New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment. I stepped off the plane ready to explore this foreign land with my husband. Arid, isolated, and flat were words that came to mind. His dreamy stories of scaling caves on the Rio Grande and stumbling upon rattlesnakes during his childhood drew skepticism on my part. On our drive to Los Alamos my skin tingled of dryness and mouth grew increasingly parched; the brutality of this enchanted land may consume me first.
After my altitude headaches subsided and I stopped making efforts to take a run at 7,000 feet, New Mexico revealed itself as a land of hidden gems. Beneath it’s austere makeup are Bandelier National Monument, Valles Caldera, and back road art galleries with color to stun the eye. Since this first visit I’ve traveled back to New Mexico many times and although there are many reasons to love the land my nostalgia is the red chile. Not to be confused with chili; chile is the actual hot pepper and red chile is a prepared sauce. When the topic of red chile surfaces my husbands eyes turn soft and glossy, he cocks his head to the side, and breathes a sigh of longing and pleasure.
Red chile is to southwestern cooking as stars are to the night sky. Eggs in the morning? Add some red chile. Salad for lunch? Red chile side, please. Burrito for dinner? Of course, red chile!
My first encounter with this sauce left me thinking interesting. It’s a sauce but there’s a thickness to it. It’s meant to be mixed with the food creating a melding of flavors. The aftertaste is almost flat but then comes a spicy, earthy, rich flavor. My second thought was hmm, that was good. Then a minute passed and wow, that was really good. My fork kept going back for more. A party in my mouth made of fire.
Years have passed since my first taste of this exotic food and now I find myself salivating at the mention of it. Since we live out of state, whenever my in-laws are coming to town we request an order of red chile powder. We stash it in the pantry and when an inkling for the taste the southwest overcomes us, it’s never too far away. A few weeks ago the urge hit and we enjoyed a breakfast of red chile drenched eggs. Served with a tortilla and a piece of melon, this breakfast is positively perfect.
Have you ever had this savory treat?
I highly recommend indulging in this traditional New Mexican food but it is difficult to find. If you ever travel to New Mexico my recommendation would be Maria’s or Tomasita’s in Santa Fe. If you would like to try making it at home you will need to order the red chile powder online (grocery store version does not work). Here is my husband’s favorite recipe (scroll down to Chile Colorado). We always double the recipe. Also modify the following: butter instead of shortening, fresh garlic sautéed at the beginning, no cumin (comido) or oregano. And whisk, whisk, whisk.