My only memory from junior high Spanish class is making these unexpectedly delectable sweet quesadillas. The idea of combining monterey jack cheese with brown sugar seemed dubious at best to me and my 13-year-old classmates. But happy to have a day off from conjugating verbs, we gamely piled shredded cheese on the tortilla, crumbled the soft sugar over, slapped on the top tortilla and cooked it up in an electric skillet. The result – wedges of crisp tortillas, oozing melted cheese and golden caramel syrup – was transporting. More than a fun day in class, it was a food revelation.
I can’t remember if at the time there was a story behind this combination. I haven’t found any traditional references to one like it, but certainly the quesadilla – like its American cousin, the grilled cheese sandwich – is a concept that welcomes variation. My husband’s childhood piano teacher used to make him a grilled chocolate sandwich, a Hershey’s bar melted in a warm skillet between slices of buttered bread, as a reward for a good lesson. I imagine this brown sugar quesadilla has a similar origin, maybe a grandma’s special treat for her grandchildren, maybe a resourceful cook looking for a quick sweet fix using ready ingredients at hand.
With its less-traditional flour tortillas and California cheese, the brown sugar quesadilla was not exactly a demonstration of authentic Mexican food culture. But it was a memorable lesson about complementary flavors, culinary open-mindedness and the power of surprise. Two years of junior high Spanish, and I can’t recall anything about the teacher, the classroom or what we studied. But I never forget those quesadillas.
Distribute grated jack cheese over a flour tortilla.
Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the cheese.
Another tortilla on top.
Into the skillet on medium-low (butter optional – I skip it for simplicity).
Flip when bottom begins to brown. Ready a plate; the second side cooks much faster than the first.
A wee bit of brown sugar syrup leaking out is the only sign that this isn’t your ordinary quesadilla.
Cut into wedges, resisting the urge to lick your sticky fingers until the end.
Eat hot, while it’s all oozy and melty. Tan deliciosa.
Brown Sugar Quesadillas
We made these delectably gooey sweet quesadillas in my junior high Spanish class, and it was one of my early a-ha food moments. Mild monterey jack cheese melts with brown sugar in a crisp flour tortilla to make a quick sweet treat.
- 2 flour tortillas
- 1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, grated
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- Distribute monterey jack cheese evenly over one tortilla.
- Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the cheese.
- Grill tortilla in skillet over medium-low heat. Flip when bottom tortilla begins to brown. Ready a plate; the second side cooks much faster than the first.
- Remove cooked quesadilla to plate. Cut into wedges. Serve hot.
Here’s the link to a printable version.