Our family has lived in the Southwest for so long that we have adopted many of its traditions. For years we have made tamales on Christmas Eve, and now that is also a tradition for our children and their families, regardless of where they live. Making tamales from scratch is fun, and the fresh, finished product always tastes better than even the best store-bought versions. Posole warms the body and the soul on a cold winter evening, and it is perfect for a family gathering on New Year’s Eve. Biscochos (in El Paso) or biscochitos (in Santa Fe) have to be homemade and – like the tamales – have to be made with lard to taste like the real thing. The crisp anise-flavored cookies compete with my grandmother’s anise-flavored German springerle when it comes to dipping into a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of milk.
Green chile chicken stew is in a class by itself. A hot bowl always reminds me of long-ago lunches in the lodges at the top of the runs at Taos Ski Valley or Ski Apache in Ruidoso. Our kids always ask for it when they visit us in Santa Fe, and so we try to have a pot on the stove for them when they arrive from a long cross-country drive. Our usual recipe calls for a whole chicken and makes enough for a large group. This version is quick, but by cooking the chicken in stock along with vegetables the broth becomes especially rich. If you are in a hurry, just skip adding the vegetables. The recipe makes enough for four adults. It is ideal for the late evening arrival of tired travelers.
4 Cups chicken stock
4 chicken thighs
1 medium onion, cut in quarters
1 medium carrot, cut in thirds
1 stalk celery cut in thirds
1 handful fresh celery leaves
3 stems fresh parsley
12 whole peppercorns
1 Roma tomato
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 ounces chopped green chiles
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, bring the chicken stock to the boil. Add the chicken thighs, onion, carrot, celery, celery leaves, parsley, and peppercorns. Continue to cook at a very low boil for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- About 10 minutes before the chicken is cooked, squeeze the Roma tomato into the stock and add the pulp.
- Remove from the heat. Strain the stock into a container and allow to cool so that you can remove the fat that gathers on the top. Set aside.
- Remove the skin and bones from the thigh meat, chop the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
- Clean the pot and return it to the stove over a medium flame. Heat the oil, and then add the diced onions. Cover and sweat the onions for 5 minutes or until they are soft and translucent. Do not allow them to brown.
- Add the green chiles and minced garlic and continue to cook, uncovered. Stir frequently until the moisture has evaporated from the mixture. Add the flour and stir continuously for about 3 minutes so that the onions and chiles are completely coated and the flour has lost its raw taste.
- Add the strained, cooled chicken stock and cubed potatoes. Return to the boil, stirring frequently. Continue to cook at a low boil until the potatoes are soft and cooked through – about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Stir in the cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the chicken pieces, simmer for another 10 minutes, and then serve in large soup bowls along with your choice of garnishes.
There are lots of traditional choices for garnish. We always like to pass bowls of chopped fresh cilantro leaves, thin-sliced, baked corn tortilla strips, grated Monterrey jack cheese, and diced avocados along with hot sauce for those who like their soup spicier. We also like to serve hot tortillas (corn or wheat) or cornbread fresh out of the oven.