Fast quesadillas make fine impromptu dinner

Entertaining

Entertaining: Easy to throw together at the last minute, quesadillas leave hosts time to socialize.

May 06, 2001|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Sometimes last-minute entertaining is the most enjoyable. You can't worry about whether the house is pristine clean, you don't have time to iron linens for the table, and you have to serve whatever food you have on hand. I had firsthand experience with this type of impromptu get-together this past week, when our son and daughter-in-law dropped by with only 30 minutes' notice.

I looked in the refrigerator to see what might be turned into a quick dinner for four. My mind racing, I decided to prepare quesadillas.

Everyone came into the kitchen to help. My daughter-in-law made a dressing for the salad, my son helped assemble and cook the quesadillas, and my spouse took charge of beverages.

The food turned out to be delectable and took only minutes to prepare Best of all, this offhand way of entertaining left plenty of time for us to visit with our children.

Quesadillas With Caramelized Onions, Chicken and Cheese

Makes 4 main-course or 6 to 8 appetizer servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 pounds onions, sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

scant 1 / 4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

8 (6- to 7-inch) flour tortillas

2 2 / 3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 cup cooked roasted chicken, shredded into small pieces (see note)

2 teaspoons grated lime zest

4 teaspoons lime juice

5 tablespoons chopped cilantro

oil for grilling or sauteing

Melt butter in large heavy skillet set over medium heat. When hot, add onions and cook, stirring often, 1 minute. Add sugar and salt and continue to cook, stirring, until onions are soft and well browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Place tortillas on work surface. Sprinkle 1/3 cup cheese over each tortilla. Divide onions and spread evenly over cheese layer. Top with shredded chicken. Sprinkle 1 / 4 teaspoon lime zest and 1/2 teaspoon lime juice over each tortilla. Finally, sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon cilantro over each. Fold tortillas in half to form half-moon shapes.

(Tortillas can be prepared 30 minutes ahead. Cover with slightly dampened kitchen towel and leave at cool room temperature.)

If you have a stove-top grill pan, lightly coat with oil. If not, coat bottom of large skillet with oil. Place pan over medium-high heat and, when hot, add enough quesadillas to fit comfortably in single layer. Cook until golden brown outside and cheese has melted inside, 2 minutes or less per side. Remove, cover loosely with foil and finish cooking the rest.

With sharp knife, cut each cooked quesadilla into 2 equal triangles. Arrange in overlapping rows on heated serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro.

Note: Roasted chicken (plain, lemon or honey-flavored varieties) bought at a local market works well in this recipe. Shred the chicken into small pieces to make 1 cup.

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