chile wreath

Red and Green for the Holidays

Fiery Foods Manager Cooking with Chiles at the Holidays Leave a Comment

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Email this to someone

by Nancy Gerlach, FieryFoodsCentral.com Food Editor Emeritus

Recipes:

Mistletoe and holly are endangered species around here–everywhere we look in the Southwest, the traditional red and green decorations of the holiday season are dominated by the very same colors of New Mexico’s powerful state vegetable, the chile pepper. The abundance of chile gift items boosts the pungent pod to primary status as a New Mexico Christmas symbol.

At the time of Christ’s birth, chile peppers were already under cultivation only a thousand miles south of Albuquerque. There, in the great valley of Mexico, oblivious to the momentous events a world away, the Aztecs domesticated the hot fruits from a wild variety, cooking them with turkeys, using them in ceremonies, and decorating their bowls with pod designs. Since Christopher Columbus was the first person to transport chile seeds from the New World back to the Old, the colorful peppers could not possibly have been associated the earliest celebrations of Christ’s birth. Nevertheless, there’s always an optimistic visionary in the crowd: The artist who painted the “Last Supper” mural in the Cathedral of Cuzco, Peru, added a dish of chile peppers to the feast before Christ and His Apostles.

The first true connection between Christmas and red and green chiles coincided with the conquest of the Aztec Civilization and the imposition of Christianity upon them. The Spaniards found a veritable rainbow of cultivated peppers–historian Garcilaso de la Vega wrote in 1609 of green, red, yellow and purple uchu peppers. Given their gala colors and the coinciding of many Indian feast days with the Christmas season and Winter Solstice, chile peppers probably were destined to join the festivities.

Christmas tree ornaments

Some chile christmas ornaments from Harald Zoschke’s collection (Photo by Harald Zoschke)

Apparently the earliest recorded chile link with the Christmas season occurred with the turkey, red chile and chocolate dish below, Mole Poblano de la Noche Buena. Legend holds that it was first created in one of the convents in Puebla de los Angeles, Mexico. It seems that the sister superior of the Santa Rosa Convent, Sor Andrea, ceremonially combined ingredients from the Old World and the New to honor the archbishop for building the convent for her order. Often called the national dish of Mexico, it was traditionally served on Christmas Eve. Nowadays it’s a simple and different way to serve the remaining Christmas Day roast. And we must not forget that tamales are also part of the holiday season, traditionally served on Christmas eve.

As the Spanish and Indian cultures mingled, Mexican Christmas and holiday meals, festivities and decorations increasingly adopted the colorful chile peppers. Early chile decorations served culinary purposes–they were the ristras and wreaths made of dried red chiles that could be plucked when necessary for the Posole, another tradition Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve meals. And these days, another decorative Christmas plant, poinsettia, is yielding ground to ornamental pepper varieties given as gifts to cheer the home with their bright red fruits: the Christmas Cherry, the Christmas Greeting, and the Christmas Oriental.

In New Mexico, Christmas traditions from Indian and Spanish cultures have further collided with the mostly English customs of the early eastern U.S. settlers to form an an amalgam of holiday fare. Native New Mexico flavors transform the Pilgrim’s basically bland bird into Roast Turkey with Green Chile-Pinon Dressing. A traditional Southwestern combination of hominy corn and chiles called Posole complements the bird and provides an interesting–and hot–substitute for mashed potatoes. And for a non-traditional holiday dish, the Winter Squash and Apple Chowder with Red Chile-Dusted Croutons is great as a first course to any holiday feast or as a light entree for meals following those feasts.

So it’s not just coincidence. Chiles and Christmas do go together like mistletoe and holly.

The following are some of the dishes that I serve family and friends during the holiday season. Add some red and green chile to your favorite family recipes or try something new, but have a happy and hot Feliz Navidad!

Mole Poblano
Mole Poblano de la Noche Buena
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Use this sauce to accompany a variety of poultry dishes. Serve it in the traditional way, over a turkey breast, garnished with sesame seeds, or substitute sliced turkey, left over from your holiday feast. It also makes an excellent sauce for shredded turkey or chicken enchiladas.
Servings
3 cups
Servings
3 cups
Mole Poblano
Mole Poblano de la Noche Buena
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Use this sauce to accompany a variety of poultry dishes. Serve it in the traditional way, over a turkey breast, garnished with sesame seeds, or substitute sliced turkey, left over from your holiday feast. It also makes an excellent sauce for shredded turkey or chicken enchiladas.
Servings
3 cups
Servings
3 cups
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Place the chiles on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until they are fragrant, about 15 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Remove, cool and remove the stems and seeds.
  3. Combine the chiles, onion, garlic, tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of the sesame seeds, almonds, tortilla, raisins, cloves, cinnamon and coriander in a blender or food processor. Puree the mixture, small amounts at a time, until smooth.
  4. Heat the oil in a skillet over a medium heat, and saute the chile sauce for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chicken broth, chocolate and salt and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occassionally, until the sauce has thickened.
  5. To serve, pour the sauce over the turkey or enchiladas, and garnish with the sesame seeds.
Share this Recipe

tamales
Tamales y Mas Tamales
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Servings
24 tamales
Servings
24 tamales
tamales
Tamales y Mas Tamales
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Servings
24 tamales
Servings
24 tamales
Ingredients
Servings: tamales
Units:
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, cover the pork with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half or until the pork is very tender and starts to fall apart. Remove the roast and save the broth. With 2 forks or fingers, finely shred the meat.
  2. Combine the pork with 1 cup of the red chile sauce and simmer for 15 minutes, adding more sauce if the meat becomes too dry.
  3. Soak the corn husks in water to soften.
  4. In a bowl, mix together the masa and salt. Slowly add the reserved pork broth, stirring with a fork until the mixture holds together. Whip the lard or shortening until fluffy. Add the masa to the shortening and continue to beat. Drop a teaspoon full of the dough into a glass of cold water. If the dough floats, it is ready. If it sinks, continue to beat it until it floats.
  5. To assemble: Select corn husks that measure about 5 x 8 inches or overlap smaller ones together. Place 2 tablespoons of the masa in the center of the husk, and pat or spread the dough evenly into a 2-by 3-inch rectangle. Place about 3 teaspoons of the pork and the salsa down the center and fold the husk around the masa and filling, being careful not to squeeze the tamale.
  6. There are two basic ways of folding the husks. The first is to take two strips of the corn husks and firmly tie each end of the tamale. This method works well with smaller corn husks.
  7. The second method is to fold the tapered end over the filled husk, and then fold the remaining end over it. Tie the tamale around the middle with a strip of the corn husk to keep the ends folded down.
  8. Place a rack in the bottom of a steamer or large pot. Make sure that the rack is high enough to keep the tamales above the water. Place the tamales on the rack, folded side down, or if the pot is large enough, stand them up. Do not pack them tightly as they need to expand as they cook. Cover with addition husks or a towel to absorb the moisture. Bring the water to a boil, reduce to a gentle boil, and steam for an hour for each dozen tamales or until done. To test for doneness, open one end of the husk and if the masa pulls away from the wrapper, it is done.
  9. Serve with additional the red and green chile sauces, but be sure to unwrap the tamales from the husks before pouring the sauce over them.
Share this Recipe

Roasted Turkey
Southwestern Roasted Turkey with Green Chile Piñon Dressing
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
This dressing is best when baked in the turkey. For safeties sake, only stuff the bird right before putting it in the oven. Adjust the heat of the turkey by the amount of, and type of red chile you use to rub on the skin.. Serve with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, and habanero spiced acorn squash. When making the gravy, add some minced chipotle chiles and the adobo sauce they were canned in for a spiced version of turkey gravy.
Servings
6-8 servings
Servings
6-8 servings
Roasted Turkey
Southwestern Roasted Turkey with Green Chile Piñon Dressing
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
This dressing is best when baked in the turkey. For safeties sake, only stuff the bird right before putting it in the oven. Adjust the heat of the turkey by the amount of, and type of red chile you use to rub on the skin.. Serve with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, and habanero spiced acorn squash. When making the gravy, add some minced chipotle chiles and the adobo sauce they were canned in for a spiced version of turkey gravy.
Servings
6-8 servings
Servings
6-8 servings
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter and saute the onion and celery until soft.
  3. Combine the chile, onion mixture, cornbread, nuts and thyme in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Add enough of the broth to thoroughly moisten, but not saturate, the mixture.
  4. Stuff the turkey cavity and sew it shut. Place any remaining dressing in a pan, and cook in the oven along with the turkey. Rub the chile powder over the outside of the bird.
  5. Roast the turkey for 20 minutes per pound, basting frequently with the pan juices, until done.
Share this Recipe

Posole (Pork and Posole Corn)
Posole (Pork and Posole Corn)
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
This dish is traditionally served during the Christmas season in New Mexico, when a pot simmering at the back of the stove provides a welcoming fare for holiday well-wishers. I can't remember any holiday party or dinner that I've attended that this stew hasn't been served. At my house this is a staple on Christmas Eve. I always have a pot ready to warm my husband and I up after strolling Old Town and enjoying the luminarias. Similar to, yet different from the "pozole" served in Mexico, this popular dish is served as a soup, a main course, or a vegetable side dish. Posole, the processed corn, is the main ingredient of this dish of the same name. If posole corn is not available, you may substitute hominy--the taste won't be the same, but it will still be good.
Servings
6 servings
Servings
6 servings
Posole (Pork and Posole Corn)
Posole (Pork and Posole Corn)
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
This dish is traditionally served during the Christmas season in New Mexico, when a pot simmering at the back of the stove provides a welcoming fare for holiday well-wishers. I can't remember any holiday party or dinner that I've attended that this stew hasn't been served. At my house this is a staple on Christmas Eve. I always have a pot ready to warm my husband and I up after strolling Old Town and enjoying the luminarias. Similar to, yet different from the "pozole" served in Mexico, this popular dish is served as a soup, a main course, or a vegetable side dish. Posole, the processed corn, is the main ingredient of this dish of the same name. If posole corn is not available, you may substitute hominy--the taste won't be the same, but it will still be good.
Servings
6 servings
Servings
6 servings
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Units:
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan or stockpot, cover the posole with water and soak overnight. Bring the water and posole to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Add more water if necessary.
  2. Heat a heavy skillet over high heat, add the oil, and when hot, reduce the heat to medium, add the pork, and brown. Remove the pork when it is browned, and add it to the posole. Add the onions to the skillet, and fi needed, additional oil. Add the onions to the skillet, and if needed, additional oil. Saute the onions until they turn a golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Transfer the mixture to the pot with the posole.
  3. Add the broth to the pan, raise the heat, and deglaze the pan, being sure to scape all the bits and pieces from the sides and bottom. Pour the broth into the posole pot.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the stockpot, bring to just below boiling, reduce the heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the posole is tender and the meat is starting to fall apart. Add more broth or water if necessary.
  5. Place the chopped onions for the garnish in a sieve and rinse under cold water to remove the sharpness.
  6. Place all the garnishes in small serving bowls, ladle the stew into individual soup bowls, and serve accompanied by warm flour tortillas.
Share this Recipe

Winter Squash and Apple Chowder with Red Chile–Dusted Croutons
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
This hearty soup combines several fall crops, namely squash, apples, and of course chile. Add a salad, crusty bread, and a nice wine and you have a memorable holiday meal.
Servings
4-6 servings
Servings
4-6 servings
Winter Squash and Apple Chowder with Red Chile–Dusted Croutons
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
This hearty soup combines several fall crops, namely squash, apples, and of course chile. Add a salad, crusty bread, and a nice wine and you have a memorable holiday meal.
Servings
4-6 servings
Servings
4-6 servings
Instructions
Chowder
  1. In a large saucepan over medium-high , saute the onions in the butter until soft. Add the squash and the apples and continue to saute for an additional 3 minutes.
  1. Add the chile and broth to the onion mixture and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, cover partially and simmer until the squash and apples are very tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  2. Add the lemon peel, chicken (if using), pepper, and applejack. Season with salt to taste and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Add the vinegar if the soup is too sweet.
  3. Serve the soup in large bowls garnished with the croutons.
Croutons
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and let them dry out at room temperature for a couple of hours.
  3. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and margarine. Add the garlic and saute until the garlic just starts to brown, being careful not to let them burn. Remove the garlic and discard. Add the chile and the cumin and toss the crumbs in the mixture until well coated.
  4. Spread the bread cubes on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow the cubes to cool at room temperature.
Share this Recipe
Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Email this to someone