Reaching For The Record Books: Chicken Quesadillas On The Grill
Greeted by a wall of freshly drifted snow against the patio door, I carefully slid it open and got to work. You know you have a lot of snow when the first couple of shovel loads can be done whilst still standing inside the house, but that is how it has been this winter. It has been common place indeed. In point of fact, Minnesota is currently courting a hallowed slot in the top ten, coldest, most snowiest winters on record. Least wise in our state this is so. Over 40 days now, below the zero mark. 60 plus days if you live up north. It has been a deep, penetrating sort of cold that which has never ceased. Squirrels have fallen from trees and young boys have fused their tongues to subzero steel. And if you have invested in snow blowers this year, you are a wise soul. Seems like every day you hear their guttural rumble somewhere, echoing through the neighborhood. Reaching for records indeed. And I guess I believe it, as I finally shoveled enough snow out-of-the-way to shut the door behind me. Brilliant sunbeams sparkled over mounds of white, drawing mine eyes unto thin, uncanny slits. The air is fresh and cold, the way it always is the day after a good blizzard. And the snow it stands ever deep, and even deeper still where it has drifted between the old spruce trees just off the patio. I like how their stately boughs humbly bend in submission, selflessly playing the hand it was dealt, yet somehow attain even more beauty because of it. Nice trick. I do fancy those trees. They are the faithful ambiance patron to the pond-side pit, and have seen many winters. Many blizzards. Many BBQ’s. Such is the case today, under clear, and what seems eternally cold skies. And after I finish digging out here, and take a nap perhaps, I’ll cook up some supper and tell you about it.
On the pit tonight, something a little different. A little southwestern fare to warm a winter-locked, Minnesotan’s soul. Chicken quesadillas on the grill. If you can make a grilled cheese sandwich, you can make one of these. And doing them on the grill will at once transport this classic appetizer to a whole new realm seldom found in your local restaurant, courtesy of rising wood smoke. The first order of business is grill up some chicken. Any cut will do. We seasoned ours in some spicy Cajun seasoning to introduce a degree of heat to the flavor profile, and placed them on the pit over medium indirect heat. The cold poultry immediately sizzled upon contact with the hot iron grate. A lovely sound on a hushed winter’s eve. I rummaged around in the resident wood pile and plucked out a tennis ball sized chunk of hickory wood, and added it to the coals. Flipped the meat over and plopped on the old, black, enameled lid. Hickory smoke soon was in draft, and wafting serenely out of the pit damper. A smile on my face, I slipped my hands into the warm pockets of my smoking jacket and considered the evening before me. That brilliant sun of earlier has long since slipped down into the west, and the tweety birds have all went to roost, snug together in feathery balls. And the heavenly stage hands have pulled clear the cosmic curtain for what soft star light falls on fields of snow. And a toe nail moon dallies over bending spruce. What a privilege it is, even this side of the zero mark, to smell the wood smoke rising on a wintry eve such as this.
When the chicken is done to your satisfaction, bring it inside to chop it up. Get yourself two flour tortillas and butter one side of each, and assemble your quesadilla like you would a grilled cheese sandwich. Sprinkle a manly amount of shredded cheese on it, along with the smoked, chopped chicken. And then maybe add some more cheese! Lots of folks at this point, will toss all matter of things into their quesadillas. Things like: onions, peppers, mushrooms, chives, tomatoes, bacon, and so forth. And it’s all good. Make it however you like. But if all you have is cheese and chicken, like we did, that is perfectly acceptable too, to a hungry belly. Once assembled, bring your creation back out to the pit. You have a nice bed of coals going there after all, so why not do it right!
Place your quesadilla opposite the hot coals. Yes, our old kettle grill is half-entombed in a snow bank. You can’t even see its legs anymore. Its top poking out of the snow like an black flower in a sea of white. Didn’t I mention we’ve had a real winter up here! Anyways, put the lid on and let it bake spell. After a few minutes, you will want to turn the quesadilla 180 degrees for even cooking. Whence it has toasted up some, and the tortilla on the bottom has become crispy, affectionately flip thy spoils over, like a first pancake, and cook the other side in equal fashion. Here is a cook where we cannot assume our standard posture of BBQ, belly up in the easy chair, for we must keep an eye on our intended plunder, lest the burning fates fall upon these tender tortillas with scant remorse. Indeed, we must stand abreast the pit like men were born to do, on guard and with lovely beverage in hand. For this is our moment, our gastronomic beach-head for to establish culinary harmony between pit and home. Be ever mindful then, and parlay your spoils with great effectiveness to the dinner table. A dollop of sour cream or salsa, and your tummy you will find, just took a trip a south, past old and leaky borders, to where the sun stills holds stalwart, hemorrhaging over fields of green. Amen.
Hickory Smoked Chicken Quesadillas hot off the grill. Crispy, gooey,cheesy, smokey goodness patron to the pit. Man! You don’t have to endure an epic winter to appreciate this sort of thing, but it helps!