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A Quesadilla by Any Other Name -
Is a Sincronizada?

Chicken Quesadillas Chicken Quesadillas?
by Cheryl Hill-Burrier

If you went to school in Texas, you probably took Spanish as a second language. I took French, and by my third year started feeling out of step with the rest of my school buddies. So I switched to Spanish, and ended up mixing the two languages, which was tres embarazoso!

Whatís more, I recently realized that I still have a language problem because what I thought was a quesadilla turns out to be (depending on the ingredients) either a sincronizada or a gringa, but definitely not a quesadilla. So, stick with me and Iíll explain the recipe differences using a language we all understand -- Texan.

What we might call a particular food in a Tex-Mex restaurant, may not be the same thing in a Southwestern restaurant or restaurant in Mexico, and definitely not in an Irish bar in Chicago.

Okay, maybe I shouldnít be surprised by the Chicago thing, but some years back Larry and I went there for vacation. Heading for Old Town, we decided to duck into a little Irish bar for a couple of beers. The owners were a really nice husband and wife team who doubled as cook and bartender. Anyway, after looking through their menu of appetizers and not seeing anything really unique, we opted for a plate of nachos.

What we got were two flat corn tortillas with beans, meat, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese -- what we call chalupas. Needless to say, Larry teased the wife about what sheíd served, and they both went back to the kitchen to see her husband for a quick lesson in nacho making.

Queso + Tortilla = Quesadilla

So, in order to avoid calling something a name that it isnít, I did a little research and found out that an authentic quesadilla is made with Oaxaca or other Mexican cheese placed on a corn tortilla and then folded in half and grilled or deep-fried. Somehow, I never caught on to the obvious name that combines the two words queso (cheese) and tortilla. As it turns out, my quesadilla recipe is more in line with the Mexican sincronizada (Spanish for "synchronized"), which is like a tortilla sandwich with cheese and ham between two flour tortillas and grilled on both sides until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are crispy.

But wait. My recipe has a shredded chicken filling, so not only isnít it a quesadilla, but itís also not a sincronizada. Maybe itís a gringa! Now before I explain the gringa ingredients, thereís a cute story about why itís called a gringa. Youíve probably heard the word "gringo" on old western movies, which refers to a Caucasian man. Well, when the white tortilla is cooked, it produces little brown spots that (apparently) someone thought resembled a freckle-faced Caucasian woman. Anyway, the gringa is made the same as the sincronizada but uses marinated pork, which means my shredded chicken thingy is still a recipe stepchild.

So, to avoid telling you something wrong or misnaming the recipe, I contacted a friend who makes wonderful Mexican food, Yoli Diemel, along with the fantastic Chef Marcel Randall, The Mexican Chef, and the final answer to the correct name for my recipe is sincronizada or sincronizada de pollo, which can be translated as "chicken sandwich."

My quesadilla recipe has shredded chicken filling. So it's not a quesadilla; nor is it a sincronizada. Well, now, why didnít I think of that?

Sincronizada de Pollo with CrŤme Rojo (Sour Cream Picanté Sauce)

  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast meat
  • 1 16-ounce container picanté sauce, divided
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 4 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or olive oil
  • 1 8-ounce container sour cream
Using a large skillet over medium-heat, combine the cooked, shredded chicken, 2/3 cup of the picanté sauce, chopped green onion, salt, cumin and oregano and allow to cook for about 5 or 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

Brush the melted butter or olive oil on one side of each tortilla. Place a tortilla (butter side down) onto a flat skillet, or ribbed griddle over medium heat. Spread 1-cup of the chicken filling on top of the tortilla, and sprinkle on about 3/4 to 1-cup shredded cheese. Top with another tortilla, butter-side up. Grill each side until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are crispy, about 1to2 minutes. Place cooked sincronizadas on a plate and cut each into 4 wedges. Makes 2 to 8 servings, depending upon appetites.

Mix remaining 1-1/3-cups picanté sauce with 8-ounces of sour cream and serve on the side as a dipping sauce, along with a side serving of guacamole. These are really filling just as they are, but can be served with your favorite Mexican rice or veggie like refried beans or corn.

Compliment sincronizadas with other light Tex-Mex foods such as:

Also, try our recipe for Chile-Cheese Quesadillas.
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