New Mexico Holiday Foods...The Good and Bad

Posted: Apr 22 2014

-By Barbara Alvarez

Christmas is ju-u-st around the corner and, in New Mexico, the mamas, the abuelitas and the restaurant cooks are buying everything they need to make food. Christmas food. From New Mexico. All of those traditional foods that suggest familia, amor y fe. Tamales. Menudo. Pozole. Bizcochos. Carne asada. Many families (and restaurants) serve up the fiery, tasty foods on Christmas Eve, or, as it’s known in New Mexico, La Noche Buena. Let’s talk about just a few of these traditional holiday dishes.

Bizcochos
These are those little diamond-shaped cookies flavored with anise and dipped in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Yum! Some cooks, including me, use a cookie press to turn out interesting shapes, such as stars, Christmas trees and other random designs. Because of their luscious taste, they have been officially declared the State Cookie of New Mexico. (Well, popularity has a lot to do with that status, too.) These sweets are made with lard, so indulge lightly!

Pozole
Also spelled “posole,” this is a stew or soup made with white hominy or pozole corn. It’s made using cuts of pork such as pork butt that have been cubed and boiled until they are cooked through. As long as the meat is lean, it’s all good. Next, the cook adds red chile sauce that has been soaked and blended beforehand. She seasons the stew with salt and allows it to bubble gently on the back of the stove while she prepares the garnishes – chopped onion, dried oregano, cilantro. This is a holiday tradition for my family, along with several other foods. I’m already hungry!

Menudo
This is the same as pozole, except it’s made using pork tripe. You know, the stomach and such. Some people, like me, can’t wrap our minds (or our mouths) around the idea. Ech! No, thank you! It’s pozole all the way for me, gracias! My dad loved it. My mom and I much prefer making pozole, even though it takes such a long time.

Tamales
Think about spicy meat surrounded by corn masa, which has been wrapped in a corn husk, then steamed in a huge pot of boiling water. This is the classic tamal. Use chicken, turkey, beef or pork that has been chopped or shredded. Add red or green chile sauce to the meat. Prepare the masa and spread some on a corn husk, then spoon some meat in the center and wrap. Arrange the tamales in the steamer and let them cook. Prepare for a wonderful treat! Cooks also make sweet tamales and serve them as dessert – but who can eat dessert after enjoying a bowl of pozole and several tamales?

Carne Adovada
Pork chops that have been marinated in red chile sauce, then baked in a moderately hot oven. Again, sheer heaven! With panecitos, bolillos or tortillas (flour or corn), these will fill up any Christmas diner.

Chile Rojo con Carne
More pork! This dish uses cubed pork, to which plenty of spicy red chile is added. Once it’s cooked, it’s eaten like a stew with plenty of flour or corn tortillas.

Mexican Hot Chocolate (Chocolate de Abuelita)
This is hot chocolate (the real stuff, not the powdered stuff made with water). It’s made using slightly sweetened cocoa and ... the big secret a dash of cinnamon. With a couple of those bizcochos, this is a great snack for the ninos before they go to bed.

-By Barbara Alvarez

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