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Book update a feast for the senses

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — From the first smoky bite of brick-red Chimayó chile to the velvet finish of pumpkin flan, the 50th anniversary edition of “The Rancho de Chimayó Cookbook” has something to savor for everyone who loves authentic New Mexican cuisine.

Award-winning cookbook authors and wife-and-husband writing team Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison say with every recipe and photograph, they wanted to flavor the book with the love and culture the owners have brought to their customers over the years.

“One of the most accessible ways people can find the culture of an area is through food,” Cheryl says. “You can get people talking, if you ask them about their food.”

The Tesuque couple say that Arturo and Florence Jaramillo opened the Rancho de Chimayó in the 1960s to preserve the culture and way of life of northern New Mexico, before destination restaurants that boasted native New Mexican food were appreciated.

“They saw the area was starting to change in the 1960s and they wanted to preserve a way of life that was 300 years old, especially with the use of the family hacienda as the restaurant,” Bill says. “At that time most people ate at home, so the idea of a destination restaurant was foreign to bankers. A lot of bankers and food service people thought they were crazy.”

So much so, that it took many years for food delivery to arrive to the restaurant, with Florence Jaramillo regularly shopping in Santa Fe and loading her car with groceries for the restaurant.

Of course, the Jaramillos were familiar with visitors to their village. Every year, thousands of religious pilgrims find their way to the Santuario de Chimayó and the well of sacred earth, reported to offer miraculous cures.

Cheryl says opening the restaurant and keeping it vibrant all these years required courage and perseverance similar to that of the early settlers.

The Jamisons relished the idea of a cookbook that revisited one of their favorite restaurants, which has garnered national praise over the years. The couple, who met when they worked together at a museum, were travel writers before penning their first cookbook 25 years ago about Rancho de Chimayó.

They have written more than a dozen cookbooks in the meantime, testing each recipe in their home kitchen.

Florence Jaramillo says not much has changed in the menu over the years, except the traditional dishes have become healthier and lighter with the addition of vegetable oils in place of lard.

“Our daughter was a vegetarian, so we have a lot of options for people. We’ve adapted recipes. We don’t use lard in the sopaipillas now, but we weren’t going to do that until they were as good as the original recipe,” she says.

The cookbook is about the history of the area as well as the food the restaurant has perfected and brought to the table over the years. The authors have added 20 new recipes to update the full-color cookbook, released in early May by Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, $24.95.

They worked all this past summer with cultural photographer Sharon Steward, of nearby Chacon, to bring the visual feast to press.

“We wanted to highlight the culture of northern New Mexico, to look at the life of the Rancho de Chimayó as a big part of the life of the village,” Steward says. “One of the things that is so great about eating in your abuela’s kitchen is the sense of place. One word that keeps coming up is the Spanish word, querencia, which is how you feel about the place you live and what it means to be part of that. It’s our whole aspect of life in northern New Mexico that makes it special. It’s our cultural landscape.”

The following recipes are from “The Rancho de Chimayó Cookbook”:

Like the restaurant, the cookbook has added breakfast. A favorite is blue corn pancakes, which could be served simply with butter and hot maple syrup or with crisp bacon and eggs or stacked with fruit and yogurt.

The cookbook points out that Native Americans used blue corn before any Europeans arrived, which adds a nutty flavor. That, and vanilla, are the secret to the popular pancakes.

Blue Corn Pancakes

Serves 4

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons blue cornmeal, or other cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

2 large eggs

¾ cup half-and-half

¾ cup milk

3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Butter and warm maple syrup

Stir together in a large bowl the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk in the eggs, half-and-half, milk, oil and vanilla. Let batter sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Alternatively, cover the batter and refrigerate it overnight.

Warm a griddle, preferably, or a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Pour a thin film of oil on the griddle. Pour or spoon out the batter onto the hot griddle, where it should sizzle and hiss. The restaurant staff makes plate-size pancakes, but you may prefer to make smaller, more easily handled ones. A generous 3 tablespoons of batter will make a 4- to 5-inch pancake. Make as many cakes as you can fit on the surface without crowding.

Flip the pancakes just once, after 1 to 2 minutes, when their top surface is covered with tiny bubbles but before all the bubbles pop. The pancakes are done when the second side is golden brown, an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding a bit more oil to the griddle as needed.

Serve the pancakes immediately, accompanied by butter and syrup. The pancakes absorb more of both toppings than cakes made with regular flour, so plan on being generous with their use.

Carne Adovada Burritos

Serves 6

6 7- to 8-inch flour tortillas

Carne adovada (see below)

¾ cup grated mild cheddar cheese

Shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce, optional

Chopped tomatoes, optional

Thin-sliced radishes, optional

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Sprinkle a few drops of water over each tortilla. Stack and wrap them tightly in foil, and warm in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until soft and pliable. Remove the tortillas from the oven and turn the heat up to broil.

To assemble the burritos, take one tortilla from the foil at a time and place it on a heat proof plate. With a slotted spoon, drain the carne adovada pork from its chile sauce, and arrange about 1½ cups of the pork down the center of the tortilla. Roll up the tortilla snugly around the filling and place it seam side down on the plate. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and pork. Ladle the remaining sauce equally over the burritos. The sauce should lightly cover the tortilla and pool around the burrito as well. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cheese over each. Melt the cheese under the broiler just before serving.

Garnish with lettuce, tomato and radishes if desired. Serve hot, with knife and fork.

COOK’S NOTE: Florence Jaramillo says carne adovada and carne adovada burritos are among the most popular items on the menu.

Carne adovada can be prepared ahead to make the meal more available to busy families.

Warm flour tortillas can encircle an almost endless array of burrito fillings. Rancho de Chimayó’s most requested burrito stars its spicy carne adovada, pork slow-cooked in a rich brick-red sauce of Chimayó chile. The carne is best made with a day’s marinating and then several hours of slow baking, so plan accordingly. Refried beans or pinto beans are the favorite accompaniment to these burritos, and a spoonful or two can be good inside the burritos, too.

Carne Adovada

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

8 ounces, about 25, whole dried New Mexican red chile pods

4 cups water

2 tablespoons diced yellow onion

1 tablespoon crushed chile pequin

1 teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon crumbled dried New Mexican oregano

3 pounds boneless shoulder pork chops

Shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce and diced tomato, optional

Warm the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until just golden. Remove from heat immediately.

Break the stems off the chile pods and discard the seeds. Most should be removed. Place the chiles in a sink or large bowl and rinse them carefully and drain.

Place the damp pods in one layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 minutes, watching carefully to avoid burning them. The chiles can have a little remaining moisture. Remove them from the oven and cool. Break each chile into 2 or 3 pieces.

Purée half the pods in blender with 2 cups of water. Some flakes can remain, but should be part of a smooth mixture. Pour into saucepan with garlic. Repeat with remaining pods and water.

Stir in the remaining chile sauce ingredients and bring to boil over medium heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will thicken, but should still be a little soupy. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Trim fat from pork and cut into ½-inch cubes, smaller if for burritos. Stir pork into the red chile sauce and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Oil large baking dish with a cover.

Transfer the carne adovada and sauce to baking dish. Cover and bake until the meat is completely tender and sauce has cooked down, about 3 hours. Stir once halfway through. If sauce remains watery, uncover and bake for 15 more minutes.

Serve hot with lettuce and tomato. Or roll into burritos as above.

Calabacitas, a sauté of zucchini and other summer squash, onion, corn and green chile, is local and fresh in season. Here, the hearty dish that can double as a main dish is served with rice and chicken flautas. (Sharon Stewart/Courtesy of “The Rancho de Chimayo Cookbook”)

Calabacitas, a sauté of zucchini and other summer squash, onion, corn and green chile, is local and fresh in season. Here, the hearty dish that can double as a main dish is served with rice and chicken flautas. (Sharon Stewart/Courtesy of “The Rancho de Chimayo Cookbook”)

Calabacitas

Serves 6-8 as a side dish, 4 as a main dish

3 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon of butter

5 cups of cubed zucchini or a mix of zucchini and other summer squash

½ cup minced yellow onion

2 cups corn, fresh or thawed from frozen

½ cup chopped, roasted mild to medium New Mexico green chile, fresh or thawed from frozen

3 tablespoons or more of water

½ teaspoon garlic salt or more to taste

Grated mild cheddar cheese, optional

In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter and add squash and the onion. Sauté over medium heat until vegetables begin to wilt. Add corn, green chile, water and garlic salt. Cook covered for 15 to 20 minutes more. Add water if vegetables become dry.

Remove from heat and mix in cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.

COOK’S NOTE: Calabacitas blended the bounty of vegetables that have grown in Chimayó each season for centuries. The Jaramillos take particular pride in serving the dish when local vegetables are at their peak. It can be a vegetarian main dish or a side to other favorites.

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