Monday, August 22, 2011

Chiles and More Chiles

We just returned from a trip to New Mexico where we ate chiles everyday, often at every meal. Green chiles, red chiles and sometimes, a ladle of the sauce of each, side by side, which is known there as "Christmas." We enjoyed a string of casual, local meals including huevos rancheros, enchiladas, chile rellenos, and burritos, punctuated by sides including posole, polenta, and blue corn muffins. We feasted on carne adovada, blue corn and pinon pancakes, migas, and blue corn muffins.

In Chimayo, a town along the High Road to Taos, we bought some local chile powder after visiting the Santuario. I'd been to Chimayo 21 years ago, and though there are many more people coming through now, Vigil store is still there selling chiles. I bought some ground, sun dried red chile powder and some ground green chiles as well. We were days too early for the fresh New Mexico chiles, though they seem to be becoming available as I'm writing. They also sell local pinons, but there were also none to be had yet, as harvest is still a couple of months away, and there were virtually none last year.

It's funny, I took the same picture of Vigil Store 21 years ago!


Many thanks to Maddy for her lovely photos!

I used some of my red chile powder to make this chorizo. Don't get scared off - this is no more complicated than making meatballs! No need to stuff the meat into a sausage casing as Mexican (or New Mexican, in this case) is often used outside of the casing anyway. This style of chorizo is not cured and dried like the Spanish type of chorizo. It's left raw until cooked for your recipe.

I used most of this batch in this delicious recipe of Pati Jinich's, and then used the rest for a New Mexico style breakfast of scrambled eggs with green chiles and chorizo.

I'm also thinking that this would be great using ground chicken if you don't eat pork. I will try it soon and report back. I use pork from locally raised, grass fed pigs so I'm not sure there's much fat differential between the two meats.

Also, please notice that there is virtually no salt in this recipe and you will not miss it!

New Mexican Style Chorizo

(with thanks to Mrs. Wheelbarrow, and several New Mexican cookbooks)

1.5 pounds pork shoulder, coarsely ground (you can ask your butcher to do this for you - Whole Foods' in-house ground pork is shoulder meat - or you can grind it yourself if you are so inclined. If you'd like to grind the pork shoulder yourself, I recommend checking out Mrs. Wheelbarrow's advice)

1 small white onion, minced

1 fat garlic clove, minced

2 Tablespoons New Mexico ground red chile (I know that most of you do not have this, so sub 1 Tablespoon sweet smoked paprika and 1 Tablespoon hot smoked paprika. Do not use commercial chili powder!)

3/4 teaspoon cumin seed (or sub 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin)

1 Mexican cinnamon stick (or sub 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 whole cloves ( or sub two pinches of ground clove)

10 whole black peppercorns (or sub a few grinds of fresh black pepper)

pinch or two of salt

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 - 4 Tablespoons water, as needed

1. If you are using the whole spices, not ground, toast the cinnamon stick, cumin seed, cloves and peppercorns in a dry pan over medium heat. Shake the pan frequently until you can smell the spices, about 2 or 3 minutes. Don't walk away - you don't want them to burn!

2. If using the whole spices, grind the spices in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

3. In a bowl mix the spices with the meat and add a pinch of salt, the oregano and the vinegar. Mix using a large spoon or your hands until everything is well combined. If it feels very dry, add the water a little at a time.

4. Heat up a skillet and make a tiny little meatball out of your mix. Cook it until cooked through so that you can taste for spice. If it is not as spicy as you like, add a pinch or two of cayenne or some more hot paprika.

5. Keep refrigerated for one day for flavors to build, but use within the next day or so. You can freeze the chorizo for a month or so as well.