29 December 2007

Christmas in New Mexico means food & family




For the last 7 days, Jason and I have been in New Mexico for Christmas. To me, New Mexico means two things: food and family. Christmas morning, my auntie, her husband and 4 daughters, all of my cousin's kids, and everyone's husbands, boyfriends, and fianc├ęs come to see my grandma, mom, me, and Jason (the newest to join the family). During Christmas in New Mexico, every house has posole, tamales, and of course, red chili. Jason's family couldn't understand why we serve this instead of a "traditional" Christmas meal... this is our tradition!

The posole and tamales can't be made without meat, but when I first became vegetarian, my mom worked to make a vegetarian version of New Mexican red chili. The chili is different than what most people outside of New Mexico think of as chili. It's more like a sauce instead of a soupy tomato-based mixture of vegetables and meat.

The chili powder is the key to making this dish; it's made from New Mexican chilis which are dried then ground to a powder. The more seeds that are left in, the hotter the chili powder. This is used instead of fresh or canned whole chilis. When making the chili, traditionally, you start with either chunks of pork or a pound of ground beef, cooked in a cast-iron pan. You make a roux by adding flour and New Mexican chili powder which combines with the fat from the meat, then add water and let simmer until thickened.

To make my vegetarian version, I start with butter or oil in a sauce pan, then add the flour, chili powder, and garlic (fresh or powdered). The recipe is rough because it's one I learned from sight, and I doubt any measurement I could write down would be accurate. If you're trying this, just use your senses and add more or less of what you think for it to come out how you want it.

Vegetarian New Mexican Red Chili

4 tbsp butter or oil (I use a mixture of both)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp New Mexican chili powder (or more for a stronger flavor and more heat)
3/4 -1 tsp garlic powder
4 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

extras:
1 cup Morningstar Meal Starters Recipe Crumbles
1 can beans (pinto or black), drained and rinsed
1 potato, peeled, diced, and pan fried


Combine the butter or oil, flour, chili powder, and garlic powder in a saucepan and whisk until the flour is cooked, 1-2 minutes. If you've added more chili powder, add more butter so that the consistency is smooth, not lumping. Add the vegetable broth, salt, and pepper, and whisk constantly, scraping the edges of the pan to combine all of the roux. Continue stirring until the sauce begins to thicken. It wont thicken much, but if you like your chili thicker, like a sauce, add up to 1 tbsp. corn starch dissolved in water. Don't add the cornstarch directly to the chili or it'll lump.

making vegetarian chili, new mexico stylemaking vegetarian chili, new mexico style

When the chili is thickened and done, you can add extra ingredients which make up for the lack of meat. If adding the recipe crumbles, add them first because they have to warm from being frozen, then add the remaining ingredients. I usually use only recipe crumbles and pinto beans, but you can add the potatoes or any other combination you can think of. Just, please - no cilantro!

vegetarian chili, new mexico style

Serve with shredded cheddar (mild or medium), and corn chips, or on its own with Spanish rice on the side. It can also be used as an accent to other dishes like burritos or served with breakfast on top of fried eggs and fried potatoes.

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