This is by no means an attempt to be a real Cuban sandwich. A Google search demonstrated how thorough and particular Cubano aficionados are, and this definitely doesn’t fit the bill, but, the flavors of the Cuban sandwich are so tempting that I riffed on their main ideas and incorporated some key ingredients into a quick and easy quesadilla. I’m a huge fan of dill pickles, which are diced up and studded amongst melted cheese. A-mazing. To enhance the gooey-ness factor without smothering the sandwich in cheese, here are a few tips:
- I added a small bit of pickle juice to the mayonnaise and mustard, which made it very spreadable and melt-able (a little bit goes a long way). It also infused the dill flavor throughout.
- I also diced the deli meat into bite-sized portions — it’s never fun when one bite of a sandwich pulls half the innards out all at once.
A popular piece of nutrition advice is to “make half your grains whole” — a tip from the USDA MyPlate (formerly known as the Food Guide Pyramid) campaign. Sometimes, it’s hard to do, like when the stronger taste of whole wheat pasta doesn’t mesh quite as well with the sauce as regular pasta. But I think swapping out refined wheat (white wheat) tortillas for whole wheat tortillas a simple switch. Here, the whole wheat quesadillas are a sturdy shell for the yummy, cheesy goodness inside.
“Cuban” Ham and Cheese Quesadillaas
– 3 whole wheat tortillas
– 3 baby dill pickles, chopped + 1 teaspoon dill pickle juice
– 2 generous teaspoons Dijon mustard
– 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
– 1 Tablespoon olive oil
– 1/4 red onion, finely chopped (if you don’t want to slice into a new onion, 1 shallot can be used instead)
– 6-9 slices of Provolone cheese (approximately 2 or 3 per tortilla)
– 1/4 pound thinly sliced ham (I used Boar’s Head Black Forrest)
– 1/8 pound thinly sliced turkey (also Boar’s Head Black Forrest)
1. Toast the tortillas, one by one, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet until cooked halfway through. (I buy my tortillas from Trader Joe’s, and they’re rather raw and chewy before being toasted. They need this time on the stove before being filled to cook through).
2. Meanwhile, mix the mustard, mayonnaise, and pickle juice in a small bowl. Slice the meat into 1-inch pieces: make 1-inch slices lengthwise along the length of the deli meat. Align the strips and chop along 1-inch increments.
3. After the tortillas are lightly toasted, add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to the skillet over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the red onion (or shallot) and saute for 3-5 minutes, until cooked but not darkly browned. Remove from heat and put into a small bowl.
4. Prepare the sandwiches: Fold each tortilla in half to form a crease. Spread 1/3 of the mustard mixture over half of the tortilla, up to the crease. Sprinkle 1/3 of the pickles and 1/3 of the red onion over the mustard. Layer 2 or 3 slices of cheese over the pickles — tear cheese into smaller pieces so that nothing hangs over the edge. Top the cheese with the chopped ham and turkey. Arrange toppings in an even layer. Leave about 1/2-inch between the filling and the outside of the tortilla, as it may shrink further with cooking.
5. Fold the tortilla along the crease, forming a top and bottom layer. Return the quesadillas to the skillet, cooking 2 at a time. Cook them on medium heat until the cheese melts and the tortilla browns evenly and thoroughly. Don’t be afraid to flip them to be sure both sides cook evenly. Remove from heat and cut in half. Serve immediately.