Ever been to Santa Fe? Even though it’s just a hop skip and jump away from Denver, it’s been years since we’ve been. It’s a wonderful town bustling with lots of art and unique New Mexican cuisine.
But wait a minute, just what makes New Mexico style food different from Tex-Mex or Mexican?
This popular form of southwest cuisine is very different. Its most defining characteristic is the dominance of the New Mexican chile, the state’s largest agricultural crop.
In New Mexico, the green chile is an ingredient in everything from enchiladas and burritos to cheeseburgers, french fries, bagels, and even pizza. The most famous of these New Mexico grown chiles is the Hatch chile from Hatch, New Mexico.
I read that before the arrival of Europeans, New Mexico’s current borders overlapped the areas of the Navajo, Mescalero, and Chiricahua tribes. The Spaniards brought their cuisine which mingled with the indigenous dishes and flavors. At the end of the Mexican-American War, New Mexico became part of the United States, and was strongly influenced by incoming U.S. tastes. This history combined with the local terrain and climate has resulted in its significant differences and is what makes New Mexican cuisine unique.
New Mexico has bragging rights for bringing us the blue corn tortilla, the stacked enchilada, green chile and sopapillas.
For a gift last Christmas, I received this wonderful cookbook full of unique recipes from Cafe Pasqual’s, a popular restaurant in Santa Fe. Cafe Pasqual’s has been in business over 30 years, is located in downtown Santa and specializes in Old Mexico, New Mexico and Asian cuisine.
This is a great little cookbook, full of wonderful recipes, beautiful tinted photographs and Mexican art throughout.
Let’s take a look at a sandwich inspired from this cookbook.
This recipe focuses on the Chimayo chile pepper named for the town where it’s grown…Chimayo, New Mexico. It’s slightly hotter than a cayenne pepper.
First off, I baked a loaf of corn bread to use as the base. This isn’t your normal fall apart corn bread, but more the consistency of a dense style bread, calling for more flour than corn meal. Add some fresh corn, yeast, cream and the unique flavor of the Chimayo chile pepper and you’ve got a flavorful bread on which to build the sandwich.
Taking a slice of bread, I smeared it with some Hatch chile mayonnaise. Simply some mayonnaise blended with cilantro and chopped Hatch Chiles and of course a sprinkle of the Chimayo Chile Powder. Every year I buy a few bags of freshly roasted Hatch chiles and they’re tucked away in the freezer to use in dishes all winter long.
The sandwich is then topped with shredded cooked chicken breast which has been marinating in olive oil and garlic for 24 hours.
Over the chicken breast spoon on some carmelized onions and jalapenos. For this I sliced one large sweet yellow onion, sautéed it in olive oil for about 20 minutes. I then added in three sliced jalapenos sprinkled all with about two tablespoons sugar and cooked for an additional seven minutes.
Topped with some shredded Manchego cheese and popped under the broiler for a few minutes and you’ve got a wonderful ooey-gooey tasty New Mexico inspired sandwich. The star of this sandwich was the flavor of the corn bread. The bread is sweet and with the earthy heat and flavor from the Chimayo chile you’ll be finding yourself wanting to dig through your jewelry box to find that turquoise bracelet to wear.
And you cannot ignore those carmelized onions and jalapenos. What a wonderful flavor combination, especially with the melted Manchego cheese melting in between the rings of flavor.
Served with some sliced mangos sprinkled with Znax2Go. Its is a seasoning that you sprinkle over fruits or vegetables, a delicious combination of hot chile powder and sugar. I think it’s great on mangos.
New Mexico Sandwich…It’s What’s For Dinner.