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Dry bread crumbs (Recipe: Cubano quesadillas)

Cubano quesadilla

TRUE CONFESSION: My pantry harbors its share of convenience foods.

I don't mean pre-fab dinners that get zapped in the microwave.

I mean pantry ingredients that keep for months in the pantry and make my cooking faster, like curry powder, chili powder, tomatoes in a box, beans in a can, harissa in a tube, Sriracha, Ro*Tel, and dry bread crumbs.

Bread crumbs 

With panko (Japanese flaky bread crumbs) all the rage, plain dry bread crumbs have been left behind by restaurant chefs and food magazines. In my small village market, panko is nowhere to be found, while dry bread crumbs are always available. See what I mean? Convenient!

Dry bread crumbs last for months in the pantry, if kept in a tightly closed container, but not forever. When you open a canister of bread crumbs, mark the date on the top. After six months, throw any leftovers away.

You can make your own bread crumbs from any dry bread, including gluten-free bread. Toast slices of bread until completely dry, then pulverize in a food processor or by hand with a rolling pin.

Though you can buy seasoned bread crumbs, I always buy the plain variety so I can choose to season with savory (herbs, cheese) or sweet.

How convenient is that?

Cubano quesadilla 

Cubano quesadillas

It's rare -- well, almost never -- that pork finds its way into my kitchen. Recently, I had a couple of small slices of pork tenderloin, so I thought right away of cubano sandwiches, which typically contain roast pork, ham, cheese and pickles. These quesadillas are in that spirit. Serves 4.


2 slices of pork tenderloin
1 egg
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp fresh black pepper
3 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp canola oil
4 large oat-bran or whole wheat tortillas
12 slices Swiss cheese
1 large half-sour pickle, thinly sliced
Your favorite mango or peach salsa, for serving


Dry the pork with paper towels and set aside. In a shallow bowl, beat the egg with a fork. In another shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, salt and pepper.

Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a nonstick skillet over low-medium heat. When the oil is hot, dip each piece of pork into the egg, then into the bread crumbs, making sure to press lightly so the crumbs adhere. Place the pork into the skillet, and cook for 4 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool, then slice the tenderloins on an angle, into 6 slices each (12 slices in all).

Heat a griddle, panini press or nonstick skillet.

Assemble the quesadillas: Place one tortilla on a cutting board. Top one half of the quesadilla with 1-1/2 slices of Swiss cheese. Place 3 slices of pork on top of the cheese. Top with a few slices of pickle, then another 1-1/2 slices of cheese. Fold the tortilla over, to make a semi-circle, and press down slightly. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Brush your griddle or skillet with 1 tsp canola oil. Place as many quesadillas as will fit on the griddle. Compress the quesadilla with a panini press or a cast iron skillet. Cook for 2 minutes per side, until the cheese melts.

Let the quesadilla sit for 1 minute, then slice into wedges and serve with your favorite mango or peach salsa.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Shrimp and avocado quesadillas
Baked cherry tomatoes
Potato and swordfish tortino
Kartoom croquettes
Pork tenderloin with lavender grilled peaches
Slow-roasted tomato macaroni and cheese

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Bread crumbs are definitely a staple in our (Polish/Australian) pantry. My wife loves to use them to make a Polonaise topping, consisting of dry breadcrumbs fried in butter and sprinkled over boiled vegetables.

In my secret lab work, I think that breadcrumbs mixed with flour, best approximate the KFC coating, only need about another 9 or so secret spices...

That sounds really delicious.

These remind me of being in Cuba Lydia, so anything that does that is alright in my books!!!

Yes - you're talking about the ORIGINAL convenience foods! I have become quite a fan of panko - the whole wheat kind. It adds a nice nutty flavor to so many different recipes.

Pork in your kitchen? Zounds! Lydia, this sounds so good. Thanks so much!

Your Cubano quesadillas are so colorful and tasty-looking! I also buy the unseasoned breadcrumbs and add my own seasonings to fit the dish. Thanks for linking to my butternut squash gratin recipe.

those sound good. at first i thought that was corn relish. i'm still building my pantry in my new house. on twitter, the other day, you were talking to someone about 'hmart'? what or where is this?

Great recipe. I've made a note. Also, I too keep store-bought bread crumbs in my pantry as well as panko and I've almost always got a bag of assorted stale breads in my freezer. They all have their place.

Pork? In your kitchen???

Nice twist on the traditional cubano!

Yum! I have always wanted to try a cubano.
We have seen panko here in my small town lately - so there is hope!

Looks good -- and a more manageable size than you usually get in Cuban restaurants.

Oh very nice, sounds so appetizing right now!

Neil, keep working on that KFC secret recipe -- and then be sure to share it with us!

Mae, Noble Pig: You'll have to take the word of the four people who scarfed these down when I made them. I never tasted, but they surely looked delicious.

Val, I would love to go back to Cuba, too. I loved the food. We saw Cubano sandwiches everywhere.

TW, panko is great and I use it more often than the plain dry bread crumbs. But the market in my small village doesn't carry it.

Candy, Julia: the pork was a rare occurrence indeed. That's why I had to photograph it.

Canuck, you're quite welcome!

Dawn, it's peach and mango salsa on the quesadillas. H-Mart is a large Asian supermarket north of Boston (Woburn, I think).

Kevin, I keep ends of stale bread in the freezer, too. It's great for thickening gazpacho and meatloaf.

Natashya, thanks for the optimism. I do think my little mark is trying to improve its offering, so I am hopeful.

Joan, the Cubanos I've seen in Boston restaurants are enormous, too. These quesadillas, which I made with oat bran tortillas, were much lighter.

Mmmm, that looks delicious!

I choose not to call anything "convenience food" unless it requires no cooking before placing it on the table :-)

The cubano quesadillas are awesome looking Lydia. I do not often cook with port either but I am really liking this recipe! as for breadcrumbs i often make my own from leftover bread - it's usually a mixture of wholewheat, rye and spelt bread. I season them only when I use it.

Pickles, cheese, pork - you have just named my top three favorite things! Add mustard and I am in heaven!
I sometimes make these or variation of at home but the husband isn't quite as in love with them as me - too daring I suspect for his Irish roots!

Dawn - HMART
3 Old Concord Rd
Burlington, MA 01803
(781) 221-4570

this is an awesome quesadilla. I going to try and follow on your recipie. May be I gonna add some mustard once done...mmm.... :P~

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