Put a twist on quesadillas with tequila-lime shrimp

CARL TREMBLAY/America's Test Kitchen via APFor a new take on a Mexican favorite that is substantial enough for dinner, fill quesadillas with tequila-lime shrimp.

We love a simple cheese quesadilla, but add a filling of succulent shrimp spiked with tequila and lime zest, and you turn Mexico’s griddled cheese sandwich into a party.

To make them substantial enough for a meal, we started with 10-inch flour tortillas. To make four at once, we turned to the oven.

By placing the quesadillas on an oiled baking sheet and then brushing their tops with oil, we were able to brown and crisp them on both sides without having to cook each individually.

To keep the quesadillas from getting soggy while ensuring juicy shrimp, we par-cooked the shrimp slightly on the stovetop with aromatics and tequila; this gave them a head start while evaporating most of the liquid. It was essential to cut the shrimp in half so that they released most of their moisture into the pan.

Cilantro, scallion greens and lime zest provided welcome freshness, and Monterey Jack cheese offered melty richness.


Start to finish: 1 hour

Servings: 4

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (3 cups)

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

2 scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced thin

11/2 pounds medium-large shrimp (31-40 per pound), peeled, deveined, tails removed and halved lengthwise

Salt and pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce

1/3 cup tequila

1 teaspoon grated lime zest

4 (10-inch) flour tortillas

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and brush with 1 tablespoon oil.

Toss the cheese with the cilantro and scallion greens. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the scallion whites, garlic, chile and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the tequila, and simmer until tequila has evaporated and pan is dry, about 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp, and cook, stirring often, until cooked through and opaque throughout, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the zest and let cool for 5 minutes; drain well.

Lay tortillas on counter. Sprinkle half of cheese mixture over half of each tortilla, leaving a 1/2-inch border around each edge. Arrange the shrimp on top in a single layer, then sprinkle with remaining cheese mixture. Fold other half of each tortilla over top, and press firmly to compact.

Arrange quesadillas in a single layer on the prepared sheet with rounded edges facing center of sheet. Brush with remaining 1 tablespoon oil.

Bake until quesadillas begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Flip quesadillas over, and press gently with a spatula to compact. Continue to bake until crisp and golden brown on second side, about 5 minutes.

Let quesadillas cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then slice each into 4 wedges and serve.

Nutrition information per serving: 789 calories; 375 calories from fat; 42 g fat (18 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 290 mg cholesterol; 2145 mg sodium; 41 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 50 g protein.