Editor’s note: Today, the Journal kicks off Cocina Connection, a once-a-month feature that takes a behind-the-scenes look at a New Mexico-based chef, who, in turn shares some recipes.
It’s 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon.
Chef Marie Yniguez is taking a small break.
Leaning against the counter, she lets out a sigh as she wipes her forehead.
“We sold so much (food) today,” Yniguez says from behind a mask. “We’re blessed and we do it all again tomorrow.”
Yniguez, dressed in a black Bocadillos T-shirt, and her crew are cleaning up after a busy day at Slow Roasted Bocadillos in Downtown Albuquerque.
This is the norm for the Albuquerque resident — though it’s changed a little since the pandemic.
Her days are still long, but not to the point of her usual breakneck speed. She now spends quality time with her family as she’s become a grandmother.
There’s a controlled chaos as the Bocadillos crew is tidying up for the day. Each person has their task — mopping, washing dishes, cleaning the stove.
Meanwhile, Yniguez preps food for the next day.
She takes the slab of meat from the fridge and begins to add salt, pepper and other spices into the rectangular metal pan. She pulls two sheets of foil and covers the pan, then it goes into the oven where it will slow roast overnight at 250 degrees.
“It’s always low and slow,” Yniguez says with a gleaming smile. “I’m the first one in and the last one out. Every day, all of the prepping and cooking is done by me. I don’t ever sleep.”
Working her way around a kitchen is second nature for Yniguez.
She grew up learning to cook from her grandmother and mother while living in Hurley. Oftentimes, Yniguez had to make food for herself because her mom was already at work.
“My mom was working in the copper mines and she’d work odd hours,” she recalls. “If my sister wasn’t cooking for me, then I had to do it. Learning how to cook was done early.”
It’s no surprise she’s made a fruitful career from creating in the kitchen.
Yniguez opened the restaurant in 2009 with her wife, Karla Arvizu. The business name came from a word that she liked.
“I was working for a tapas place in Arizona and the owner gave me a book,” Yniguez says. “I came across ‘bocadillos’ and I just loved the name. I love sandwiches too.”
The Albuquerque-based chef has also found success on Food Network shows, often winning the competitions.
She doesn’t do it for the accolades or being recognized.
“I just want to leave something to my daughter and I want to leave something to my grandson,” she explains. “You know, it doesn’t matter where you come from. You can be somebody and you can make a difference in people’s lives. I go by old-school rules and I treat people well. I may not have a lot of money, but if you need to be fed, I’ll feed you. If you need to learn how to cook, I’ll have you join me in the kitchen. I’m so proud of my grandparents and nobody knows who they are. I just want to leave my mark and create a legacy for my family.”
Yniguez makes this step by helping the community.
Though she was raised in the Northeast Heights and graduated from Manzano High School, she feels her home is in the South Valley.
“I drive about 15 miles an hour up near Pat Hurley Park,” she says. “It’s always low and slow.”
When her daughter, Ryan Duran, was in high school at Tierra Adentro Charter School, she complained to Yniguez about the food.
Like any superhero would do, Yniguez started packing her a lunch and the school soon contacted her asking if she could provide lunches for 50 kids.
That quickly expanded with contracts to more schools and breakfast and lunch for 500 kids.
Yniguez had to hire employees to prepare, deliver and serve the food. She eventually made a healthy breakfast and lunch for up to 1,250 charter school kids.
Then the pandemic hit and preparing meals for schoolchildren was put on pause.
“I used to get up at 4 a.m. to get the food ready for the kids,” she says. “I hope it comes back because that’s one way I could help.”
Bocadlillos’ current location is near Third Street and Lomas NW inside the Wells Fargo building.
It is also a space that Yniguez is familiar with, she worked for a café in the same location more than a decade ago.
At the age of 32, she suffered a mini-stroke and couldn’t work for several months.
The day she returned to the café — she was let go.
At that point, she knew she wanted to do her own thing.
“I thought to myself, ‘If I’m going to kill myself doing this, I might as well do it for me,’ you know,” Yniguez says. “That’s when I decided to make the move to what I’m doing now.”
There’s no slowing down for the 45-year-old.
In April, she built a trailer into a transportable smokehouse called Smokin’ Fred’s ’46. The turnout of customers has exceeded Yniguez’s expectations.
She’s also planning a new restaurant located at 500 Roma NW. It’s going to be called My Moms.
“This is the concept, my mom learned how to cook from her mom. I learned to cook from my mom. My daughter learned how to cook from me,” she says. “There’s something about a mom’s food that gives you comfort. That’s what I want it to be.”
The location will also be around the corner from the old jail.
“I want this to be a place where the hardworking people of Albuquerque can come and get a home-cooked meal,” she says. “If you’re having a hard day, you go there and get some comfort food.
We’re hoping to get a beer and wine license so that if you’re over there having a beer, you can call your sweetie at home and say you’re at ‘My Moms.’ ”
Yniguez plans to use her mother’s recipes for the new venture, which is expected to open in November.
Chile Rojo Con Carne
1½ pounds pork, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ tablespoon flour
8 ounces of whole red chile pods, seeded and stemmed
4 cups of warm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Place chile pods in large bowl; cover with warm water and soak until soft but not falling apart. Transfer to a blender, reserving some of the water to use as needed. Add only enough water to be able to get a smooth puree.
While chile pods are soaking, heat a large skillet; add vegetable oil. Over medium heat, add cubed pork and cook until browned. Sprinkle pork with flour and cook an additional 3 minutes.
Add the blended red chile sauce, salt, garlic and oregano to pork; stir. Cover and cook pork on low heat until tender, about 1½ hours. Season to taste. Serve with fresh tortillas.
Mama Olga’s Chile Verde
2 pounds small chunks of beef
½ yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 cups roasted green chile, diced
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat pot over medium heat. Add the beef cuts and cook until brown, stirring constantly. Once your beef is browned, cover and steam meat until tender. When you steam the meat, the meat’s natural juices cook the meat tenderly.
Continue to open the lid and constantly stir meat. Again, this is critical. Once the meat is tender, drop in the minced garlic and the onions. Cover and continue to let steam. The critical part is to keep stirring the meat!
Once the onion is softened, add green chile, 1 can of crushed or diced tomatoes, 1 can of tomato sauce. Add water to the tomato sauce can to the top and pour into the pot. Stir the pot. Then, cover and bring to a boil, constantly stirring. Once at a boil, lower heat to a simmer. Simmer covered for 20 minutes, still stirring frequently.
Serve with fresh warm tortillas and some slices of cheese on the side.
Recipes from Marie Yniguez