Tenderloin and a spicy avocado sauce amp up cheesy quesadillas
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Pricey beef tenderloin might not be the first protein you think of when it comes to bulking up a cheese quesadilla. After all, this cut is most often reserved for filet mignon or chateaubriand. But when used smartly, a little tenderloin goes a long way. For this simple quesadilla, we seared the steak, then matched it with something saucy and spicy: a Venezuelan-style guasacaca sauce made from avocados, onion, vinegar, lime and jalapeños. The condiment is like a thin, tangy hybrid of salsa and guacamole, and is as fun to say as it is to eat.

Steak Quesadillas with Guasacaca Sauce

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Yield: 2 quesadillas

Prep Time: 20 minutes (plus 5 minutes resting)

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes


½ pound beef tenderloin, halved lengthwise into 2 long pieces

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 small, ripe avocados--halved, pitted and roughly chopped

½ small white onion, roughly chopped

1 small poblano chile or ½ small green bell pepper, roughly chopped

½ cup fresh cilantro

1 small jalapeño, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Juice of 1 lime

¼ cup canola or grapeseed oil, divided

Four 8-inch flour tortillas

2 cups shredded good-quality melting cheese, such as Monterey Jack or Oaxaca

2 tablespoons adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo, or your favorite hot sauce


1. Set the tenderloin pieces on a cutting board and rub them with 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Set aside.

2. Make the guasacaca: In the bowl of a food processor, add the avocados, onion, poblano chile, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, vinegar, lime juice and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Process until smooth; then, with the machine running, add 2 tablespoons of the canola oil, processing until smooth.

3. Heat a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat until it smokes, about 2 minutes. Divide 1 tablespoon of the canola oil over the tenderloin pieces, rubbing it all over. Cook until all sides are browned and the internal temperature reads between 125° and 130°, about 10 to 12 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board and rest the steak for 5 minutes, then slice crosswise into ¼-inch-thick pieces (about 16 slices total).

4. Set the cleaned skillet over medium heat and add 1½ teaspoons of the canola oil. Add a tortilla followed by ½ cup of cheese, 8 tenderloin slices and another ½ cup cheese. Place another tortilla on top. Cook until the tortilla is browned, 2 to 2½ minutes, then use a metal spatula to flip. Cook until the other side is browned, about 1½ to 2 minutes longer. Transfer the quesadilla to a clean cutting board. Repeat with the remaining ½ teaspoon of canola oil and the remaining tortillas, cheese and steak. Slice the quesadillas into quarters and serve topped with the guasacaca and a drizzle of adobo sauce.

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