ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bringing together the community to celebrate local winter flavors is the idea behind a special dinner at Tuerta.
When Liam Kimball opened Tuerta in October, he vowed to support local growers and incorporate New Mexico-sourced foods as much as possible. He also wanted to collaborate with local chefs with a similar philosophy and appreciation for food.
Tuerta’s menu predominately features sandwiches with vegan and vegetarian options. Kimball wanted to expand his horizons for a special five-course winter dinner on Friday, Jan. 17, and reached out to Chef Daniel Garcia who he had previously worked with at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. Garcia served as the sous chef at Los Poblanos for seven years.
“Daniel and I both take food pretty seriously,” Kimball said. “It’s still coming together as a community. There’s no ceremony as far as I’m concerned. It’s really about bringing people together and coming together and celebrating these ingredients.”
The winter dinner’s focus to celebrate and support local has special meaning for Garcia who grew up on his grandparents’ farm in Lemitar, located near Socorro.
Garcia’s grandfather was a well-known farmer until he lost his farm and home, unable to compete against large farming conglomerates in the 1980s.
“When I came back to New Mexico and settled here in the late ’90s local food was something nobody was talking about,” Garcia said. “So working with local farmers is such an important thing that we’re doing. As far as this menu goes, it’s kind of a reflection of what is available here in New Mexico.
“We’re working with local farmers. We’re working with La Montañita Co-op and Vida Verde Farm. That’s really the ideal thing is you limit yourself as far as what you have available by working locally but it makes it more fun. It allows that creative process to develop the food into what it is. A lot of times the things that are available at a certain time in a seasonal way really work well together.”
The dinner begins with a caramelized cauliflower course with spaghetti squash and a guajillo chile sauce. Garcia has been working on his caramelized cauliflower for about 10 years and has created a few different versions of the dish.
“There something about when you get that cauliflower really crunchy and sexy and it does this real wonderful textural thing in your mouth,” he said.
Potato gnocchi served with delicata squash, pepitas and brown butter make up the second course. The idea came about when Garcia was finding different ways
to prepare potatoes after being approached by a grower from Amyo Farms in Placitas who had a surplus of potatoes.
“It’s such a deliberately simple dish and it’s really easy to make an error when your working with four or five ingredients,” Garcia said. “Either you elevate those four or five ingredients or they lay flat. So that one’s been a special one to work on.”
Garcia chose rabbit as the third course. The dish brings back fond memories of him and his grandfather hunting for rabbit and quail each winter. People unfamiliar with the protein might shy away from it so Garcia wanted to include it and present it in an approachable way.
“This one is a really cool dish where we’re taking mustard seeds and we pickled them and we used some of those mustard seeds to brine the rabbit before we
smoke it and then we’re taking some other style potatoes that we get locally and making them really crispy,” Garcia said. “So we have this beautiful smoked rabbit, pickled mustard and the crispy potatoes.”
A braised short rib course follows the rabbit dish. The beef comes from New Mexico-raised cattle that are part of the Native beef program here in the state. It will be served with a house adobo sauce and winter vegetables from Vida Verde. The “ripe and earthy” adobo sauce is made from ancho chiles and blended with garlic and onion. The dinner concludes on a subtly sweet note with apple doughnuts with prickly pear fruit, peanut and cardamom. The apples grown at New Mexico’s RJC Orchard and the prickly pear and peanuts are locally harvested in Valencia County.
“(It is) not too heavy it will have a some nice light sweetness to it,” Garcia said. “It will be a nice way to finish the dinner.”