How did cinco de mayo come and go already? Usually we have a little fiesta at our place and use it as an excuse to go crazy with Rick Bayless recipes (I saw him tweeting about a bacon queso fundido the other day…), but somehow it kind of snuck up on me this year and we were without a mexi-plan for the evening! We ended up doing a quick but tasty taco potluck with friends, but I realized afterwards that I happened to have a little something in my recipe backlog that I’ve been meaning to post that would have been perfect for a cinco de mayo dinner (maybe if I had posted it a few days ago…): quesadilla pie! Luckily, it is awesome enough to enjoy on seis de mayo, siete de mayo, and just about any other day of the year.
This delightful recipe was inspired by simplyrecipes.com, and the best thing about it is that it’s easy, super adaptable to your tastes and pantry, and you know what else? It’s actually fun to make! Essentially you just layer tortillas in a pie dish with fillings of your choice, bake it and devour it! And it’s honestly enjoyable to brainstorm what kinds of tasty things to cram in there and then put it together like a leaning tower of magical mexican pizzas. Our favorite way with it is to sandwich a layer of delicious, mexi-spiced chicken and potatoes between two layers of refried beans, scallions and cheese. But you could try layers with steak fajitas, or carne asada, or throw in some roasted or bell peppers, or a tomatoey layer with some nice veg (zucchini, corn perhaps), or even a layer of ground beef. And I’ve been thinking lately of trying it with a layer of huevos revueltos a la mexicana (eggs scrambled with finely chopped onions, jalapenos and tomato), which would be one of many ways to make this dish vegetarian. Basically, anything you like or can imagine in a taco or burrito could become a layer in this dish, surrounded by other amazing things you like (hm…pickled jalapenos, olives, mushrooms, fresh jalapeno or serrano…the sky’s the limit)! The only essential part is some cheese in each layer to melt and glue it all together. And I guess this is a matter of opinion, but for me the other essential part is some fresh avocado to serve with your finished pie. It goes sooo well with the melty, savory, spicy layers of goodness and really brings the whole thing together. Other than those two things, you can basically take this and run with it! What follows is the recipe for our go-to version with chicken, potatoes and refried beans.
Adapted from simplyrecipes.com
Serves 4 (one pie)
4 flour tortillas, roughly the diameter of your pie pan
1 can refried pinto or black beans, or about 1 cup of homemade
heaping 1 cup grated cheddar, jack or other cheese of your choice, or a mixture of cheeses (we like cheddar with a little pepperjack and some crumbled cotija or feta)
3 scallions, sliced
drizzle of olive oil
1 chicken breast, cut into chunks (or you can shred leftover cooked chicken)
1-2 small yukon gold potatoes, diced
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, cumin and chile powder, to taste
To serve: sliced avocado, salsa of your choice, and sour cream if you like
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and lightly grease the bottom of a glass pie plate with butter. Chop your veg, shred your cheese, and cook up your refried beans as you like (we either heat a can of refried pintos with some cumin and red pepper flakes, or refry from scratch). In a small bowl, combine your diced potatoes and a splash of water, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for about 2 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes.
Next, prepare your chicken and potato filling. In a medium skillet over medium heat, saute onions until softened but not brown. Add garlic and chicken chunks and stir until they’re pretty much cooked, then toss in your tender potato chunks (add a little more oil if necessary), and cook until potatoes crisp up and chicken is golden brown. Season with salt, pepper, cumin and chile powder to taste (we often add some cayenne or red pepper flakes to spice it up if the chile powder isn’t giving the kick we want). Remove from heat.
Now, assemble the pie. Place your first tortilla on the greased bottom of the pie plate. Then put in the fillings of your first layer– for us, spread refried beans on the tortilla, then sprinkle with grated cheddar and scallions. Top with a second tortilla, then spoon on your second filling– for us, the finished spicy chicken and potato mixture. Sprinkle this layer generously with cheese as well, and top with another tortilla. For your last layer, spread it with toppings and cheese (we generally repeat the first layer), and then top the whole thing off with a fourth tortilla and a good sprinkling of cheese on top. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and put in the oven. Bake, covered, for about 15 minutes to warm and melt everything together, then remove the foil and let the top crisp and turn golden (about 15 more minutes in our oven). When it’s browned, remove from the oven. Serve in wedges, garnished with avocado, salsa, and sour cream.