Monday, June 1, 2009

The Science of Cooking

We all have our hobbies outside of design and engineering. Although I wouldn't consider cooking a hobby of mine, I do enjoy cooking and find myself pretty good at it. And even though this post is just about sharing my recipe I recently tweeted about, I wanted to put a little substance in here to keep it on topic.

One of my favorite cooking websites is http://www.cookingforengineers.com/. They do a fine job of explaining recipes for the analytical mind. I also find it educational and informative and the information I have learned from their website has made developing my own recipes easier since I have a better understanding of the complex interaction of components within a mixture. (Sorry, tried to put some jargon in here to make it sound all "engineery.") Cooking for Engineers is also the website that I got my Grilled Turkey recipe from that I use each Thanksgiving.

Now that the formal stuff is out of the way, here's my recipe for quesadillas. A little background... my wife and I were in the mood for Mexican but didn't want to go out. We hadn't gone grocery shopping yet so we had some jumbo prawns in the freezer as well as some frozen chicken breasts, but not much else. Since my wife and son like shrimp, but my daughter and I don't, it worked out well to make some shrimp and chicken quesadillas. Well, shrimp quesadillas and chicken quesadillas, not chicken & shrimp quesadillas. I was originally looking for a "saucy quesadilla" or at least some sort of fajita-style quesadilla.

I also have to warn you that I'm one of those cooks, who when in the mood to really cook, doesn't measure a thing. I go by smell and taste, adding a bit more here and there until I like what I have in the pan. So, for those of you who need to have specific measurements, I'm only guessing as to how much I really used. Don't blame me if it doesn't taste as good for you as it did for me, try adjusting the recipe a bit.

Shrimp Quesadillas
12 jumbo prawns - cleaned and shelled (thawed, of course)
4 Tblsp butter
1 Tblsp Lime Juice
3/4 tsp Garlic Salt (I like using Simply Organic)
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Paprika
1 Tblsp Flour (or Corn Starch)

Large (burrito-size) tortillas
Monteray Jack cheese (shredded)
Sharp Cheddar cheese (shredded)
Green onion
Tomato (diced with seeds removed)
Sour Cream
Salsa
Guacamole

Saute the shrimp in the butter on medium heat until done. (I prefer to saute these covered. They cook a little faster and keep the stove top clean from splattering butter. I originally sauteed the shrimp in 3 Tblsp butter, but added another tablespoon after sauteing because I didn't have a enough left in the pan and wanted to freshen it up a bit.) Remove shrimp from frying pan and keep butter in pan.
Add lime juice, garlic salt, cumin, chili powder, and paprika to butter remaining in pan. Stir until well mixed. Heat still on medium. Add flour (or corn starch) to thicken sauce.
Return shrimp to pan. Heat through, turning often to coat the shrimp.

While the shrimp is cooking, prepare your tortilla.
I used shredded cheeses because they melt easier on the tortilla. Diced blocks of cheese will also work, but you run the risk of scorching your tortilla before all the cheese is melted.
Cover one tortilla - to the edges - with: Monteray Jack, sharp cheddar, tomato and green onion.
Place battered shrimp on tortilla.
In a clean frying pan, heat the tortilla on medium until the cheese is melted or tortilla starts getting crispy. Place another tortilla on top and flip over to toast second tortilla until crispy.

Remove, cut, and garnish with sour cream, guacamole, and your favorite salsa.

Chicken Quesadillas
For the chicken quesadillas, follow the same recipe. I cut my chicken breasts into strips and cooked them with light Olive Oil instead of butter.