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KotW: Southwestern Stew. June 8, 2009

Posted by panterazero in Kip of the Week, New Mexico, soups and stews, tomato.
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had two pattypan squashes from the vegetable box, which I wanted to cook while they were really fresh. I was thinking about New Mexico and the NetHeadChef, for a customary constellation of reasons. And I had a nice batch of stock from the most recent roast chicken…

one cup dried small white beans
one-half cup red (skinless) lentils
two cups boiling water

Put the dried beans and lentils in a large cup, pour the boiling water over them, cover the cup with a saucer and leave it for at least two hours.

3 quarts carcass stock or box stock
one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with diced green chiles
one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
one 7-ounce can diced green chiles
one large or two medium yellow onions, chopped

one teaspoon ground cumin
one teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
one-half teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
one-half teaspoon red flake pepper, or more to taste

two medium pattypan squashes, trimmed and chunked
three medium or six small carrots, trimmed and chunked
three large or six medium cloves garlic

12 ounces or one pound interesting earth-toned sausage, like chicken mushroom, chicken artichoke, chicken apple
one 15-ounce can whole kernel corn with diced bell peppers
one-quarter teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine the soaked beans, chicken stock, tomatoes and chiles, and chopped onions, and cook at a high simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until the beans are almost tender and the lentils have almost dissolved. Add the cumin, thyme, oregano, and red flake pepper.

With the grating blade of your food processor, grate the squash, carrots and garlic together and add this to the pot, and simmer for 10 more minutes. Slice the sausage, add it, add the corn, and bring the soup to a boil, stirring for five more minutes. Add the nutmeg, and the salt and pepper as desired. This is tremendously satisfying without being heavy and, unlike most complicated soups, doesn’t need cold weather as a backdrop.

© /KC June 2009


KotW: Roosevelt County Chicken October 2, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in chicken, Kip of the Week, New Mexico.
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If you want something that’s quicker than green chile stew, and a lot less work than pollo adovado, but still has that ineffable chile flavor..

6 chicken thighs, boned and skinned (no need to thaw if they’re frozen)
2 or 3 ripe tomatoes in bite-size chunks, or two dozen cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes cut in half
6 to 8 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon oil
2 four-ounce cans diced green chiles (Hatch if you can get ’em, Ortega if you must)
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning

Broil the chicken thighs till browned on both sides. For the last three minutes of broiling, add the tomatoes to the pan.

Meanwhile, sauté the garlic slowly in the oil until golden brown. Add the chicken, tomatoes and pan juices to the garlic and oil. Dust the chicken pieces with the Creole seasoning. Add the green chiles and chicken stock, using some of the stock to rinse the can. Simmer until chicken is tender. Serve over brown rice or noodles.

© /KC October 2008

KotW: New Mexico Food, Part Three. July 17, 2008

Posted by sarawr in herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, New Mexico, poultry.
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ZIA RISING: Chicken with Red Chile and Vinegar

Zia is the blazing light of noon, but not only that. In his all-seeing arc over the land, Zia is also the scarlet of sunrise and sunset — and of the red chile.

The red pepper is an altogether deeper thing than the green one, more mature, more complex. Above all the dried red pepper, brought forth and ripened and then shrunk to a husk by Zia himself, has irresistible power that we must invoke with respect and care. As green chile stew is rapture in a bowl, the dish called carne adovada is transcendence on a plate. This testimony to the red chile, if made right, is unforgettable.

Wherever the Spanish conquerors went, they took the adobo way of cooking with them. “Adobo” is the Spanish word for “marinade,” and to cook with it may at first have been primarily a way to preserve cooked food in hot climates. But the potent standard flavorings of adobo — garlic, onion, vinegar, bay leaves, and black or red pepper — with long simmering become a sauce for meat or poultry that is absolutely addictive.

Adobo was brought to many countries, and those countries in turn contributed to it. The chicken adobo of the Philippines, the pork adobado of Spain and the carne adovada of New Mexico are all quite different — and all utterly delicious. But only in New Mexico did adobo become the central dish of the feast of the Sun God. Get out your six-quart or eight-quart stewpot, and make this if you dare!


Some respectful disclaimers. Carne adovada in New Mexico is usually made with chunks of fresh pork shoulder — but that means a whole lot of boning, skinning, and hacking. In fairness you should then also use those bones and trimmings, together with the trimmings of the vegetables, to make stock… you see how much work this is! If you want to do it that way I’m not stopping you, any more than I’d stop myself; but this recipe is for pollo adovado, made with dark meat chicken that you only have to half-thaw and chop. In the interest of time, this recipe also assumes you have a food processor. And even so, you have to start preparing this either the night before, or on the morning of the day you want to serve it.

6 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (usually, one warehouse-store bag)

Take these out of the freezer to half-thaw for easy chopping.

12-16 dried red chile pods, medium or hot
2 cups boiling water

Top the peppers, tip out and discard the seeds that will come out, rip the pods into chunks and chop them in a food processor. When you have fine flakes, slowly pour in the boiling water until the peppers are smooth slurry. Pour this into the six-quart pot to let it develop.

10-12 cloves garlic
two large yellow onions, chopped

In the food processor, mince the garlic. When all the garlic is on the walls of the tank, add the onions and pulse — until you have minced onions, not onion slush! Add this to the pot.

2 cups factory marinara sauce or diced tomatoes
Santa Fe, Bueno or Chimayo red chile powder as appropriate, see below
one-half cup flour
2 teaspoons (or more) ground cumin
2 teaspoons (or more) leaf oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

How much chile powder you use depends very much on how hot the powder is, and how hot you want the finished dish; but you always want the deep flavor of the pepper to come through along with the heat. For hot chile powder the right amount could be as little as a couple of tablespoons, for mild powder it could be as much as half a cup. Remember that in classic New Mexico cooking, chile powder can actually be intended to thicken the sauce.

Combine all the ingredients, process until smooth and add to the pot. Finally, spin

1/2 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

in the food processor to rinse out the tank, and add that to the pot.

The chicken thighs
one cup (two four-ounce cans) diced mild green chiles
two to four bay leaves

Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces, adding it to the pot as you go. Add the diced green chiles and the bay leaves. Mix it with your hands, and I mean really massage it, maul it, make sure every side of every piece of meat is touched by the mixture. Then either

    cover and refrigerate overnight, or

    (assuming the chicken is still fairly cold) allow it to sit at room temperature for three to four hours.

Preheat your oven to 350° and bake this for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Toward the end of the cooking time, taste an occasional piece of chicken to make sure it doesn’t get overdone — you want each bite to be perfectly tender but not broken or stringy.

Finally, if necessary, use red flake pepper, El Pato tomato sauce, sriracha, or comparable heat to make this as hot as you want it. There should be plenty of sauce, but if you want more, add a couple of cups of chicken stock. Serve with hot white rice or warm flour tortillas, or both.

I have, I swear, made a double recipe of this in a 12-quart pot for a small Christmas party, and had it completely vanish in an hour. Good luck with yours!

(c) /KC July 2008

KotW: New Mexico Food, Part Two July 16, 2008

Posted by sarawr in herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, New Mexico, restaurants, roasts, soups and stews.
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This is the signature dish of some parts of New Mexico, and has escaped to a few places — not many — in other southwestern states. If the chile grows where you are, you can order this (usually for about five bucks a bowl) at fancy restaurants, less fancy restaurants, coffee shops and even airport lunch counters (note 7). If the chile does not grow where you are… which may be only a few miles of difference… you will ask for green chile stew and the waitress will look at you funny.

But although it’s useless to order this in a restaurant in (say) northern California, you can make it yourself if you acquire the materials. That’s an adventure in itself and not cheap, but it can be done. Personally, I do it, because I think that really good green chile stew is one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. (And if the best green chile stew I’ve ever made has never quite equaled what they serve in the little restaurants around where Sara lives — well, that’s the exile’s lament.)

4 quarts chicken stock (note 1)
28-ounce can diced Italian tomatoes in juice
2 big yellow onions chopped fine
6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 lb. (about a dozen) roasted Barker, Big Jim, Sandia or Socorro green chiles, skinned, topped, seeded and chopped (note 2)
two teaspoons powdered cumin
two teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
salt to taste
3 4-ounce cans Hatch diced green chiles (note 3)
1 cup of 505 (or other) medium green chile sauce
4 to 6 cups of roast chicken meat, mixed light and dark, diced (note 4)
6 stalks of celery trimmed and sliced
6 carrots pared and cut into hunks
2 large white potatoes, peeled and cut into french-fry-like sticks (note 5)
one can El Pato Salsa de Chile Fresco (note 6)

Bring the chicken stock to a boil, add the tomatoes and onions, and let simmer twenty minutes. Press in the garlic, add the chopped roasted chiles, cumin, oregano, and salt, and let simmer twenty minutes more. Add the canned chiles, chile sauce, meat, celery and carrots, and cook till the carrots are half-done. Add the potatoes and the El Pato sauce, and continue to cook till the potatoes are sort of not raw. (They’ll keep cooking in the hot broth but you want them to still be a little crunchy.)

Serve with warm flour tortillas, homemade if you can get them.


1. The best chicken stock, of course, will be made from the carcasses of a couple of roast chickens, with vegetables and seasoning. If you don’t feel like going that far, use good-grade chicken stock in boxes, but choose organic and low-sodium — you can adjust the salt later on your own and you don’t want too much added in advance.

2. Where the chiles grow, you can get these freshly roasted in August and September, or frozen the rest of the year. If, like me, you don’t live there, you can order them (mostly in fall, winter, and spring, not summer) frozen and airfreighted from places like newmexicanconnection.com or hotchiles.com. They’ll be about $10 a pound.

I recommend you buy medium or medium-hot frozen peppers, and whole, not chopped. The ones that are chopped before freezing lose too much flavor — at least for that price. When you’re ready to use the peppers, thaw them, take the tops off, hold them under cold running water, slip off and discard the skins, split the peppers open and rinse out the seeds, then chop the peppers.

3. Yes, the canned chopped peppers do have to be Hatch — the national brands, like Ortega and La Victoria, don’t taste the same at all. As for the sauce, it can be 505, Garcia, Hatch, Leal’s… just so long as it’s from New Mexico or, at a stretch, West Texas. If you don’t have sauce, use more canned peppers, and vice versa, but it’s best to use both.

4. Chicken is my preference but you can also make this with bite-size pieces of pork shoulder, or even with hamburger, although that’s my least favorite. If you use red meat, brown it before you add it.

5. These are authentic, but optional. If you use them, you might want to put them in what you’re currently serving rather than in the whole pot, so they won’t get cooked twice in the leftovers.

6. This is sold in little yellow eight-ounce cans. One side says “Tomato Sauce” (understatement) and has a picture of a blue-headed duck in an oval frame (“El Pato” means “the duck”). The other side says “Salsa de Chile Fresco” and has a picture of three chili peppers, one red and two yellow. This sauce adds cascabel chiles to the stew, which are very good things. In the Southwest you can buy this in Wal-Mart, in California I’ve even found it in Safeway, and you can also buy it online; it’ll cost fifty cents to a dollar-fifty a can depending on where and how you buy it.

7. Most of the restaurants with good stew are sort of…remote. But on the upper floor of the Albuquerque airport (Sunport), between the elevators and the A gates, there’s a coffee counter called Black Mesa Coffee Company that makes excellent green chile stew. Also pretty good coffee.

(c) July 2008 Kip Crosby

KotW: New Mexico Food, Part One. July 15, 2008

Posted by sarawr in Kip of the Week, New Mexico.
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December 2004: Driving through south-central New Mexico, Adri stops at a gigantic general store and total tourist trap called Clines Corners. Wanting a present for Kip that’s compact, mailable, authentic, and intriguing, she selects a four-ounce packet of Santa Fe red chile powder.

January 2006: Kip, Sara, and various family are sitting on the patio of one of P’ville’s better lunch joints. Kip tastes his first spoonful of New Mexico’s national dish, green chile stew. It hits him with the force of a mild psychedelic drug.

June 2008: At home, Kip has roasted green chiles in the freezer, green and red bottled chile sauce stacked in the garage, canned chopped green chiles and red chile honey on the kitchen shelves, and the tag end of a bag of dried red chile pods. But his stock of other crucial New Mexico ingredients is perilously low.

In P’ville — not Wal-Mart, which in context is kind of lame, but a local supermarket — he buys various grades of red chile powder in cellophane bags, a whole bunch more dried red chile pods, and a six-ounce bag of Mexican oregano. Sara supplies him with a cardboard box for all this stuff, which he packs up and takes as checked baggage on the flight home.

No doubt about it. Kip’s chilefication is complete.

Zia the sun god is the inescapable deity of New Mexico. His symbol, a red sun circle with four groups of four red rays on a yellow field, adorns New Mexico’s state flag, license plates, public buildings, and signage. Zia is everywhere, but nowhere more than above and around you in the sky. Standing on a street corner in P’ville at two in the afternoon, for more than five minutes, can make you feel like people jerky.

The pepper is a gift from Zia. Only this sun in this sky allows the pepper to grow as it should. You can find this chile in most of New Mexico, some of Arizona, a little bit of West Texas, a sliver of southeastern California. But Zia is unyielding. Where the pepper grows, it grows, where it does not it will not. And without the pepper there is no green chile stew, no carne adovada, no stuffed sopaipillas.

Alas! Where Kip lives the sun is not Zia, it is only the sun, and Zia’s gift is barren.

We’re on Sara’s porch. “In New Mexico,” a friend says, “you can talk about peppers just about more than you can talk about pickup trucks or sex.”

There are kinds of peppers: Barker, Hatch, Sandia, Santa Fe, maybe more. You can buy peppers green, or red, or pintado (green with red streaks). You can buy them fresh, frozen, dried, whole or chopped, powdered, or made into sauce; mild, medium, hot, or extra hot. Best of all, in August and September, you can buy peppers that have been freshly roasted in metal mesh drums crank-turned over gas flames. Take those home, hold them under cold water and slip off the dark-speckled skins, then top them. Remove the seeds or not, depending on how much heat you like.

Real New Mexico cooking depends on using the pepper in several forms in almost any dish. Some of the techniques are subtle, like using chile powder — alone or mixed with flour — to thicken stew. Some are rough-and-ready, like the directions on the jar of the popular chile sauce called 505: “Warm thoroughly and pour over any meal.”

New Mexican food, at least in restaurants, generally is not searing hot — mouth-hot. But as you eat, warmth builds up first in your chest and belly, then in your limbs, finally all through your blood and soul. (A really good bowl of green chile stew once made my eyelids itch. Go figure.) Zia, repairing your human frailty, has given of himself, and the Sun God is within you.

Honest chile heat is one of the best feelings ever. I won’t say it’s better than sex. It sure as hell is better than pickup trucks.

A last caveat: What I’m discussing here is not Mexican food, Texas food, Tex-Mex food, or (especially) big-city “Southwestern” food. It is the food you get in New Mexico’s small towns, either by making it yourself, or by shunning the pestilential chain restaurants and braving Zia to saunter down side streets in search of the real thing.

Next: Green chile stew in all its glory…and where to get some.

Saeng’s Orient Review. June 29, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in New Mexico, restaurants, reviews, Thai.

Kip and I have an announcement to make: There is water in the desert. And by “water,” we mean “good Thai food.” It’s hard to find decent Asian food of any variety ’round these parts (these parts being the Land of Enchantment, er, Enchiladas) — Adri had been telling me about Saeng’s Orient  for three years, but I never got around to going. This weekend being what it was — Adri, Kip, and I sitting around thinking of things to eat — the topic of Saeng’s came up again. The difference was, this time we actually went.

Saeng’s Orient is the kind of restaurant that doesn’t exist on the plains. It’s a bright blue, hand-painted metal structure that may have originally been a trailer. It’s on a classic two-lane blacktop road, halfway between civilization and an Air Force base. You would have to see the “neon” “sign” to believe it; the thing is nothing more than several strings of Christmas lights tortured and twisted into letters that spell out “Saeng’s Orient” in four different, jarring colors.

The dining room is more reassuring — but not by much — than the exterior, with sturdy wooden tables that seat four, nondescript carpeting, and bright calendars and posters of Thailand. We were encouraged to choose our own table, and it’s a good thing we liked it, because we ordered and then waited a while. (A good while, as it turned out — as the waitress told us after twenty minutes, “Saeng likes to make this stuff fresh, you know.” To which we said, “Okay.” Who’s gonna argue with totally fresh Thai?)

The menu, with about twenty-five Thai dishes and fifteen Chinese dishes, also does some tongue-in-cheek borrowing from Japan (chuka soba) and the Philippines (pansit), and includes several dishes that might baffle even an aficionado of big-city Asian cuisine. Any dish can be ordered at one of six (!) levels of spiciness, ranging from “no hot,” which actually isn’t, to “X-hot,” which is recommended only for those with seriously armored mouths. (Or for those upon whom you wish unending suffering, according to Adri.) “Medium” is a good compromise, which allows for all the flavor but won’t leave you with nagging blisters.

We started with fried gilozi and pork satay with peanut sauce. You might think that gilozi are like Japanese gyoza, but they’re not — the skins are thicker, the ends are tucked, and the filling is more finely ground. (Sara called them “a demon cross between an egg roll and a wonton” at the time, and she’s not wrong.) The crimson, translucent Thai sweet & sour sauce served with them involves pineapple juice, coconut milk, tamarind juice, red curry paste, and several other ingredients — this is not shopping-mall sweet & sour sauce. The satay, meanwhile, were adorned with grill stripes, gloriously chewy, and thickly coated with homemade peanut sauce comprising impossible amounts of garlic. (Sara interjects here to say NOM NOM NOM.)

The first entrée, Michael’s basil-and-beef stir-fry in brown sauce, proves that “no hot” emphatically doesn’t mean “not spicy.” The flavorful deep-brown sauce contained galanga, turmeric, and other ingredients that complemented the basil perfectly — but, unusually for a Thai dish, no chili pepper, which made the interplay of flavors very gentle. Although the dish was definitively “no hot,” the most amusing moment of the dinner came when Michael was about twelve bites in: we all looked over to see him, bright red and terribly sweaty, with his eyes bulging from his head and a terribly distraught look on his face. “It’s good,” he said, “but it TASTES like something.” The “something” was, in fact, nothing more sinister than basil.

Kip had the pad prik khing, rich with chunks of marinated pork and fresh green beans, but prepared “medium,” meaning with enough chili pepper to cause total surrender of his sinuses. The same chili was the armature of Adri’s delightful red chicken curry, the light coconut-based sauce of which was speckled with scarlet grains that really packed a wallop. Unusually, the only vegetable included was bamboo shoots, but the straightforward quality of the ingredients gave the sauce the priority it deserved. Sara’s pad thai was absolutely fantastic, and absolutely huge. The testament to its greatness came when writing this entry: there was plenty of the basil and beef left over for reference purposes, but absolutely none of the pad thai. Served mild, it was absolutely perfect — the curry had a nice sharp bite, but didn’t overpower the onion, peanut, and yellow sauce. The noodles, too often a sticky afterthought in this dish, were firm, translucent, and obviously delicious on their own. (NOM.)

We would write about dessert, but we left right after the meal, stuffed to capacity and dizzy with food shock. We’ll take it on faith that Saeng’s Orient offers some of the finest Asian food in New Mexico.