Meatless Monday: Southwestern Potato Quesadilla

You can fill a quesadilla with just about anything, like cheesy, spicy mashed potatoes.
By: Michelle Buffardi
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A quesadilla is quite possibly the easiest meal in the world to make. For the most bare-bones version, all you need are a couple of tortillas, cheese and a dry pan, plus some salsa for topping. But you can get way fancier than that and still come up with a meal in a few minutes -- experiment with different cheeses, use blue corn tortillas instead of yellow corn or flour, or pile on some vegetables or beans to up the health factor of your quesadilla.

These Southwestern Potato Quesadillas are made with poblano-spiked mashed potatoes and cojita and Jack cheese, so they're a little spicy, a little creamy and all kinds of tasty. You can make the mashed potatoes just for these quesadillas, or if you have leftover plain mashed potatoes, mix in some canned or jarred chiles. Baked or roasted potatoes work too, just smash them up with the chiles.

These quesadillas also make a great appetizer, and you can make them ahead, too -- just reheat in the oven, on a cookie sheet for about 8 minutes, or until the cheese melts. Confession: I bring leftover quesadillas to work for lunch and eat them cold, which is obviously a matter of taste. But cold quesadillas are up there with cold pizza in my book.

1 cup leftover Southwest Mash, recipe follows
Eight 5 1/2-inch corn tortillas

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, plucked (just the leaves and soft stems)

1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack (about 2 ounces)
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Crema and salsa verde, for serving, optional
Southwest Mashed Potatoes:
2 pounds large Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
Kosher salt
2 medium poblano peppers
1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 1/2 cups crema or sour cream, at room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat a cast-iron grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat.

Spread 1/4 cup mashed potatoes on to 4 tortillas, leaving 1/2-inch border. Top with a few sprigs of cilantro. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons Cotija and then 2 tablespoons Monterey Jack over the potatoes. Top with the remaining 4 tortillas and brush lightly with some oil.

In two batches, place the quesadillas, oiled-side down, on the grill pan and cook until crisp with grill marks and heated through, about 2 minutes. Brush the tops with a little more oil before flipping and cook an additional 2 minutes. Cut the quesadillas into wedges and top with cilantro leaves. Serve hot with crema and salsa verde if desired.

For the Potatoes:

Put the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water by about 1 inch and add 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over high heat, and then reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer briskly until fork tender, about 45 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan. Coarsely mash with a traditional potato masher.

While the potatoes are cooking, char the poblanos on all sides under a broiler, 5 to 7 minutes. Place in a bowl and cover with a plate or plastic wrap to cool. Once cool, peel, seed and slice the peppers into thin 2-inch-long strips. Set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat a grill pan over high heat. Lay the onion slices on the pan and grill, turning until cooked through but still firm with distinct grill marks on each side, about 8 minutes total. Let cool and coarsely chop.

Mash the crema into the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Gently fold in the peppers and onions to make a chunky mashed potato. Serve hot.

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