Authentic Southwestern Cuisine; New Mexico Style

New Mexican cuisine has its own particular style. It is not Mexican. It is not Mexican-American. And it is most definitely not Tex-Mex. It is true to the Southwestern Spirit of New Mexico’s rich cultural heritage: American Cowboy, Native American, Spanish Colonial, and post-Columbian Mexican.

The Chiricahua, Comanche, Mescalero, and Navajo influence on New Mexican food is expressed through the use of piñones, corn, chile, beans, and squash.

The use of wheat, rice, and lamb were introduced to the Southwestern Cuisine by the Spaniards. Arroz con leche, atole, bizcochitos, calabacitas, and flan are some of the Spanish dishes that have come to enrich New Mexican traditions.

Another example of cultural influence in New Mexican cooking is the Puebloan Horno; a mud adobe-built outdoor oven. Originally introduced to the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors, it was quickly adopted and carried to all Spanish-occupied lands. The Puebloan Horno was used by Native Americans and early settlers of North America, and became an authentic tradition in the Southwest.

The most iconic characteristic of true New Mexican Cuisine is the use of Hatch Chile, which is not the same as the serrano chile used in Mexican Cuisine.  Within our local food landscape you will find green chile cheeseburgers, green chile cornbread, and even more creative dishes like green chile sundaes.

So, what should you be looking for when you are in search of a true, authentic experience of the southwest?

  • Bizcochitos (The Official New Mexican Cookie)
  • Carne adovada (slow-cooked cubes of pork marinated in red chile sauce, oregano, and garlic)
  • Green chile stew (stew of meat and green chile)
  • Navajo Tacos (a taco made with fry bread instead of a tortilla)
  • Sopapillas (fried pastry dough typically used as an edible scoop for salsas and sauces)
  • Albondigas (meatball soup)
  • Chiles Rellenos (whole green chiles stuffed with cheese, dipped in egg batter and fried)
  • Enchiladas (corn tortillas filled with chicken, meat or cheese, rolled or stacked and covered with chile sauce and cheese)
  • Flan (caramel custard)
  • Tamales (meat rolled in cornmeal dough and wrapped in corn husks)
  • Indian fry bread (a traditional thick flatbread of deep-fried dough)

#NMeats Culture, History, and Tradition; Bizcochitos.

So, you are visiting The Land of Enchantment and are looking for the culture, the tradition, the history…and also happen to have a sweet tooth?

Then a must try for you is bizcochitos; a treat where culture, history, tradition (and sugar) collide.

Bizcochitos became New Mexico’s official State Cookie in 1989, in an effort to help preserve this cultural tradition. The Spanish roots of this traditional cookie were, for centuries, influenced by all the local cultures  until it became a traditional New Mexican delight served at weddings, baptisms, and during the Christmas season.

“Bizcochito” is Spanish for “pastry”, and is flavored with cinnamon and anise. They are traditionally shaped like stars or crescent moons, and are paired with hot chocolate. Don’t worry if anise is just not what you are into, most bakeries avoid it for that reason.

If you are in the area, you can find traditional bizcochitos at Alamogordo‘s Amigo’s Bakery, Tularosa‘s Loredo’s Bakery, and Ruidoso‘s Cornerstone Bakery.

As with all foods, there is a slight difference between made from scratch, and store bought. If you enjoy baking, there are many different recipes for bizcochitos online.

Bizcochito recipes are family heirlooms handed down from generation to generation, and ingredients may vary. Lard, bourbon, Brandy, anise, orange juice, vanilla, red wine, etc.

NOTE: My personal preference is having milk hot-chocolate, instead of water chocolate. The richness and creaminess make for a great palate experience.

 

“My name is Bob Nichols… there’s no other place I’d ever live.”

When Bob Nichols said this to me, he had a spark in his eye.
I think you can see it in the video, albeit a bit hidden by the hat he’s wearing.

I see this spark whenever I talk to locals about the Spirit of the Southwest.
When I ask how would they define it, at first they look away, as if trying to look inside themselves to give me a thoughtful answer. And once they start sharing, bit by bit, there’s an energy that starts coming through their words.
I see that spark here and there while they say certain words or describe certain feelings.

There’s also this particular way in which New Mexicans carry themselves, and I can’t help but stare.
When I first saw Bob Nichols, he was browsing through some of the things at this local shop. He was quiet, minding his own business. I could see that, although he was aware of his surroundings, he (it seemed to me) only made the absolute, necessary moves.

The word “dignity” is what immediately comes to mind.

I think I understand a bit more of what those old Hollywood movies about the wild west were trying to capture. And it’s difficult to put into words just what the Spirit of the Southwest really is, or looks like, or feels like.

You just gotta visit…

Maybe I should go back and rewatch some of those…

This is Bob Nichols Ranch, when you visit, tell him I said hi.