These carne asada quesadillas are a super-simple, reliable crowd-pleaser, says anjie villalobos, one of our favorite Mexican-food cooks. ”Quesadillas are the grilled cheese sandwich of the Mexican-food world. They’re what I make when I need to whip up something quick and easy, either as an appetizer or a main dish.”
Because quesas always deliver for this young abuela with three grandkids under age 8, they find their way to her table about twice a month. “I’ll just look in my fridge to see what I have and throw it into a quesadilla, with cheese. I usually have carne asada leftovers that I grilled for another dinner. That’s my favorite filling. Or if I have a whole roasted chicken, I’ll shred that,” says the southern California-based, family-famous homecook.
The secret to their authentic sabor is Anjie’s use of Hatch chiles, a nod to her New Mexican family heritage. Her mother, grandmother and grandfather were all born and grew up in Santa Fe. “Our family’s passion for cooking was inspired by our grandmother and is rooted in the belief that cooking is an act of love. Many of our favorite family recipes are inspired by our New Mexican roots and the flavors of the southwest.”
Hatch chiles, also called New Mexican chiles, are grown in the Hatch Valley in the southern part of the state. This medium-caliente pepper scores 1,500 to 2,000 on the Scoville scale, with a heat factor that hovers between the mild poblano (1,000 to 2,000) and the más picante jalapeño (2,500 to 8,000). Anjie seeds, dices and sprinkles about 1 Tbsp of the green chile into each quesadilla. “Of course, it’s always best if you use fresh Hatch chiles. My mom roasts green chiles when they’re in season and then freezes them for use the rest of the year. Also, Costco sells Hatch chiles in jars that are surprisingly good. We stock up whenever we go.”
Another defining ingredient in Anjie’s killer quesas: a generous sprinkling of queso. “You can use Oaxaca, you can use jack, or a Mexican blend. You can use whatever kind of cheese you want, honestly. Even cheddar.”
Onto the cooking part, our favorite. Because: ooey-gooey-melted cheese. Plus ”I like my quesadillas when they are kind of crispy on the outer shell,” says Anjie. “So I cook them until they get nice and toasted. It only takes a couple of minutes. I then cut each one like you would a pizza, into triangles. I stack them on top of each other and serve them either alone like a sandwich or with refried frijoles on the side.”
For garnish, Anjie likes to drizzle fresh salsa. ”I almost always have salsa in my fridge. Either verde o rojo, both work great. And I top quesadillas with guacamole, which I also usually have in my fridge.”
So, there you have it: Anjie’s family-famous carne asada and Hatch chile quesadillas: grandchild-approved. Best of all? ”They go from idea to table in ”5 minutes—literally,” says Anjie. ”It really is like making grilled cheese. Just. So. Easy.”