A fantastic Southwest dish that makes a great appetizer or main dish is the classic quesadilla. Numerous variations on the quesadilla exist, but the basic dish is made by stuffing a flour tortilla with cheese and any number of ingredients and cooking it until the cheese has melted and the tortilla has toasted. We’ve made quesadillas in our house for years, but nothing can compare to the explosion of flavors you get from preparing this morsel on the grill over a smoky fire of lump hardwood charcoal and chunks of smoldering hardwood.
Our recipe for grilled chicken quesadillas is not only tasty, but is easy to prepare and ready to eat within minutes. You will need:
- 1lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast or tenders
- 2 bell peppers (one orange and one red are fun for variety and color)
- 1 medium onion
- 1lb. shredded cheese (Mexican cheese blend works great)
- 1 package Mexican or taco seasoning
- 8 10” flour tortillas
- Olive oil
To prepare, fire up the grill to a nice medium heat around 300-350°F, using lump hardwood charcoal and a chunk or two of hardwood for added smoke and flavor. If using a gas grill, place woodchips in a smoker box or foil pouch for the same effect. Bank the coals to one side of the grill to create a zone of both direct and indirect heat. On a gas grill, only turn on half of your burners so your zone of indirect heat becomes the cooking surface above the burners that are not turned on. As soon as the grill is lit, place chicken on the grill over direct heat and cover to begin to impart the flavors of the smoke to the chicken; do not wait until the grill has reached cooking temperature.
Prepare the peppers by slicing vertically into quarters, removing the stem and seeds and prepare the onion by slicing into ½’ thick rings. Coat peppers and onions with olive oil or cooking spray to help prevent the vegetables from sticking to the cooking grates. Place vegetables on the grill over indirect heat the same time the chicken goes on. The extended time the vegetables spend on the grill out of direct heat allows them to absorb the smoke and grill flavors before they become overdone.
As the grill heats up to optimum cooking temperature, grill the chicken and vegetables simultaneously in their respective heat zones, turning both chicken and vegetables to prevent burning half-way through the grilling process (approximately 5-7 minutes in once the grill has reached 325°F). When chicken is done and has reached a minimum internal temperature of 165°F and vegetables are tender, remove from the grill, transfer to a cutting board and dice all into small pieces. Sprinkle with Mexican seasoning and mix well.
Assemble quesadillas by spreading an even layer of cheese on one half of a flour tortilla, followed by a layer of chicken/vegetable mixture and topped with another layer of cheese. Fold the other half of the tortilla over the top and transfer back to the grill over indirect heat. Cook quesadilla on the grill for approximately 3-5 minutes, or until the tortilla begins to brown and crisp, turn quesadilla over and repeat. Remove quesadilla from the grill and enjoy with your favorite salsa, sour cream or guacamole.
Quesadillas are a quick and easy appetizer or meal for any occasion, but a grilled quesadilla is a tastier, healthier option than cooking in a frying pan. The flavors of the grill are a ubiquitous medley of tastes and aromas that will have your brain wondering what else you can prepare on the grill. One taste and you’ll be hooked on the versatility of outdoor cooking.
Keep on grillin'!