Chicken Quesadillas
From Michel Nischan: Heartbeat at W New York, New York
>>> Michel Nischan's Homepage on StarChefs

Adapted by

One of the most challenging things about being a chef/father is realizing that you have limited influence over what your children eat. Restaurant's working hours keep most chefs away from their families during the crucial eating times of lunch and dinner. After all, breakfast is all about fruit and cereal or grains, not much of an influential culinary opportunity there. As a result, many chefs' children fall victim to the eating habits of their peers. McDonald's, Burger King and Friendly's become the norm, causing children to cringe at the thought of a beautifully roasted sweet pepper.

I've found good success in approaching my children from flavor angles they are comfortable with. Adding pickled ginger juice and ketchap manis to regular ketchup (something in which they can dip their fries) makes for a mild taste change while peaking their interest about the ginger and manis. Taking them on a journey also helps. Finding back-up materials on regional foods is a no-brainer given the plethora of cookbooks available. Speak about the region, show some pictures, and they're on an imaginary airplane to a far away place! Eventually, childhood curiosity gets the best of them and they actually taste the raw ingredients. Like a small miracle, you come home one day to find them dipping their fries in ketchap manis. Getting the children involved in making the recipes is the real hook. When they take ownership of the process, all is won!


  • 1 each skinless, boneless chicken breast, cooked and cooled
  • 4 each 6-inch, store-bought flour tortillas
  • 1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 each ripe, medium tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 loose Tablespoon cilantro finely chopped (see tips*)
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded, mild white cheese (like Monterey Jack)

Cut or pull the chicken breasts into small pieces. Heat a medium sauté pan over a medium- high heat. Brush both sides of each tortilla very lightly with the oil. Cook each tortilla on both sides until they crisp lightly. Don't be alarmed when they puff-up.

Lightly pat them and they will deflate (this is fun for the kids to watch). Lay two of the tortillas side-by-side on a cookie sheet or baking pan large enough to accommodate them both without overlapping. Spread the cheddar cheese evenly over each tortilla. Add the chicken then sprinkle with cilantro. Add the tomatoes, then the white cheese. Top with the remaining tortillas. Bake in a pre-heated 400° oven, turning once with a large metal spatula, for eight to ten minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and press each quesadilla firmly. This will make them easy to cut and prevent the filling from escaping. Cut into one- sixth wedges and take a trip south of the border!

*Tips When Cooking With Kids:

1) Cut new things into the smallest pieces possible. This will tone-down the initial flavor impact of the new ingredient.

2) Do not force or even encourage a child to taste the raw product first. The reasoning behind this approach is to temper the tastebuds by introducing flavors gradually through mediums that their palates already understand. There is a thin line between encouragement and prodding. Test them on the raw ingredients only when they are ready.

3) Have lots of fun. Be very up beat and play on the journey. There is a reason why children generally do better in geography than math. World travel and great chefs go hand in hand. Come to think of it, I don't believe I know any mathematician/chefs.



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