Santa Fe has over 400 years of Christmas food traditions. When the Spanish arrived they brought chiles from Mexico. Chiles, and the foods introduced to them by the Pueblo people when they got here, form the basis of traditional Northern New Mexico cuisine. Today, their descendents continue those culinary practices. Even in the 21st Century, when busy work and family schedules don’t permit enough time to do things every day the way earlier generations did, no self respecting New Mexican cook would short-cut on the red chile sauce at Christmas time. The red chile sauce is used in many dishes such as posole (lime-cured hominy, served for good luck on New Year’s Eve), enchiladas, tamales and carne adovado. Here’s my version of a red chile sauce made the old fashioned way.
Biscochitos, an anise flavored shortbread and the New Mexico state cookie, is baked for the Christmas holiday. Sitting by a piñon fire, sipping hot cocoa, eating biscochitos and sharing the companionship of family and friends is a great way to feel warm on a cold New Mexico night. Enjoy these traditional Santa Fe holiday dishes.
New Mexico Red Chile Sauce
2 tablespoon vegetable oil or bacon drippings
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoons salt
4 cups water
2 pounds dried red New Mexico chiles, cleaned of seeds and stems
In a saucepan heat the oil over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the onions and garlic and cook for two minutes. Add the cumin and salt and cook for another minute. Add the water and the red chiles. Stir well, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Drain the chiles, saving the water. Put the chiles in the blender with enough of the reserved water to blend to a paste. Set aside. Return the remainder of the reserved chile cooking water to the sauce pan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the volume is reduced by half. Stir in the red chile paste and whisk to blend thoroughly. Put in a container with a lid and refrigerate. It will keep for a week in the refrigerator or up to three months in the freezer.
6 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 cups shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons anise seed
¼ cup brandy
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350˚. Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Cream shortening with sugar , anise seeds and brandy. Beat in eggs. Mix in flour until well blended. Turn out onto a well floured board. Roll out to one-half inch thickness. For Christmas, cut into star shapes and dust with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake for 11 minutes (until golden brown).
Here is a hot cocoa recipe. I don’t attest to its historic authenticity, but it is a recipe I am fond of. Some may find it wanting in sweetness, add more sugar if you wish. Each serving makes an eight ounce cup. Originally, when the Spanish encountered cocoa it was served by the Aztecs mixed with chile during religious ceremonies. I enjoy the spice of the chile with cocoa but not everyone does. New Mexicans do enjoy a bit of cinnamon with their hot cocoa so you could either serve it with a stick of cinnamon for stirring or serve it topped with whipped cream garnished with powdered cinnamon.
For each eight ounce cup of hot cocoa:
1 cup whole milk
1 Heaping TBS good quality Dutch process unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. sugar
Cinnamon to garnish
Optional: 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, shaved
Optional: whipped cream
Slowly warm the milk (do not boil). Add a little milk to the cocoa and sugar mixture and stir well. Just before milk comes to a boil, pour it into the cup and stir to mix. Serve, garnished with optional shaved chocolate and whipped cream if desired.
Feliz Navidad y Prospero Nuevo Año!
What is your favorite New Mexican food?