Southern California food is heavily influenced by Mexican culture. Mexican restaurants are a dime a dozen. Christmas season brings about an influx of tamale orders. Even Dodgers Stadium offers the Doyer Dog, a Mexican-themed Dodger Dog. The fact is, Mexican culture is an integral part of the Southern California lifestyle. It is only fitting to have a Mexican-inspired football food as we approach our annual battle against the Trojans.
This week's football food will feature homemade quesadillas. Unlike the usual "throw cheese onto a tortilla and melt it" technique, we will be preparing the outside of the quesadillas ourselves instead of using premade tortillas. Pictured are the most basic ingredients used for this particular helping of quesadillas.
3 pound bag of masa (do not buy boxed masa; taste will leave you heavily disappointed)
Vegetable oil (can use canola oil; lard for the brave among you)
Non-stick cooking spray
1 pound of oaxaca cheese
Makes 15-20 quesadillas. Each pound of masa will give you about 5 quesadillas, so plan accordingly.
There may be some unique items here that the readers of OFD will not recognize. Let's delve into these mysteries before we start.
A key component of homemade Mexican dishes, masa is most commonly used for the corn tortilla. While dough is made with flour, masa is made with maize, or corn. This is an essential foundation for many Mexican dishes.
A tool used for flattening masa. While this is the best equipment for this dish, it is not required. Two flat surfaces, such as two plates, can be used to flatten the masa. However, a rolling pin is NOT recommended.
Note: The cheese shown in the ingredients image is oaxaca cheese, a popular cheese used by Mexicans for their dishes. This is simply a personal preference. Your favorite melting cheese can be used for this dish.
Second note: Some of you may have noticed a lack of meat from the ingredients. Many, including myself, like quesadillas with meat. You can use whatever meat you have and place the meat along with the cheese onto the masa. The only requirement is that your meat must be cooked before placing on the masa.
Last note: Make sure you purchase masa for tortillas, not tamales. Usually, the bag will specify if it is used for tortillas or for tamales. If not, the heavier, denser masa is for tortillas whereas the lighter, fluffier masa is for tamales.
First step is to get two pieces of wax paper and coat one side of each of them with non-stick cooking oil. This will prevent the masa from sticking to your tortillero. Next, you will then get enough masa and create a ball out of it. You want to make a ball that is larger than a golf ball, but smaller than a baseball. After doing so, place your masa on top of one of the wax papers and push down to get it slightly flattened.
After doing so, use your tortillero and push down on the masa. It should have a pancake-like appearance, as seen in the following image.
Now that you have your flattened masa, you can begin to put your cheese (and cooked meat, if you'd like) on your masa. You do not want to put too much, as you must leave room on the edges to enclose your quesadilla. If you know salt and pepper are a necessity for your quesadillas, you can add some now or after the frying is done. After you finish preparing one quesadilla, apply another spray of non-stick cooking oil and repeat the ball-making and masa-squishing. If you forget to reapply, the masa will begin to stick.
After crimping your edges, make sure there are no cracks or openings on the surface of your quesadilla. You do not want the cheese to escape as your quesadilla is frying.
Next, put your vegetable oil into the pan and warm up to 375 degrees. As that is heating up, have a plate with paper towels next to your pan. This will catch excess oil from your finished quesadillas.
Once your oil is ready to go, place the quesadillas carefully into the pan. If you have a lot of quesadillas, do not fry them all at the same time; put them in at different intervals. You want them to fry for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Not frying them enough will leave a raw masa flavor that can ruin your meal. Visually, you want the quesadilla to turn golden brown. The next picture will show one quesadilla that has fried for several minutes and one that was just placed into the pan.
After you place the finished quesadillas onto your plate, let them cool off. As they are doing so, bring out your favorite salsa, sour cream, lettuce, and/or shredded cheese to put on top of your meal. This is a very flexible dish, so use your imagination!
This meal has homemade salsa rojo (red salsa) and homemade guacamole along with store-bought sour cream in the middle. This meal was a very tasty one and I hope you have the same opinion as well! Happy Thanksgiving and Go Irish!