Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur
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Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad

Score: 5.00. Votes: 3
In stock (1 item available)
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Menu Description: "Fajita-marinated chicken, corn relish, mixed cheese, cilantro, diced tomato and crispy tortilla strips. Garnished with a chipotle-ranch drizzle and cheese quesadilla wedges. Served with our citrus-balsamic dressing."

I'm a happy camper on a Saturday afternoon when diving into one of these big salads, served up with a Presidente Margarita to help relieve my hangover from a Friday night hoo-ha. For the last several years, this has been the go-to salad when you're dining at Chili's. The chicken marinade is delicious, the corn relish is a great touch, and the citrus-balsamic vinaigrette totally rocks. And where else can you get a salad that includes slices of cheese quesadilla on the side? I love it. If you're a fan of the original Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad, this 4-serving copycat recipe will bring it home.

Craving more of your favorite dishes from Chili's? See if I hacked your favorites here

Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur

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  • 4 skinless chicken breast fillets
Fajita Marinade
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hickory smoke flavoring
Corn Relish
  • 1 cup frozen yellow corn, thawed
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons shredded carrot
  • 2 tablespoons minced green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • Pinch ground black pepper
Chipotle Ranch Drizzle
  • 1/2 cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper
Citrus-Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Grey Poupon Mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Crispy Tortilla Strips
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups canola oil
Cheese Quesadillas
  • 8 7-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Butter
  • 8 cups chopped iceberg lettuce (about 1 head)
  • 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce (about 1 head)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (about 2 tomatoes)
  • 4 teaspoons minced cilantro
  • Do This
    • Restaurant/Brand
    • Instructions

      1. The chicken will need to marinate for 2 hours, so we'll get that going first. To ensure that the chicken breasts cook evenly, pound the fat end of the chicken fillets with a kitchen mallet. Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a medium bowl, and then pour it over the chicken in a zip-top plastic bag. Park the bag in your refrigerator for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

      2. While the chicken marinates you'll have plenty of time to make the corn relish, dressings, and crispy tortilla strips. To make the corn relish, simply combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, then cover and chill.

      3. Make the chipotle ranch drizzle by combining ground chipotle pepper with ranch dressing or your favorite ranch dressing—you can even use low-fat ranch dressing, if you like.

      4. Make the citrus-balsamic vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients in a blender on medium speed for 30 seconds, or until thick. Cover and chill.

      5. Make the crispy tortilla strips by slicing 6 corn tortillas into thin strips (about 1/4-inch wide). Preheat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until one strip dropped into the oil bubbles and fries to a crunchy golden brown in about a minute. When the oil is hot, fry the tortilla strips in batches until crispy, and then drain on paper towels.

      6. Chop the lettuce and tomato while the chicken is marinating.

      7. When the chicken has marinated for a couple hours, preheat the barbecue grill to high. Arrange the chicken breasts on a plate and coat them with a little oil so they won't stick to the grill. When your grill is hot, cook the chicken for 5 to 7 minutes per side, or until done.

      8. As the chicken cooks, make the quesadillas by preheating a medium saute pan over medium/low heat. Combine 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese and 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, then spread 1/2 cup of this cheese blend on top of a flour tortilla. Cover with another tortilla. Melt some butter into the saute pan, then brown the quesadilla for 1 minute on each side or until light brown. Repeat for the other 3 quesadillas, and then slice each quesadilla into quarters with a knife or pizza wheel.

      9. Build each salad by combining 2 cups iceberg lettuce with 2 cups romaine lettuce and arranging the greens on a large serving plate. Sprinkle the lettuce with about 1/2 cup of the crispy tortilla strips. Spoon 1/3 cup of corn relish on next. Slice each grilled chicken breast into thin strips and arrange the chicken on the corn relish, followed by about 1/4 cup of the Cheddar-Jack cheese blend. Arrange 1/4 cup of diced tomato on next with 1 teaspoon of cilantro piled on top. Drizzle some of the chipotle-ranch dressing over the salad using a squirt bottle or a spoon, and serve the citrus-balsamic vinaigrette in a small bowl on the side. Arrange 4 slices of quesadilla around the edge of the salad and serve.

      Makes 4 large salads.

      Tidbits: Save a little time and money by using a blend of shredded Cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese for your salads and quesadillas. It's found near the other pre-shredded cheeses in most stores.

Average rating:

Score: 5.00. Votes: 3
Rating of votes (3)
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Nov 22, 2008, 22:00

Everyone I have ever made this for LOVED it. Everyone asks for the recipe. TSR has gotten lots of new customers due to this salad.

Nov 4, 2007, 22:00

Best salad I have ever had!!!!

I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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