6.11.2016

Memories of Old Santa Fe

In the early 1990s, I took my first trip to Santa Fe with Mikey, my best friend since the 5th grade. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew it would be an adventure.

This was, of course, prior to the Internet (was there even life prior to the Internet?), so I had no way to find out what to do there, other than perusing books at the library and getting recommendations from friends.

From my research, I knew that I wanted to visit the Loretta Chapel for its Miraculous Staircase, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, and the art galleries on Canyon Road.

Food-wise, I had recommendations from my good friends Bill & Alan, and Norma & Jola; they loved their time in Santa Fe. My to-do list from them included dinner at the Inn of the Anasazi, lunch at the Blue Corn Cafe, and breakfast at Cafe Pasqual's.

We managed to accomplish everything on both my cultural and culinary itineraries.

At the communal breakfast table at Pasqual's, I fell hard for Mexican hot chocolate, and enjoyed it served frothy and hot in a large jelly jar.

At the Blue Corn Café, my tastebuds were tickled by the chipotle corn chowder. When I asked how it was made, they already had printed copies of the recipe (I guess it was really popular!).

A funny aside: the recipe for the corn chowder was probably dashed off quickly by the chef, and typed up by someone at the restaurant. There is a tiny but significant typo in the list of ingredients: instead of listing "1 canned chipotle chile" it said "1 can chipotle chiles." That is a big difference. BIG difference. The first time I made it (for Bill and Alan), I used the full can of chipotle chiles and it was so hot that it was almost inedible. Bless their hearts for continuing to eat it, as sweat poured from their brows.

At the Inn of the Anasazi, Mikey and I both ordered the pork tenderloin that had been dusted with chile, chocolate, and cinnamon. I posted my re-created from memory version in Inspired by Greatness. For dessert, we had buñuelos, a fried dough stuffed with creamy custard and topped with a chocolate sauce. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

A couple of weeks ago, Mark and I returned to Santa Fe to see our friends Denny & Trudy for the weekend. Aside from visiting the city's incomparable museums, eating extremely well (both in restaurants and at their home), and catching up with our good friends in their beautiful “new” 200-year old home, we managed to catch the lowrider parade as it came into the plaza. Spectacular! As one woman next to me said, "It's like candy on wheels!'

On our way to Santa Fe, we stopped in Hatch, New Mexico, to restock our dwindling ground chile powder supplies. We got both mild and hot, as well as the famous Hatch green chile. And that reminded me of a chicken dish Bill made for us once after he and Alan had returned from Santa Fe. I asked him about it years later and he vaguely remembered making it, but had no idea what he did.

That left it up to me to reinvent a memory. Here is my version of a wonderful Santa Fe-style chicken and peppers dish that Bill made for me more than 20 years ago. I may not remember what I did five minutes ago, but my tastebuds never forget!

¡Buen provecho!

~ David

Chicken and Peppers, Santa Fe-style

2 red bell peppers
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 boneless chicken breast halves (with skin), each about 4 ounces*
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
mild red chile powder
4 teaspoons green chile powder **
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Wash and core the two red bell peppers; remove all seeds and slice into 1/4-inch strips. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet and cook the peppers over medium heat until soft, but not brown - about 20 minutes. Set aside for serving.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a little red chile powder. Brown the chicken breast halves starting skin-side down for 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer from the skilled to a baking sheet (do not clean the skillet) and place in the oven for 10 minutes, while you finish the dish.

Return the used chicken skillet to medium heat and add the green chile powder. Cook for 30 seconds to fully release the flavor of the chile. Add the cream, and cook until thickened.

Reheat pepper slices. Spoon some of the sauce onto four serving plates. Place a chicken breast on the sauce and top with red pepper slices.

Serve with rice to soak up the sauce.

Serves 4.

* If you have a hard time finding small chicken breast halves, slice larger ones in half as if making chicken scaloppine.

** Hatch green chile powder can be ordered online from Made in New Mexico madeinnewmexico.com


Seeing this man reminded me of the song by
Randy Travis, Memories of Old Santa Fe.

33 comments:

  1. Hi David, oh does this look delicious. I have never been to New Mexico but I can just tell the food is delicious. Sounds like some wonderful memories were made there as well. Take care!

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    1. Next time you two are in Phoenix, Cheri, you should make the trip over. It is lots of fun, and the food traditions are so different, even though we are so close!

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  2. Much to say: First, in planning our upcoming roadtrip later this month Ken and I considered Santa Fe. I have never been there and Ken has terrific memories of it from the 80s. In the end we decided it was just a little too far to accomplish in the short time we have for this trip (4 days). So we chose good old reliable Baja instead. But we came oh so close to choosing Santa Fe. Hopefully next time...

    Second: Low riders are indelibly marked on my brain. I first encountered them in Los Angeles in the 80s and still feel a jolt of joy whenever I see one now. Though sadly they seem to have fallen from favor in the LA Latin community. I miss the color they brought to Hollywood Blvd.

    Also these peppers seem like something worth having on hand so I'll make a big batch. How do they hold up in the fridge?

    Lastly: Blue Corn Chowder sounds interesting. More so because I've made that 1 can or 1 chipotle pepper mistake myself. GREG

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    1. Baja isn't a bad place to be going, Greg! Are you going to Ensenada? My favorite French (now fusion French/Mexican) restaurant is there: El Rey Sol.

      Low riders were really new to me on this scale. Had certainly seen them, but never in this quantity - or for the pageantry they bring. Amazing,

      Are you talking about the green Hatch chiles? I was using the powdered ones, which last a long time. I imagine this would be really good with with freshly roasted green Hatch chiles.

      I made the corn chowder last night with only one chipotle and it was just perfect. That can be one HOT mistake!

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  3. My first trip to Santa Fe was also in the early 90's and included the same museums, the opera and that communal table.... this dish looks delicious...must order the green chile.

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    1. The green chile is pretty amazing, Jill, and very different from any other. We need to talk Santa Fe sometime!

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  4. Santa Fe (and NM in general) is such a special place. I'll never forget my trip there years ago and I hope to go back soon. We took a picture at the perfect time because we captured a lightening bolt in it, which I still think is the coolest thing ever!

    You captured the spirit of the city beautiful in these photos and story, and the dish sounds amazing. :)

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    1. Ahu - I have only caught a lightning bolt once (in focus) and I still consider it a small miracle! Santa Fe is very special, and we should go more often, as it is so close...

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  5. I haven't been to Santa Fe in 36 years -- your post reignited my interest in visiting again. The chicken looks delicious! Love the photos!

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    1. Well, Susan, the next time you are in Tucson, a Santa Fe visit would be very realistic!

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  6. Such a beautiful post, David. Love the colour ways and the story.

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    1. Thank, Liz - the colors in Santa Fe are very special.

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  7. Looks delicious, David! (Although I'm a leg and thigh man, myself—I assume there'd be no problem making the substitution?)

    I'm old enough to remind days before the internet. How did we ever manage to find good places and make all the necessary reservations in those days? I guess that's why they had travel agents...

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    1. Frank, I am amazed at what we could do pre-internet and cell phones. And, somehow, I never worried about it back then!

      As to being a leg/thigh man, so am I.These are the only chicken breasts I will eat - they are only about 4 ounces each, are organic, and actually taste like chicken. Otherwise, bring on the thighs!

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  8. Sounds like a great trip (both times). Other than that recipe typo--I laughed so hard. Your dish looks great!

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    1. Inger - I re-made the soup this weekend, and all was well. Even one single chipotle chile made it hot! You will see that recipe soon.

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  9. I have always wanted to visit New Mexico. Hopefully one day I can make that dream come true!

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    1. You really should get there, Keith - in fact, the entire Southwest is pretty astounding. I highly recommend it.

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  10. Nice pictures! Thank you for the recipe!

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  11. Great pictures and that recipe sounds perfect for summer!

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    1. Thanks, Caroline - it is a great summer recipe, but I would eat it any time!

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  12. As the other member of David's vist to Santa Fe, the food was extraordinary. However, David has taken the dishes, reimagined them a little and still kept them well within an homage and they are even more delicous than the originals. So, if a New Mexico trip is not on your schedule, eveyone over to David's for a Santa Fe Fiesta!! Mikey

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    1. Thanks, Mikey - you are so nice! I would actually love to go back now and taste the originals to see fi there is anything else I would do differently. I do know I just completely recreated the corn chowder recipe. I can't imagine having the original now.

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  13. Loved this post, David! I literally laughed out loud about the chilies and the typo in the recipe. Yes, that is a big difference! And, then about all that "candy on wheels!". And it's so true! This dish looks delicious and those photos are beautiful too. :)

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    1. Marcelle - I still have to wonder if it was a typo, a mistake, or one of those purposeful typos to keep people from really recreating a recipe. Glad you enjoyed the photos!

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  14. We almost went to Santa Fe instead of Portland this spring. It's still on our list and so it's good to know some things to do there. I will pick your brains when we decide to go again.
    This looks delicious David! I love the look of the sauce and feel like reaching into that photo and running my finger through it! It's so simple but I know the flavours with those two chiles has got to be pretty amazing. I will look for the Hatch chile powder; it sounds wonderful!

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    1. Nazneen - the museums there are beautiful, and the terrain is wonderful, as well. When you decide to do, let me know and I will give you lots of info on things to do! Lucky you that it is only 6 hours to drive there from Denver!

      The green Hatch chile powder is unlike any other I use - a very distinctive flavor and heat. I think you will like it!

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  15. I think I may need to make this on the weekend. It sounds delicious. I doubt that I'll find green chilli powder, so I may grind up some fresh green chillies. What do you think?

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    1. Oh, John - I really wish I could send you some of the dried chiles but they would never make it through customs! I only see them sold in baggies, not professionally packaged. Yes, I think you should make this with ground green chiles - let me know how it works! Hope you have settled in after your trip to China.

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    2. Yes have settled after China, despite having a slight head cold. I've started prepping the chicken for tonights dinner and am using tenders, rather than breast. The breasts I saw at the grocer today were enormous! Can't wait to taste it.

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  16. I haven't been to New Mexico since I was a kid, and after reading this, it's at the top of my list. Love the pictures of the blue bench and birds, and the recipe sounds incredibly delicious! (Funny about the chipotles!)

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    1. Valentina - the chipotle story gets funnier with every telling, but it is absolutely true! You know, now, I know enough about cooking that I would never use that many - I was just young and naïve enough then to trust the recipe.

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