Rebecca G. Aguilar | Writer


What is that thing? | Quesadilla

Posted by Rebecca G. Aguilar, M.Ed. on May 20, 2016

Quesadillas on a comal

A cheese glut is looming. U.S. dairy farmers expect milk production to reach 212.4 billion pounds this year, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, which means an increase in stockpiles of cheese.

The article’s authors Kelsey Gee and Julie Wernau write that Americans will need to consume 3 extra pounds of cheese to level off the surplus.

What will we do with all that cheddar?

Any self-respecting chowhound can tell you we should eat more quesadillas… tortillas topped with melted cheese and grilled over a hot comal. Quesadilla translates from the Spanish to cheesy little thing. Whatever shape the masa takes in its preparation, a quesadilla always has cheese. Always.

Déborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena are authors of the best-selling Mexican food tome Tacopedia. They write that there are as many forms of the quesadilla as there are regional Mexican foodways.

Molotes are fried quesadillas made from masa and served in the mercado stands of Veracruz. Enpalmes, two corn tortillas cooked with refried beans, chorizo, picadillo or pork roast, are eaten in northern Mexico. Vampiros, quesadillas made from flour tortillas with savory fillings, are typical beach eats in Mazatlán.

What brings back memories of my mother’s kitchen was a buttery queso Chihuahua melted over fresh, handmade corn tortillas. Mom always looked forward to packages from her sister in Las Cruces. Along with fragrant New Mexico chiles, the packages would contain a gorgeous cheese wheel of this wonderful queso made by the Mennonites of northern Mexico.

The basic quesadilla at my own house is a store-bought tortilla folded in a half-moon shape or sandwiched with mozzarella, Gouda or cheddar and served with a bowl of charro beans. We prefer corn over flour tortillas and will occasionally use baked tostadas for added crunch. Add some guacamole, salsa or sliced jalapeños. It’s always a quesadilla, because of the cheese.


Holtz, Déborah and Juan Carlos Mena. Tacopedia. New York: Phaidon Press, 2015.

Category: What is that thing?

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