I Love New Mexico

About all things New Mexican

Posted by admin on March - 22 - 2012 | 10 Comments

Guest Blog by Lynn from New Mexico Enchantment

 There’s something to be said for comfort food. We all have fond memories of certain foods. These foods may symbolize special events or people in our lives or are associated with feeling loved and cared for.

 When I left my home state of New Mexico, and moved 1500 miles away to Washington state, I didn’t realize how much I would come to rely on comfort food. It didn’t even occur to me how much I would need a taste of home now and then.

It didn’t take long for me to feel totally estranged from my previous life. I knew no one, I had no support system and worst of all, I had none of the food that was a staple of my life- New Mexican food. Trapped in the endless damp, gray winters I would start feeling like a stranger in a strange land. Where did my 360 days of sunshine go? Where did my warm middays go? And worst of all, why are there no decent Mexican restaurants?

I could justify not having chile relleno platters and sopapillas but I couldn’t stand not having any chile. Such a simple dish and so versatile. There was no way I was going to spend my time in Washington without it.

Red chile soon became my source of comfort.

I think my parents knew the move would be hard on me and my mom began sending me care packages of red chile powder. She would send a different brand every time until I found the one I liked the best. Then she sent it more frequently. That simple act made a huge difference to this expat desert rat.

When those long, dreary winters started I would start my routine also.

My process was perfected over the years. I tried tons of variations until I found the red chile recipe that was everything I knew red chile to be. Robust, spicy, and a hint of cumin. My movements in the kitchen fortified me almost as much as the finished product. It was always the same, once a week at least. Some oil and a touch of butter in the pan browning diced garlic. Mixing in flour to make a brown roux. Adding red chile powder and water. Stirring, stirring, stirring. Adding some salt and cumin, stirring some more. Turning the heat down and letting it simmer. Soon enough, the whole house was filled with the rich aroma of the southwest.

Red chile smells warm. It really does. That comforting aroma enveloped my soul from the crushing gray outside. Winter doldrums couldn’t touch me when I had red chile on the stove.

I cannot even describe the good it did my psyche to ladle steaming red chile on a pile of fries topped with cheese. Or to watch pork and hominy swim around in it as posole cooked. Pulling hot red chile enchiladas out of the oven couldn’t have been more fulfilling. And when there was only a spoonful or two left in the container, well, those scrambled eggs got a spicy little oomph.

After 6 long years in the Pacific Northwest I finally left and said goodbye to those depressing winters forever. My red chile recipe came with me. No matter where I go I will always make red chile. I learned the hard way that comfort food is called comfort food for a reason. Red chile is like a balm to my homesick moments and I am so grateful to have a taste of home when I need t.

What is your special comfort food? What is the story behind it?

I’m Lynn and if you’d like to see more of why I love New Mexico, come visit me at http://www.newmexicoenchantment.com.

10 Responses so far.

  1. Mark K. Caldwell says:

    Had a very similar experience when I lived on the Italian island of Sardinia…missed the chile one can only get in New Mexico……Northern New Mexico. Returned after 2 years to the best chile anywhere, that being red chile prepared by my Mother. Thanks for the article…..

    • Kristen says:

      Weird! My mother is from Sardinia, but I grew up in ABQ. I now live in AZ & have been trying to perfect that very much missed NM red chile. I think the roux is key!

  2. karyn h says:

    I love New Mexico, but I live in Arizona…sigh…not real sure how that happened, but nothing I can do about it right now.

    Is there a mail order place that you would trust to get some really good red chile powder? So far I have not found anything here in Arizona that tastes like the red chile I have always had in New Mexico.
    Thank you!

    • Kristen says:

      Chile Traditions has some decent stuff. I also love Duran’s Central Pharmacy red chile sauce, but it is prepared & will cost you $30 for next day air (because it must be refrigerated)….

  3. wade w says:

    Karyn, check out Pendry’s Spices (you can find them on the web). Look for their chile blends, top hat chile blend.

    I’ve been using this same blend since the early 90s to make my red chile sauce. Their red chile powders are superb and they have a lot of different types, but I like their top hat chile blend best. Very smooth flavor and “gringo” friendly.

    I use corn starch vs flour, with some knorr’s beef (or chicken) bullion, top hat chile blend and cook with Goya’s “Sazón with Coriander and Annatto” which adds an incredibly rich flavor to Mexican dishes.

    Hope this helps. Best wishes with your cooking endeavors!

    • karyn h says:

      Thank you, Wade! I checked out the website & already placed an order. The prices are much better than the last place I ordered from.

      We have Goya products here, too, but I hadn’t tried them yet. I will be sure to try them now.

      Thank you so much, Wade. have a great weekend!

  4. Michael Valdez says:

    I normally have been buying my New Mexico Red Chile from The Chile Addict online. Definately not as good as going into New Mexico and purchasing hatch from local farmers but works for the time being. I like to made red chile for tamales, enchiladas and even pour some into mmenudo. I guess I learned the love of New Mexico chile from my grandmother, now that she is gone, I always like to have red chile around the house. Not only does it make me feel at home but always brings back the best memories of me and my grandmother cooking in the kitchen.

  5. Duane says:

    Though my family is from New Mexico, and I spent my earliest years there, I’ve been a ‘New Mexican Expat’ for the vast majority of my 48 years. Yet a love for New Mexican cooking, and especially red chile (enchilada) sauce has gone with me everywhere. I was fortunate that for most of my life I lived close enough to either my father or mother, that I could get an enchilada ‘fix’ as needed. My dad took to shipping frozen sauce after the Hatch harvest was in, while my mom always sent me home w/ lots of leftovers. But a little over a year ago, I left the US all together, and moved to Amsterdam. As my grammer would’ve said, ‘bless their hearts, they try’, but there is no good Mexican food here, let alone true New Mexican. So when my mom came to visit last Christmas, she brought half a suitcase full of dried red chile peppers. Technically illegal I think, but she got them through – and now, pushing fifty, I can proudly say I know how to make true enchilada sauce – and even better, can have stacked enchiladas on demand. I’ve even introduced them to a Dutchman or two. I’m headed to Silver in December, you can be sure I’ll be smuggling additional supplies back home with me.

    • admin says:

      Poor Duane! I lived in North Carolina for a year and it was hell. When my daughter flew to NM to visit my parents, I only packed a carryon so that she could return with a checked huge suitcase full of green chile. I loved seeing her at the airport, but especially loved seeing that suitcase on the carousel. . .

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