My mother grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and remembers fondly what she calls “Sonoran Quesadillas” – large, thin, flour tortillas, toasted with butter and cheese, and often topped with strips of mild green chiles. The quesadillas are called “Sonoran” because they are made with especially large, thin, flour tortillas, found in Sonora, the northernmost state of Mexico. They would be served on a large platter, either cut like a pie or not, for everyone to share. They differ from what I would consider a standard quesadilla (see Quesadilla Recipe) in that they are open-faced, extra large, and very crispy.
A few weeks ago mom decided to use some extra large burrito tortillas we get at Trader Joe’s to do an experiment to recreate these delicious quesadillas. The problem is getting them crispy, but not burnt. The Trader Joe’s tortillas are thicker than the traditional Sonoran thin tortilla, so they take a little longer to toast. We experimented with cooking them directly on the racks in the oven, broiling them, cooking them on a large cookie sheet, and cooking them on the stove top. (Watch out America’s Test Kitchen!) The best way, we found, to reproduce these quesadillas was to cook them on a cookie sheet, in a convection oven. Here are the details:
Oven-toasted Sonoran Quesadilla Recipe
- One large (13-inch diameter) flour tortilla
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese
- Several strips of green chiles, cooked*
*Green chiles are entirely optional - the easiest thing to do is to use canned Ortega green anaheim chiles. Or you can roast some anaheim chiles over a gas stove or in a broiler until completely blackened, then put the chiles in a covered bowl for a few minutes, then rub off the blackened skin. Remove the stems and seeds and cut into strips.
Using the convection setting of your oven
1 Place the tortilla on a large, dark cookie sheet. Spread butter all over the top of the tortilla, making sure to get the butter all the way out to the edges. (The butter is very important! Don't omit.)
2 Place in the cold oven and cook for 7-10 minutes at 375°F on convection heat, or until the tortilla begins to visibly brown. If you open the oven door you should be able to smell the tortilla beginning to toast.
The tortilla is ready for some cheese.
3 Remove from the oven, sprinkle cheese over the tortilla (add strips of chiles if you want) and return to oven for an additional 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
If you are starting with a preheated oven, you will cook it initially for probably only 2 or 3 minutes on convection - watch it carefully, and pull it out when it begins to brown.
We recommend the convection oven approach if you have that option as the cooking time (and heating up the oven and your kitchen time) is much shorter.
Using a regular oven setting
If you don't have a convection oven, then preheat your oven to 350°F. Cook the buttered tortilla initially for approximately 6 minutes (again, check carefully, the tortilla should be getting toasted but not burnt.) Remove from the oven, add the cheese and return to the oven for an additional 2 minutes.
Note that every oven is different. This is the method that worked for our oven. You will probably need to watch quite carefully the first couple of times you make these, to gauge the time and temperature settings needed for your oven.