I’ve been lagging a bit on posting this recipe mainly because I always seem to end up eating all the cheese. Clearly my obsession with cheese has become a bit of an addiction worthy of a 12-step program, but I have hope that I can control myself someday. For now, I will share with you one of my favorite cheese-filled indulgences that, regardless of the simplicity of the recipe, seems to be a hit no matter who ends up eating it with me. Not only is it super tasty and exploding with cheese, it’s incredibly simple & inexpensive to make. This should also make a great half-time snack for tomorrow’s Super Bowl festivities.
Quesadilla recipes are all over the place in cookbooks and recipe sites because of the simple & inexpensive factor. The Mexican version of a grilled cheese, this gives you some bare bones nutrition with very little effort. But plain ol’ cheese & tortillas can get a little dull, so I like to jazz mine up a bit. A lot, actually. I like to add plump, tender, well-seasoned and spicy hot shrimp. Though I don’t have a super high tolerance for spicy foods, these can get pretty high on the Kimber-heat scale. However, the creamy gooeyness of the cheese absorbs a lot of this and gives your tongue a bit of a reprieve.
I use frozen cooked shrimp but can guarantee you that making this with fresh raw shrimp is even more delicious. Back when I could afford to make these with the fresh shrimp that was all I would use, the reason being that after awhile, the flavors of the spices & chilies infuse the shrimp. So instead of a coating of spices, you end up with flavorful shrimp the entire way through. It’s also easier to avoid tough, hardened shrimp due to cooking already cooked shrimp. Alas, one makes due with what one can afford. Anyway, I usually get my shrimp at TJ’s, the medium cooked 50-60 count, for $5.99. I have seen similar bagged shrimp at stores like Safeway for about $8.00, but even if you do get them at the increased price, this is a low-priced dish. Shredding my own cheese saves me about $1-2 per 8 oz. of finished product, and buying my vegetables at the farmer’s market cut those costs in more than half.
If you’re unable to eat spicy foods, just cut out the cayenne and chilies from the recipe. I suggest keeping the other spices in because this saves you from the humdrum cheese & tortilla problem. Keep in mind that these can also be made with chicken, steak, or just veggies, as most quesadillas; I just happen to think that shrimp is more fun. I mention serving this with Pico de Gallo and promise to have the recipe up shortly. And now, on with the show!
Spicy Shrimp Quesadillas (Serves 1-2 depending on appetite; Total Cost Per Person: Around $3.33)
4 large flour tortillas
20-25 medium shrimp
3/4 c freshly shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 c freshly shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t crushed garlic
1/8 t cumin
1/8 t ground black pepper
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1/8 t crushed dried red chilies
1-2 fresh chilies, finely chopped (aji amarillo, Thai chilies, or any small, fiery red chile will do)
Couple drizzles of olive oil
Rinse shrimp and pat dry. In a bowl combine shrimp, garlic, salt, and all the spices & peppers. Toss together until all the shrimp are evenly coated and set aside. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes so that the shrimp can absorb some of the flavors. Shred or grate the cheeses until you’ve come up with enough for 3/4 cup of each type. Combine in a bowl and blend until you have an even mix.
In a small skillet heat a small drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. When oil is heated, add shrimp with all the spices & chilies and sautee for about 2-3 minutes tops. Remove from heat. In a larger skillet heat another drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. When pan & oil are completely hot, place one tortilla in the pan and heat until large bubbles form in the tortilla. Flip and heat the other side the same way. Flip again and add half the cheese. For quick melting, cover the pan with a lid and heat for about 1 minute. Add about 1/2 the shrimp with some of the juices. Place another tortilla on top and flip the entire quesadilla so that the new tortilla is being grilled. Heat for about 2-3 minutes or until cheese is completely melted. Cut in quarters, serve with Pico de Gallo or other sides like guacamole or sour cream, and enjoy!