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Fall New Mexican Feast

 

Peppers are at the center of a New Mexican fall feast and give flavor to each dish.

By Ken Rubin

As the summer passes in New Mexico, the fall harvest time is marked by the smell of roasted chiles. In fact, as you drive through the towns and villages that dot the state, you will find vendors selling these ubiquitous peppers in many forms: fresh, roasted, dried (as long braided arrangements called ristas), and powdered. Regardless of the type of hot pepper you like, New Mexican chiles—a pepper that somewhat resembles the better known Anaheim pepper—are notoriously addictive. They can be inconspicuously mild to incredibly fiery. In this state, the Spanish spelling of the word has been left intact—which makes sense given the state’s heritage and history.

These peppers are at the center of a New Mexican fall feast and give flavor to each dish. In New Mexico, the term green chile and red chile can mean various things. For example, it can be used to refer to the pepper itself, it can be used to describe a style of stew made with pork, beef or lamb, or it refer to a sauce that accompanies enchiladas, tamales, and other delicacies.

New Mexican cuisine is markedly different from Mexican or Southwestern cuisine and is characterized by the unique mix of flavors that have been the hallmark of this land for centuries. A mix of the indigenous cuisine of the Pueblo people, Mexico, and the Spanish that colonized this land in the 17th century, the food here is marked by its variable use of a core group of ingredients. Corn flour is used for tamales (as masa “dough”) while weat flour is used to make tortillas that are eaten as the daily bread. Beans are almost always eaten in whole form—stewed until they become almost creamy while still remaining intact. Here, pinto beans are the dominant type but other beans have become more prevalent in recent years. Various types of squash are also widely eaten, as are a host of greens. Green and/or red chile (in some form) accompanies everything.

New Mexican cooking isn’t complex or elaborate. While you can go upscale, the state’s best eateries still include family owned restaurants that won’t break the bank. The recipes below represent a sampling of some of the dishes that are enjoyed in the land of enchantment.

Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Red Chile Pork Tamales
Stewed Pinto Beans
New Mexican Guacamole with Fresh Chips

 

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