Arizona Cheese Crisp

I’ve been going through the Simply Recipes archives lately, updating recipes that seem a bit neglected and in need of a little love. Here’s one of my favorites from my mother—what she calls a “Sonoran Quesadilla,” known in Tucson, Arizona where they’re from as “cheese crisps”. Unlike our usual stove-top quesadilla made with corn or flour tortillas and jack cheese, cheese crisps are open-faced, and made with very large flour tortillas, that are toasted with butter and cheddar cheese, and often topped with strips of mild green chiles.

According to my Tucson-native mom, these open-faced quesadillas are made with especially large, thin, flour tortillas that you could find in Sonora, the northernmost state of Mexico. Typically they are served on a large platter, sometimes cut like a pie, for everyone to share.

They are crispy, buttery, and absolutely delicious.

The tortillas one uses to make cheese crisps are much thinner than the sturdy burrito-sized flour tortillas we found to make these. It just means we need to cook them a little longer to get them crispy. Don’t pile on the cheese too much; as with pizza, doing so will weigh down the result.

Arizona Cheese Crisp Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Makes one large Sonoran quesadilla

If you want to have green chiles on your quesadilla (they are optional), you can either roast your own (use Anaheims, Hatch, or Poblano) or use canned whole green chiles. To roast your own, blacken them over a gas stove, on a grill, or under a broiler, then put the chiles in a covered bowl for a few minutes, then rub off the blackened skin. (See How to Roast Chiles over a Gas Flame video.) Then de-seed them and cut them into strips.

Yum

Ingredients

  • One large, burrito-size (13-inch diameter or larger) flour tortilla
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 or 2 roasted green chiles, peeled, seeded, cut into strips (optional)

Method

Using the convection setting of your oven

1 Preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Place the flour tortilla on a large baking sheet (a dark baking sheet or cookie sheet will work best. Spread the butter all over the top of the tortilla, all the way to the edges. The butter is important for the flavor of a cheese crisp, so don't leave it out!

spread the flour tortilla all over with butter toast in oven until lightly browned

2 Cook the plain buttered tortilla for about 6 minutes or until it begins to get lightly toasted. (Check on the timing for your particular oven.)

sprinkle cheese and arrange chiles on toasted tortilla return tortilla to oven and toast for 2 more minutes

3 Remove the tortilla from the oven and sprinkle with the cheddar cheese, leaving about 1/2-inch from the edges. Add strips of green chiles in a star pattern if you want. Return the tortilla to the oven and cook for 2 more minutes, or until all of the cheese has melted. Remove from oven and eat!

My mother will use her oven's convection setting when she makes these cheese crisps. For convection, she'll put the buttered tortilla into a cold oven and heat on convection at 375°F for 7 to 10 minutes. Then she'll sprinkle the cheese and return the quesadilla to the oven for a couple more minutes.

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Links:

Flour Tortillas: Where they came from and how to make them

Quesadilla Recipe

Classic Cheese Crisps - from What's Gaby Cooking

Oven Toasted Sonoran Quesadilla

Showing 4 of 44 Comments

  • Lisa

    I’m from AZ too but we call these “cheese crisps”. Just about every Mex restaurant has these on the menu. My favorite is the Mary Lou which is topped with sliced green onions and those green ortega chiles. You’re right about the tortillas. I can never find really thin ones here in TX. Usually, I just stick the tortilla under the broiler (no butter) to toast a bit, flip, add some cheese and broil again. Mmmmm……

  • Lauren

    Oh, the memories! My dad would always have us order one of these when we went out for Mexican food when I was a kid in Tucson. They were his favorite.

  • cjohnson

    I live here in Tucson, and for the most part, I have heard these referred to as “cheese crisps”. When cooking in the tortilla in the oven the first time, watch for bubbles forming. You might need to poke the tortilla down with a fork so that bubbles don’t take over the tortilla.

  • charles

    Elise,
    This sounds wonderful. Just a note on the chiles…
    I planted anaheims this year, and they’re really producing! So the way I roast and skin them, is 5 mins under the broiler, turn, 5 more minutes. When they’re done, the skin is blistered, and about 60% blackened, but not totally blackened. Then I “sweat” them in a closed ziploc bag for 15 minutes. After that, the skins just peel right off.
    I never tried roasting / skinning them the way you mentioned, but I’ve got way more than I can eat, so maybe I’ll give it a shot.
    Thanks,
    Charles

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