Monday, January 21, 2013
On the Road with Chef Jean
My friend, cookbook author Chef Jean Denham, recently hit the road with her hubby, Roy. Along the way, they take time to sample local gastronomical delights. Are you a chili fan? Here’s Jean’s latest entry from Hatch, New Mexico. Be sure to scroll to the end of the page for a peek at the newest member of the Denham family.
Monday, Jan. 14 – Finally got to Hatch, New Mexico – a goal of mine ever since a friend, Bill Miller, introduced us to the Hatch Chili a few years ago.
Picked up two pkgs. ground Hatch chili powder, mild and hot – I’ve had the hot before and it’s just too hot for us, so I’ll try combining with the mild and get a tolerable heat. Also, the little gal that waited on us introduced me to ‘Chicos,’ which is dried crushed corn and said to add to a pot of pinto beans along with the dried Hatch chili powder to make a stew. Anxious to try this.
Across the street was a restaurant, Pepper Pot, a little house set back from the street that looked at first like a hovel, but as I got closer, the antiques were artfully arranged on the porch and I decided to take a chance.
And, what a surprise! We arrived just before noon and by 12:10 the place was almost packed and what a riotous group they were – everyone knew everyone else and included the newcomers in their fun and talk, which of course, turned quickly to the playoff football games the previous weekend. Roy & I split 3 tacos, just plain, beautifully seasoned and garnished tacos, no decisions about chicken, pork, etc. You ordered tacos and these are what you got.
I wish we had time to go back for a full dinner and try more dishes.
From Hatch we drove back towards Las Cruces, where we are staying and stopped to do a little wine tasting in Mesilla and discovered the most beautiful historical town – a plaza in the center and adobe shops and a stunning church overlooking the entire scene. I so wished I’d had a panoramic camera with the sun shining on the church and the plaza, it was right out of a tourist guide book.
One of the shops, Thunderbird de la Messila, was so full of trinkets, gadgets, clothes and well, everything. You just didn’t know where to look next. As I was looking at cookbooks, the owner and I chatted about cooking, books, etc. and turns out she, her son and grandson love making their own pizzas!! Well, right up my alley and she ended up buying my Pizza book plus a Chef’s Journey…Home. And, I picked up Salsa Lovers Cookbook (over 180 salsa recipes). What a wonderful feeling to walk out of a shop with packages plus a profit!!
She also told us of a restaurant that if we had time, we should see – La Posta located in the Historic Old Butterfield Stage building – it’s huge with twists and turns and dining rooms everywhere. The staff we talked to said all new hires are lost for the first week they work there. Since none of the wine tasting rooms were open on a Mondays around the plaza, we settled for sitting in one of the lounges and having a glass of wine. But, we were soon overcome with the wonderful aromas wafting through the corridors and rooms and ordered an appetizer to go with the wine. Caldillo, a New Mexican Green Chili Stew containing beef round or pork, oil, potatoes, onion, garlic, salt and green chiles served with flour tortillas, was our choice and as we were waiting its arrival, a wait staff came through to tell our bartender a customer had proclaimed his Margarita the best she had ever had.
So, Roy ended up with my glass of wine and I ordered a Margarita!! And, I was not disappointed – he even gave us his ingredients: Patron Tequila, Patron Orange Liqueur , fresh lime juice and agave nectar (which is very sweet and flavorful. Many people compare the taste and consistency to honey. It also has no aftertaste.)
New Mexican Green Chili Stew (Caldillo)
2 pounds lean beef round or pork
2 tablespoons oil
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
8 green chiles
Cube round steak, sprinkle with salt and fry until brown in oil.
Add potatoes to browned meat together with onion, garlic, salt, chiles and enough water to cover. Continue to add water if necessary. It should be of a soupy consistency.
Recipe Source: "Mexican Cooking at the Academy" by the California Culinary Academy.
My note: try adding a helping of the ‘chicos’ to the stew, also.
After talking to our bartender (how disappointing that I neglected to get his name), the talk naturally turned to cooking and cookbooks and he recommended a book in Mateo’s Gallery, a part of this historic building, where his girlfriend, Melissa was working – 300 Best Taco Recipes. On our way out, I did stop in and meet Melissa and compliment her on her choice of boyfriend and to buy the taco book.
What a full day of wandering around a beautiful old city and there was much more to see for our next time through this area – we even found an RV park just a walk away from the old town to stay next trip. But, for now I will be content to try new tacos and salsas!!!
Okay, as promised, here's a pic of Jean's newest project. Real dog or the stuffed version? Guess you'll have to ask Chef Jean.