#47


By the time New Mexico gained statehood early in the 20th century, it already drew on culinary traditions reaching back centuries, even millennia.  What New Mexicans were, and are, eating took in influences sequential residents, be they Anglo, Mexican, Spanish or, before them, the Pueblo and the Zuni, contributed to the melting pot.

Today’s preparations reflect two of those ideas, New Mexico Chile Chicken and Southwestern Corn and Potato Soup.  The soup appeared in the late Gourmet‘s 2009 recipe collection, while the Hispanic Kitchen website inspired the chicken.  Both are delicious and feed a hungry and growing nation.

Despite its vibrant red hue, the chicken bastes without tomatoes.  Instead, the sauce consists of dried New Mexico chiles softened in hot water then drained, pulverized and combined with cumin, garlic and water.   That’s all.

It’s not particularly hot, either.  Southwestern US cuisine often is, though today’s dish proves not all cooking from the region must be tomato-based and taunting Scoville. Oh, the chiles definitely bring warmth, but their main party piece is flavor, not burn.  The sauce gives diners a chance to appreciate the pepper’s subtlety and nuance, before introducing a subtle tingle.

The soup is a good companion for the bird, starting as it does with chicken stock.  Potatoes and corn add substance, while onions and jalapeño provide a certain heat.  In fact, despite having “cooler” colors than does the chicken, the soup actually is a bit hotter, both in terms of temperature and of spice.  Not to worry, though, as cilantro and lime juice moderate this considerably.  It’s beautifully-balanced overall.

New Mexico may have been the 47th state to join the nation, but dishes like these two ensure it’s far above 47th in taste.  The cuisine has been confined to the borderlands for too long and now it’s gaining greater recognition and is earning appreciation across the country, and even beyond.

*****

Southwestern Corn and Potato Soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped (*1)
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
  • 2 large yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 and 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 10-ounce package of frozen corn, not thawed
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Place a large saucepan over a medium flame and add oil.  (*2) When it shimmers, add the onion, jalapeño, salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 8 minutes.

Add broth, water and potatoes, then cover pot, increase flame to high, and bring to a boil.

Reduce flame and remove lid.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 14 minutes.

Coarsely mash the potatoes in the pot with a potato masher. (*3)  Stir in the corn and simmer for three more minutes.

Add salt to taste, and stir in the cilantro and lime juice.  Ladle into individual bowls and serve.

NOTES:

1 – Be kinder to the soup (and to yourself) and substitute two medium shallots.

2 – Though it’s advice from halfway around the globe, Martin Yan’s dictum applies here too, “Hot wok, cold oil, food won’t stick.”  In other words, bring your saucepan up to temperature before adding the oil.  Much better results this way.

3 – Which I don’t have, as I’m not writing from a Little House on the Prairie.  However, the back of a wooden spoon does just as good a job.

*****

New Mexico Chile Chicken

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts (*4)
  • 6 dried New Mexico peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • granulated garlic, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • Mexican oregano (*5)
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil

Stem the peppers and remove the seeds. (*6)  Transfer them to a medium-size glass bowl and cover them with water.  Cook them in a microwave for 6 minutes.  Stir water and let it cool slightly.  Drain the liquid and place the peppers in a blender, along with the garlic, cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 and 1/2 cups of water.  Blend until smooth and set aside.

Butterfly he chicken breast so you have six pieces. (*4)  Season with salt, pepper and granulated garlic on both sides.  Transfer to a glass baking dish and spread out in an even layer.  Pour lemon juice over the chicken, then pour on the peppers you blended.  Cover and marinate overnight, and up to 24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook it.  Place a large skillet over a medium flame and add the oil.  When it shimmers, place the chicken in the skillet in a single layer.  Cook six minutes per side.

Remove chicken to a serving platter and allow it to rest for a few minutes, then sprinkle it with Mexican oregano and serve.

NOTES:

4 – Instead of three breasts I selected six boneless, skinless thighs.  Not only are they much more flavorful, but the thighs already are thin enough and don’t need to be butterflied, thus saving a step.

5 – You may substitute “regular” oregano, but the Mexican version is more floral and refined. Plus it’s a natural for New Mexican cuisine.

6 – I’d suggest cutting the pepper into three sections after removing the stem.  This makes it easier to extract all the seeds before you soak the pepper.  Else, you’ll find seeds after soaking, when they’re more difficult to extract.  I wish someone had offered me this advice before I started…

 

 

 

27 thoughts on “#47

    1. Thanks a bunch, Eliza!

      If anything you see here inspires, what a thrill! I do seek a few simpler preparations now, too. After all, a “broader” audience is only a relatively recent event. Previously, viewership was limited to coworkers and friends, most of whom didn’t cook.

      Thus, I had free rein to try anything that looked interesting. If it required more elaborate a setup than what was necessary to send people to the moon, so be it.

      Now, however, several people whose opinions I value have expressed interest in actually trying some of the recipes, Therefore, practicality must alloy novelty.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Why, thank you, Eliza!

        How you’ve inspired me to keep going!

        Sure, most weekends dawn with enthusiasm, but every once in a while, cooking is the last thing a brutal work week exacts in compensation.

        Soon enough, though, the romance rekindles. Reading the comments and engaging in conversations afterward soon restore the batteries to 100%, no matter the prior week’s trials.

        So, thanks again!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It was, and thank you, Crystal!

      At a glance, the preparation’s vibrant colors, and its New Mexican origins, would seem to warn of intensity. Photographing it with a couple peppers alongside doesn’t undo that perception much, either.

      Despite the windup, though, nothing. At least “nothing” as far as the expected fiery blast. Definitely flavorful and intriguing, but in a way that spares the palate. In fact, if anything, it’s the soup that provides a little more heat, what, with the peppers and all.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. You just can’t go wrong with those ingredients. Delicious!I have to disagree with getting rid of the onion though. Onion is one of favorite vegetables. 😋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I don’t dislike onions, JoAnn, but why settle when shallots, scallions and leeks are at hand?

      Shh…just between us…my rhetoric may have pinioned me. I actually do like onions, but by now I have a reputation, a “public” to satisfy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sophisticated, yes, and featuring a price tag to match.

        Appreciate the confidence, JoAnn, though I wonder how long we may maintain the illusion. I used to live in Chicago, after all, which is Sauk for “Field of the Onions.” That particular secret didn’t last long, did it?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, it is! I’m a bit biased, of course, as it was “home” once, though millions of others (it seems) confirm it each year at the “Taste of Chicago” celebration/extravaganza at Grant Park.

        Plus, I’ve been known to mail order a deep-dish pie from Lou Malnati’s from time-to-time..

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, Mexican oregano! I love this ingredient so much I’ve taken to using it in place of regular oregano in many of my recipes. Thank goodness for Rancho Gordo; I’ve yet to find it locally.

    I happen to have a potato masher that I like very much. (You are welcome to laugh if you want 😊.) It is great for mashing large quantities of starchy veggies when I don’t feel like being bothered with cleaning the hand mixer. Easy weeknight potatoes 🥔 I’ve yet to acquire a butter churn, however. Haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You too, Summer? Ever since curiosity inspired a purchase a few years ago, I’ve gone through three jars of the Mexican variety in the same time it took to deplete just one of the “conventional.” Of course, part of that is due to my growing Greek oregano (for a recipe) last summer out on the deck near the kitchen, but you grasp the concept.

      Oh, I’d never laugh at someone who’s put together a kitchen better-appointed than my own! You’ve earned admiration, not snickers. Would you believe no sooner had I typed my throwaway quip about potato mashers, than a local department store featured a thriving display? Didn’t know Target’s Purchasing Manager reads the blog..or that I could command such instant results.

      Just who do I think I am? Prince of Potaro Mashers, apparently.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Prince of Potato Mashers, eh? hahahaha Target is one of my favorite places for kitchen equipment that I wasn’t planning on bringing home. Second maybe to the new Cost Plus World Market that recently opened in my area.

        I need to be growing herbs too. Right now I have an aloe plant but I tend to prefer to grow things that I can eat. I wonder if I’d have any success growing Mexican oregano? Hmmm

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Mexican Oregano? Definitely, Summer, go for it! Might be a little difficult finding seeds/plants, but…that’s right…we have the internet!

        If you’re able to hook yourself up, let me know how it goes, OK? No oregano this year, but I did order nasturtium seeds (among others) from Burpee. Fits right into your ideal edible growers niche. Showy and tasty!

        One of the garden stars that may or may not make guest appearances in upcoming entries throughout the warm months!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love that I always learn so much with your posts K. Way more than the recipe! I’ve always been fascinated by food with looong history and indigenous cooking! {Especially dishes wrapped in leaves 🙂 } I love Southwestern mix of cultures and I’m such a big fan of anything influenced by Mexican flavors!I need to learned how to cook with dried chiles because they are so fragrant and awesome! This is a great place to start! Mexican oregano…. I see oregano in many Mexican recipes and still I never use it when I cook Mexican! SMH! Ty for the saucepan temp tip! I always wonder why chefs always seem to do that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciate all your thoughts, Daniela!

      If you can find Mexican oregano I definitely would recommend trying it. In my experience, it’s more fragrant, floral and flavorful than is the conventional Greek variety. I’m not about to go all-pretentious on you and claim the recipe won’t work with “regular” oregano, though I think the Mexican variety an improvement. Definitely.

      Like you, foods with a culinary pedigree fascinate me. Maybe it’s the history nerd in me. Anyway, I recall a recipe featured here, a bit before you started reading, for Kak-Ik, a Guatemalan chicken stew that actually originated with the Mayans. As such, the dish is something which, with only a few minor changes, was enjoyed 2,000 years ago. Pretty col, huh?

      Like

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