there to the left at the delicious wonder that is the Cubano sandwich. If you're not familiar, a Cubano is the Cuban version of ham and cheese, and consists of layers of ham, pork, cheese, mustard and pickles in french bread that are pressed with a plancha (essentially a panini press without grooved surfaces). The creaminess of the melted cheese, the sweet tart of the mustard and pickles... all combine to make a truly fantastic sandwich. And indeed, when Anna and I head over to Inman Square for lunch at either Bukowski's or All-Star, a Cubano is often my first choice.

Having no desire to own a panini press, nor having the space to put one even if I did, I always figured it to be a sandwich I only would have when eating out... that is, until I noticed a variation on my tried and true quesadilla recipe called (you guessed it) the Cubano Quesadilla. While obviously not traditional, it does make a lot of sense... you can get that same crisp exterior, warm gooey interior, and pressed form factor with that kind of combo... and no need for an extra kitchen appliance! I'm still perfecting my take on the America's Test Kitchen recipe, so I don't have any exact measurments for you, but I can lay out the basics and maybe come back and update with specifics.

  • 2 burrito size flour tortillas
  • black forest ham
  • grated Gruyere cheese
  • mustard (at the moment I'm picking honey mustard here)
  • diced pickle slices
  • vegetable oil
  • salt

  1. Heat up a 10 or 12 inch skillet on medium heat.
  2. Place one tortilla in the skillet and toast for about a minute. The tortilla will puff up like a balloon in spots when it's close to done, so you can then check the other side and flip when it's splotchy brown. Toast the second side for another 30-45 seconds, but don't overdo it, as you don't want the toritilla so toasted that it burns when you cook the quesadilla. Repeat with the second tortilla.
  3. Spread mustard evenly over each entire tortilla.
  4. On half the tortilla place two slices of ham, cover with cheese, then sprinkle with diced pickles. Try to leave a 1/2 to 1 inch border around the edge, and try to keep your pile of goodness relatively thin to keep the tortilla from burning before the cheese melts.
  5. Fold (now this is key) the tortilla into a half moon and press down firmly. Repeat with second tortilla.
  6. Brush one side of each nascent quesadilla with veggie oil and sprinkle with salt.
  7. Place each half moon, oil brushed side down, into the skillet so that they come together into a full moon. (Pretty clever, eh? Much easier to flip the half moons without them falling apart than putting one tortilla on top of the other.)
  8. While they're cooking on one side until golden brown (1-2 minutes), brush the other side with oil and sprinkle with salt, then flip to the newly oiled side for another minute.

I've only tried it once; one tortilla half moon with dijon mustard (not so good) and the other with honey mustard (fantastic). I used two of those sandwich slice style pickle in each quesadilla, and it turned out to be a bit too much pickle... which is why I recommend dicing them up so you can spread it around. I'm going to try some other refinements tonight, and will try to get back to update my discoveries later... but I highly recommend you give it a try, as it is both simple and delicious.

photo by flickr user Adam "Slice" Kuban used under a Creative Commons license

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