The Most Recognized Native American Cuisine, Southwestern
Southwestern cuisine is food styled after the rustic cooking of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. It comprises a fusion of recipes for things that might have been eaten by Native Americans, cowboys and Mexicans throughout the pre and post-Columbian era.
Southwestern cuisine is heavily influenced by Mexican cuisine but involves more large cuts of meat. This style of cuisine is knows for its use of spices, particularly Chili pepper and Tabasco sauce. Chili con carne and fajitas are particularly well known Southwestern foods. Recently, several chains of casual dining restaurants specializing in Southwestern cuisine have become popular in the United States.
New Mexico is known for its dedication to the chile (the official "state question" is "Red or green?", which refers to the preferred color of chilis), most notably the "hatch" chile.
The Coyote Café in Santa Fe NM claims to be the birthplace of the fancier (more expensive) form of this cuisine.
New Mexican food is a type of regional cuisine originating in the US state of New Mexico; it is the main subset of Southwestern Cuisine . Although many New Mexican dishes are similar to Mexican and Tex-Mex offerings such as enchiladas and burritos, New Mexican food has a distinct style. The most important difference is the type of chile pepper used. New Mexico chiles comes in two varieties, referred to as either "green chiles" or "red chiles" depending on the stage of ripeness in which they were picked.
Green chile is perhaps the defining ingredient of New Mexican food compared to neighboring styles, though heavier use of cilantro and relaxed use of cumin are also important. In the past few years, green chile has grown increasingly more common outside of New Mexico, and it is a popular ingredient in everything from enchiladas and burritos to cheeseburgers and bagels within the state's borders and beyond.
New Mexican cuisine began as a blend of the styles of ancestral Mexicans of the region (who made use of local plant variants, animal availability, etc., and ergo are likely to have already had a cooking style notably divergent from that of central Mexico) and nearby Native Americans such as the Navajo, Zuñi, Pueblo and Ute. This native style has been strongly influenced by incoming American tastes since the end of the Mexican-American War. Over time, the style diverged increasingly from similar styles in California and Texas (all of which, like New Mexico, were formerly part of Mexico). This divergence has accelerated in the last few decades, perhaps as a protective response to the "invading" popularity of heavily Americanized "Mexican" food products and fast food.
Today, New Mexican cuisine differs from Mexican, Tex-Mex and Mexican-Californian in numerous ways besides chile, including spice balance, ingredients, general definitions of what certain dishes are and how to prepare them, use of sauces and condiments, etc. For example, New Mexican food uses, on average, more beef than Mexican cooking, usually uses a different kind of oregano, and often handles tortillas differently; it does not make use of Tex-Mex style chili con carne and uses less cumin and fewer jalapenos than the Texas style; and it does not make nearly as much use of rice and mixed vegetables as the California style, nor as much avocado (which is not native to the semi-arid New Mexico region).
List of New Mexican Cuisine Terms
·Atole: a thick, hot gruel made from corn.
·Biscochitos: an anise-flavored cookie.
·Burrito: a small-to-medium white flour tortilla, filled with meat, beans, cheese, salsa, or a combination of these, and rolled. Often served smothered with chile sauce and melted cheese; the California-style variant is usually much larger (often twice as large or more), includes rice, and may use colored and flavored tortillas.
·Capirotada: a raisin and walnut pudding.
·Carne adovada: cubes of pork that have been marinated and cooked in red chile, garlic and oregano.
·Chalupa: a corn tortilla, fried into a bowl shape and filled with shredded chicken or other meat, and/or beans, and usually topped with guacamole and salsa. (Contrast with the larger and vegetable-laden California-style equivalent known as taco salads; compare with tostadas.)
·Chicharrones: pork skin ("pork rinds"), fried crisp into a potato chip-like snack; often spiced heavily.
·Chile or chile sauce: A sauce made from red or green chiles by a variety of recipes, and served hot over many (perhaps any) New Mexican dish. Chile does not use vinegar, unlike most salsas, picantes and other hot sauces. Green chile is made with chopped roasted chiles, while red chile is made with chiles dried and ground to a powder. Thickeners like flour, and various spices are often added, especially ground cumin, coriander and oregano. Chile is one of the most definitive differences between New Mexican and other Mexican and Mexican-American cuisines. Mexican and Californian tend to use various specialized sauces for different dishes, while Tex-Mex leans toward the use of salsa picante and chili con carne (and even Cajun-style Louisiana hot sauce). New Mexican cuisine uses chile sauce as taco sauce, enchilada sauce, burrito sauce, etc. (though any given meal may use both red and green varieties for different dishes). A thicker version of green chile, with larger pieces of the plant, plus onions and other additions, is called green chile stew and is popular in Albuquerque-style New Mexican food; it is used the same way as green chile sauce, as a topping for virtually anything, including American dishes.
·Chiles: Peppers of the capsicum species. New Mexico chile is a local cultivar of the species or subspecies otherwise represented as jalapeños, Anaheim peppers and many other varieties. The large, flavorful New Mexican variety gives the region's cuisine much of its distinctive style. Green chiles are those that are picked unripe; they are fire-roasted, then peeled before further use. Unlike the ultra-mild canned supermarket green chiles, New Mexico green chiles can range from mild to (occasionally) hotter than jalapenos, and come in grades of spiciness at markets that cater to chile aficionados. Red chiles are the ripe form of the same plant (though particular strains are bred for intended use as red or green chile). Generally more piquant than green chiles, they too can be roasted, but are usually dried; they can be added whole, to spice an entire stew, or more often are ground into powder or sometimes flakes. Freshly dried red chiles are sold in string-bound bundles called ristras, which are a common decorative sight on porches and in homes and businesses throughout the Southwest. Chiles may be referred to as chile peppers, especially if the sentence requires them to be distinguished from the chile sauce made out of them. The bulk of, and allegedly the best of, New Mexico chiles are grown in and around Hatch, in southern New Mexico.
·Chile con queso: chile and melted cheese mixed together into a dip. (Not to be confused with chili con queso, which is Tex-Mex-style chili con carne stew topped with cheese); 'chile' and 'chili' are pronounced slightly differently by knowledgeable English speakers in New Mexico, especially if the difference would be semantically important; the pronunciation of 'chile' leans at least slightly toward the Spanish source, e.g. "chillay", at least when necessary.)
·Chiles rellenos: roasted, peeled green chiles stuffed (usually with cheese), dipped in batter and fried, often to a crispy-battered texture (like fish & chips or fried chicken); the California version substitutes milder, thinner Anaheim peppers, and they are usually under-fried to have a spongy batter texture. In New Mexican English, the first "s" is usually silent (to the consternation of local Spanish speakers).
·Chimichanga: a small deep-fried meat and (usually) bean burrito, also containing (or smothered with) chile sauce and cheese; popularized by the Allsup's convenience store chain with a series of humorous commercials in the 1980s with candid footage of people attempting and failing to pronounce the name correctly. Chimichangas, like flautas and taquitos, are a fast-food adaptation of traditional dishes in a form that can be stored frozen and then quickly fried as needed; they are also rigid and easily hand-held, and thus easy to eat by people while walking or driving.
·Chorizo: a spicy pork sausage, seasoned with garlic and red chile, usually used in ground or finely chopped form as a breakfast side dish or quite often as an alternative to ground beef or shredded chicken in other dishes; New Mexican chorizo is said to be noticeably different in its spice blend from that of Mexico and California.
·Cilantro: a pungent green herb (also called Mexican or Chinese parsley, the seeds of which are known as coriander) used fresh in salsas, and as a topping for virtually any dish; one of the defining tastes of New Mexican cuisine, especially Santa Fe style.
·Empanada: a turnover, filled usually with a sweetened meat mixture or fruit.
·Enchiladas: corn tortillas filled with meat, beans or cheese, and either rolled, or stacked, and covered with chile sauce and cheese. In California-style Mexican-American food, enchiladas are invariably each a discrete item; New Mexico-style enchiladas are often prepared fused together on a pan or in a casserole dish and tend to be served in a manner reminiscent of lasagna, though the California style is becoming more common, especially in upscale restaurants.
·Fajita: strips of grilled steak or chicken that come with flour tortillas, sautéed bell peppers and onions, and other side dishes, on a hot metal plate, to make do-it-yourself burritos.
·Flan: caramel custard dessert.
·Flauta: a small, tightly rolled, fried enchilada; contrast chimichangas and taquitos.
·Frijoles: beans, usually kidney or (in more recent times) black beans
·Fry Bread: Native America creation from reservation commodity food and spread throughout Native America Nations. A simple flour creation varying in ingredients such as dry milk, baking soda and cooked in oil until puffy. Usually round as a tortilla but not always. Sometimes with a hole. Served plain with stews and Native meat dishes, with honey, berry sauce (wojape) or sugar as a desert.
·Guacamole: mashed, spiced avocado, usually with chopped onion, tomatoes, garlic, lime and chile.
·Horno: an outdoor, beehive-shaped oven.
·Huevos rancheros: flour tortillas, topped with eggs, usually pan-fried, smothered with chile sauce or salsa, and cheese. Traditional Mexican huevos rancheros always use corn tortillas, and this variant is in fact sometimes to be found in New Mexican breakfasts. The term is virtually always plural. The name means "ranch-style eggs".
·Jalapeño: a small, fat chile pepper, ranging from mild to painfully hot, frequently used chopped (fresh) in salsa, sliced (pickled) on nachos, or split (fresh) and stuffed with cheese (outside of New Mexico, cream cheese is more common). Jalapenos are common to all Mexican and Mexican-American cuisines. Their use in New Mexican food tends to be lesser, in favor of green chile; they are used mainly to provide additional piquancy when desired.
·Natilla: soft custard dessert.
·Oregano: A flavorful herb used in many cuisines, and most closely associated with Italian food. It's heavy use in American cuisine in general has supplanted the use of the unrelated but somewhat similar Mexican oregano spice in New Mexican (as well as Californian and Tex-Mex) cuisine, though some cooks prefer to use Mexican oregano, which is remains easily obtainable in New Mexico.
·Pico de gallo: cold salsa with thick-chopped fresh chiles, tomatoes, onions and cilantro (does not have a tomato paste base like commercial packaged salsas, and never any vinegar); the name, curiously, means "chicken beak".
·Posole: a thick stew made with hominy corn simmered for hours with pork and green chile plus other vegetables such as onions. Red chile and chicken recipes also exist, but are not traditional. The heavy use of New Mexico-style green chiles makes this posole quite different from the ancestral Mexican variant.
·Quesadilla: a turnover made of a flour tortilla, filled with cheese (and often other ingredients), then toasted, pan-fried or baked. It is also commonly made round, using two tortillas instead of folding one, and is usually served topped with salsa or pico de gallo and sometimes sour cream.
·Refritos or refried beans: pre-cooked beans that have been mashed and fried, traditionally in lard but more commonly in vegetable oil today; often an ingredient, but if served as a side dish typically topped with cheese. Traditionally always made with pinto beans, but the California influence is making black bean (frijole negro) refritos more common.
·Salsa: generally an uncooked mixture of chiles/peppers, tomatoes, onions, and frequently blended or mixed with tomato paste to produce a more sauce-like texture than pico de gallo; usually contains vinegar in noticeable quantities (contrast chile and pico de gallo). The green chile variant usually uses cooked tomatillos instead of tomatoes or omits both, and does not use avocado (which is very common in California green salsa). Differs from Mexican, Texan and Californian styles principally in the use of green chile in place of or in addition to jalapeno peppers (and all styles' mild versions are created simply by substituting a lot of green bell pepper for the hotter varieties). The New Mexico and California styles share a typically large amount of cilantro added to the mix. The word simply means "sauce" in Spanish.
·Salsa picante or picante sauce: A thin, vinegary, piquant (thus it's name) sauce of pureéd red peppers and tomatoes with spices, reminiscent of a combination of New Mexico-style chile sauce and Louisiana style tabasco pepper sauce. (Note: American commercial food producers have appropriated the term to refer simply to spicy packaged salsa). Picante's place in Mexican, Tex-Mex and Californian food, where it is extremely common, especially as a final condiment to add more "heat", has largely been supplanted by chile, especially red chile, in New Mexican cuisine.
·Sopaipilla: a puffed, fried bread, that is eaten split and filled with honey-butter (as a dessert), or sometimes stuffed with meat, beans, cheese and chile sauce.
·Taco: a corn tortilla fried into a trough shape and filled with meats, cheese, or beans, and fresh chopped lettuce, onions, tomatoes and cheese; increasingly may also refer to the burrito-like uncooked, rolled flour tortilla variant, by way of the influence of Taco Bell and its popularization of the California-style "soft taco". A corn tortilla is always fried in New Mexico cuisine if to be used in a taco, in stark contrast to Mexico-style tacos which are usually flat and served on two uncooked corn tortillas.
·Tamale: meat, usually shredded pork, rolled in cornmeal masa, wrapped traditionally in corn husks (paper is more common today), and steamed, and served most often with red chile sauce. New Mexican tamales do not, as a style, differ appreciably from those made elsewhere other than the sauce, which varies from region to region, but they are a major component of New Mexico cuisine.
·Taquito or taquita: a tightly rolled, deep-fried variant of the taco; contrast chimichangas and flautas.
·Tortilla: a flatbread made predominantly either of unbleached white wheat flour or of cornmeal. New Mexico-style flour tortillas are about the same as those of Mexico, while California has popularized colorful flavored and whole wheat versions. Mexican corn tortillas are usually made of white corn, but New Mexico favors yellow corn, and the Santa Fe local style leans toward the more exotic (though allegedly less flavorful) blue corn. Tortillas are the foundation or wrapping for a great number of dishes, and can also serve as snacks in the form of corn chips (sliced and fried corn tortillas, served with chile, salsa or pico de gallo).
·Tostada: an open-face fried corn tortilla covered with (typically) refried beans, salsa, cheese, and chopped lettuce and tomato. Compare with chalupas.
The Bottom Line
Southwestern cuisine combines Native American, Mexican, Tex Mex and American flavors, creating a pleasing, often spicy fare many only know through Taco Bell or canned Chili Con Carne.
Whether it's chiles in Taos or chilis in El Paso, there's no getting around these often devilish little fruits which give much of the fire to Southwestern specialties like tacos, enchiladas, tortilla and albondigas soups and more.
Corn is an important ingredient, giving the nod to Navajo hominy, sweet and savory tamales, as well as casserole toppers and upscale salads using jicama, paper-thin slices of red onion and miniature cobs of corn.
Other starches include the ubiquitous bean, often pinto or pink; rice used in cooling drinks and as a base for wonderful casseroles and side dishes, and flour in its many manifestations. You'll find it as a base for mole roux, in huge homemade, and often flavored, tortillas along with heavenly sopapillas and sugary sweet bunellos.
Neighborhood Pow Wows tempt the colorful crowds with sizzling hot and puffed fry bread and mutton stew. All around you, on street corners and in spacious malls, the foods of the Southwesten United States sing their siren song with sweet, crunchy and spicy topnotes.
Chicken pops up in quesadillas loaded with gooey white cheese, or barbequed with cilantro, chiles and lime. Carnitas are little moist chunks of roast pork which enrich everything from chile verde to great, sloppy street corner burritos. Beef is tirelessly trotted out in tomato-free chili, familiar hard, and soft, tacos and sizzling cowboy steaks.
Seafood may seem odd in this nearly landlocked region, but delectable Gulf shrimp and a variety of freshwater fish find their way into new-style paella, tasty stews and a variety of local boy skewers enriched with chipoltes and perfumed with sweet summer sage.
Diners in New Mexico will be asked if they want red or green, and each restaurant's own cook holds the key to which of these colorful chiles will clear your sinuses and which will make you sweat and whimper. Here, too, enchiladas are liable to be stacked instead of rolled, and the corn in your tortilla is just as likely to be blue.
In Arizona, people brave long lines in a marginal South Central neighborhood to get Carolina's monster homemade flour tortillas. Enfolding such treats as the substantial breakfast burros to the amazingly greaseless chorizo, there are lines at every time of day for this inexpensive and filling Mexican fare, once highlighted in Sunset Magazine as a regional best.
In Texas you might be asked to a party for cabeza del vaca, or sample a late night a platter of nopalitos y huevos con papas fritas, (cactus, eggs and fried potatoes). Rolling out of a Blackeyed Pea franchise you'll fantasize about that perfect homemade peach cobbler while your date seeks to brush off dabs of country gravy drippings from his bolo tie.
Meals can be sparkled with pinon nuts, Mexican cocoa-made with hard cylinders of compressed chocolate, cinnamon and more, or huge glasses of iced tea, plus a dizzying deluge of imported and boutique beers sure to settle to dust.
Condiments of hot sauce and salsa cruda sit cheek to jowl with the more familiar catsup and Lea & Perrins on kitchen tables across the region. Pizza parlors provide sprinkle jars of crushed red pepper next to the Parmesan and little Mom and Pop Mexican joints will serve up those little squeeze bottles of honey for the little pillows of puffed dough served at most every meal.
Nouvelle SW just takes these fresh and indigenous products and swirls them amongst French, Thai and German cuisine. Hence, the oxymoron of fat-free gorditas filled with baby greens and goat cheese or unexpected combinations of earthy Oaxocan olive spread napping silken Portabello mushrooms amidst a masa-encrusted fence of yellowfin tuna.
Some Chefs Leading the Way
Celebrity Chef Tim Love from Fort Worth, Texas has recently garnered critical acclaim for his take on Southwestern Cuisine. His "Urban Western Cuisine" features selections of wild game, fish, and animals indigenous to the western & southwestern parts of the United States as well as meats found in such worldwide places as Australia and New Zealand. Combining such cuts as buffalo, wild boar, and kangaroo with flavors and vegetables native to the lands of Mexico, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Montana. His Lonesome Dove Western Bistro restaurants in Fort Worth & New York City have helped Southwestern Cuisine gain a prominent place among culinary enthusiasts worldwide.
I'm going to put a new and colorful twist on southwestern cuisine," said Bobby Flay, host of Food Network's FoodNation and Boy Meets Grill, just before the 1991 opening of the now-celebrated Mesa Grill. Since then the flame-haired man from Manhattan has earned critical acclaim, including Gael Greene's choice of Mesa Grill as best restaurant in 1992. Mesa Grill's two-star review in The New York Times reported that "the sassy fare at Mesa Grill surpasses anything of its kind elsewhere in New York."
The recognition that Bobby has gained at Mesa Grill for his mouthwatering dishes has built his reputation as a major force not only in New York's culinary scene but also nationwide. In May 1993, Bobby was voted the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef of the Year, an award that honors the country's most accomplished chef under the age of 30. The French Culinary Institute, his alma mater, honored him in 1993 with its first-ever Outstanding Graduate Award, which recognizes the school's most accomplished alumni. And his first book, Bobby Flay's Bold American Food (Warner Books, 1994), won the 1995 International Association of Culinary Professionals award for design. Not one to rest on his laurels, Bobby has authored five more cookbooks: From My Kitchen to Your Table (Clarkson Potter, 1998), Boy Meets Grill (Hyperion, 1999), Bobby Flay Cooks American (Hyperion, 2001), Boy Get Gets Grill (Scribner, 2004) and Bobby Flay's Grilling for Life (Scribner, 2005).
Bobby fell into cooking at the age of 17 when he took a job at New York's Joe Allen restaurant. Eventually, he so impressed the management that Joe Allen paid his tuition to the prestigious French Culinary Institute. But French cuisine was not to be Bobby's destiny. After restaurateur Jonathan Waxman introduced him to southwestern ingredients, Bobby--instantly drawn to indigenous American foods such as black and white beans, chiles and avocados--was determined to explore the possibilities of southwestern cuisine as an important and distinct culinary style for America.
From 1988 to 1990, Bobby experimented with his new culinary passion at New York's Miracle Grill, where his colorful southwestern creations earned him something of a cult following. When Bobby's own Mesa Grill opened its doors in 1991, his reputation as a major New York chef was sealed. He continued to soar with Bolo, his second New York restaurant, which Bobby (Bo) and partner Laurence Kretchmer (Lo) opened in November 1993. Dedicated to exploring Spanish cuisine, Bobby's innovative menu at Bolo dazzles adventurous palates daily.
In 2004, Bobby opened the Mesa Grill Las Vegas in Caesar's Palace. His newest American Brasserie, Bar Americain, opened in New York in the spring of 2005.
Looking toward the future, chefs anticipate that the flavors and ingredients of Latin and Central America will have the greatest influence on the culinary arts in the upcoming years. On trips to Mexico City, Yucatan and the Mayan Riviera, one can sample a phenomenal array of the spices, dishes and produce indicative of this ancient Native cuisine. You can see firsthand the stunning diversity of flavor in the southwestern hemisphere, and look forward to seeing it integrated into contemporary American culinary arts.
Areas to Have the Greatest Influence on Culinary Arts
Note: This article is edited from Internet sources