New Mexico Cuisine
A large Hispanic population and Mexican heritage contribute to New Mexico's distinct mélange of Mexican-American cooking. Most dishes are less fiery than those south of the border and feature distinct American touches. Seeds are an integral part of New Mexican cuisine. Sunflower, pumpkin, and melon seeds, as well as pine nuts, are all commonly ground into sauces or used to top salads and other dishes. Avocado salad, a popular starter or side dish, is normally topped with pine nuts and contains spices such as coriander and often a bit of Worcestershire sauce.
Tamale pie is another good example of the state's mixed cuisine. Rather than shape individual tamales, New Mexicans often bake all the basic ingredients—pork and beef, onion, garlic, cornmeal, cayenne pepper, and other seasonings—into an American-style casserole that sometimes includes cheese and olives. Enchiladas also get the pie treatment, layering corn tortillas with ground beef or chopped chicken in a creamy sauce much milder than its Mexican cousin. Individually rolled enchiladas are usually a bit spicier and have a red or green chili sauce. Chicken enchiladas, made with sour cream and salsa verde, are a particular favorite. Chile con carne, usually an even mixture of beef and pork moderately seasoned with cumin, coriander, and hot peppers, is an everyday meal.
More strongly Mexican dishes include chiles rellenos, which are mild green chile peppers stuffed with meat, deep-fried, and topped with red sauce. Posole, a hominy soup with meat, spices, and chiles, is a staple. Popular sides include rice—usually heavily seasoned with chorizo, onion, pepper, tomato, and oregano—and white, yeasted bread made with lard. Red chili potatoes, sliced potatoes browned in lard with garlic and chili powder, are a popular accompaniment to roasted or grilled meats. Frijoles, mashed pinto beans seasoned with onion and pork, are daily fare for many.
Summer squash is a Native American contribution to New Mexico's cooking, and often appears as a side mixed with corn, onion, chiles, garlic, and cheese. With sliced beef added, it becomes a one-dish meal.
Caramel custard, a milk-and-egg custard with a burnt-sugar topping, is the most common dessert. Sopaipillas, pillows of lard and white flour dough deep-fried and served with honey, are another popular sweet. Biscochitos are commonly served with coffee or as dessert. These cookies also have a lard-based dough and are flavored with anise seeds, brandy, and a touch of cinnamon. Cinnamon-flavored rice pudding is a favorite, and hot chocolate flavored with cinnamon and vanilla is a common accompaniment to desserts of all kinds.
-World Trade Press