December 2020 Insider Blog
Holiday greetings from Santa Fe County, where joyful celebrations blend timeless traditions steeped in rich cultures. From the magical glow of farolitos at Pecos National Historical Park to the colorful light displays on the Plaza and many other delights, December is an enchanting time in northern New Mexico. To help make your holidays merry and bright, we're sharing with you some of New Mexico's treasured traditions, including recipes for festive holiday fare and directions for making your own farolitos. Add in some virtual seasonal fun, and you're ready to enjoy the holidays, New Mexico-style.
The warm glow of farolitos lights up the holiday season. A longtime New Mexico tradition, these small, candlelit lanterns (or paper bags) line plazas, porches, trails and terraces, illuminating dark December nights. In Spanish, farol means lantern, and you may have seen these traditional holiday lights at Pecos National Historical Park, where thousands of farolitos line a trail to the ruins of an ancient pueblo and a Spanish Mission church, or along Canyon Road on Christmas Eve.
You can buy electric farolitos, but it's easy to make your own, using lunch-size paper bags, sand and tealight candles. Open the bags and puff them out, put about two cups of sand at the bottom of each bag, then place one tealight candle in each bag. Arrange the bags along a walkway, atop a garden wall or on your porch. A long-stem match works well for lighting each candle, then watch them glow.
Deck the Trees
The annual Holiday Lighting on the Plaza was a brilliant sight this year, held as a virtual event with a cruise-by option. The tall trees bedecked in twinkling lights of every color seemed almost to be dancing with each other, in a light snowfall. This longtime annual tradition always is a wondrous way to launch the season.
New Mexico is renowned for its earthy, intoxicating chile, but you can savor a world of flavors in Santa Fe County. That's because a rich blend of cultures has shaped northern New Mexico cuisine, from the ancient Puebloan people and Spanish colonists to an exciting contemporary fusion of global fare. Get a flavor for this melting pot as you virtually tour some of our celebrated local restaurants in this video:
It wouldn't be an authentic New Mexican holiday without a feast of regional foods, including green chile stew and biscochitos. To bring you a taste of Santa Fe County, here are a few of our favorite recipes, guaranteed to brighten your holidays.
This first recipe, for the ultimate winter comfort food, comes from a luxurious resort in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos. Set on 57 acres that once housed a dude ranch, this romantic getaway includes a blissful spa and a world-class restaurant. Our video takes you on a two minute tour of Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado.
Green Chile Mac & Cheese
From Chef Kai Autenrieth of Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado's Terra Restaurant
Adapted from a recipe in Local Flavor Magazine
Ingredients for cheese sauce:
6 ounces heavy cream
4 ounces American cheese
2 ounces manchego cheese
2 ounces green chile, medium heat (roasted and peeled)
Salt and pepper to taste
On low heat, melt cream and cheese in a medium pot until melted. Add green chile, making sure to drain all liquid from the chile before adding it to the sauce. Keep stirring to avoid any settling at the bottom of the pot. Season to your liking.
Ingredients for pasta and garnish:
8 ounces elbow macaroni (cook for 12 minutes al dente)
1 ounce panko bread crumbs, toasted
Heat the cheese sauce in a small pan to a nice creamy consistency. Add your pasta and mix together.
Serve in a festive dish and top with the toasted panko.
Chef's Tip: You can top the pasta with additional cheese and bake it in the oven for a nice crust, or add fresh chopped herbs to your pasta.
Green Chile Stew (Serves 8)
Recipe courtesy of New Mexico Tourism Department
1½ to 1¾ pounds beef chuck or pork butt (shoulder), cut in ½-inch cubes
2 medium onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 1¼ pounds red waxy potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, and diced
5 cups beef or chicken stock
1½ tablespoons salt or more to taste
3 cups 505 Southwestern brand Hatch Valley Roasted Green Chile sauce
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen, 1 cup carrot chunks, or 1 diced red bell pepper, optional
Sear the meat in a Dutch oven or large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until it browns and liquid accumulated from the meat mostly evaporates.
Stir in the onions and garlic and cook for several minutes, until the onions become translucent. Pour in stock and scrape the mixture up from the bottom to loosen browned bits. Sprinkle in the salt, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cook uncovered for 1¼ hours.
Stir in the chile and any of the optional ingredients and continue cooking for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the meat is quite tender, the vegetables are soft, and the flavors have blended together.
Ladle into bowls and serve hot.
Biscochitos (Makes 4 dozen cookies)
Recipe courtesy of New Mexico Tourism Department
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 to 1½ teaspoons ground anise
½ teaspoon salt
½ pound lard, softened
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sweet white wine, brandy, or rum, or apple or pineapple juice
¼ cup sugar and ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon for the topping
Sift together the flour, baking powder, anise, and salt and set aside.
Beat the lard in an electric mixer, gradually adding the sugar, and beat until extremely fluffy and light, about 8 minutes. Don’t shortcut this step. Stop the mixer every couple of minutes and scrape the sides of the mixing bowl. Add the egg, followed by the wine, and continue beating.
Mix in the dry ingredients, adding about one-third of the mixture at a time. Stop the mixer as you make each addition, and beat no longer than necessary to incorporate the dry ingredients. A stiff pie-crust type of dough is what you’re seeking.
Chill the dough for about 15 minutes for easy handling.
Preheat the oven to 350
Roll out the dough ¼-inch thick on a floured work surface and cut with a paring knife into a fleur de lis, or cut with a small cookie cutter. Avoid handling the dough anymore than necessary, one of the keys to the melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Transfer the cookies to ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until just set and pale golden.
While the cookies bake stir together the topping.
When the cookies are done, cool for just a minute or two on the baking sheets, then gently dunk the top of each in the cinnamon-sugar.
Transfer to absorbent paper to finish cooling.
We hope some of our holiday traditions become part of yours. May this magical, merry season bring wonder and joy to you and your loved ones. Feliz Navidad! We can't wait to see you next year!
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