Monday, July 30, 2012


Sopaipillas are native to New Mexico, originating in Old Town, Albuquerque, over 300 years ago. These hollow puffs are generally served as a bread with honey drizzled inside.  They are delicious sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar as a dessert or snack and make wonderful “pocket bread” for stuffing with refried beans, chile con carne and sauced for a main dish sandwich.

To assure success while making them, just remember the following 4 tips--
     1.  Knead the dough until it is smooth and the gluten is well developed. (Note how to do this in the video.)
     2. The oil must be hot--375F.
     3. The shaping technique--learn how to shape the dough before rolling it and DO NOT reroll the dough.
     4. The frying technique is critical.  Be sure to drop the piece of dough straight down into the hot oil, holding it submerged until it puffs and becomes hollow.

   (Deep-Fried Bread)

Note: Leftover sopaipillas can be frozen in an airtight package for up to 3 months.  Reheat in a foil packet at 350 F for 15 minutes.  Just before serving, open the foil to allow the sopaipillas to dry out on the outside.  These puffs will be better for stuffing than for serving as a bread or dessert.

Yield:  4 dozen

            4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
            1 ½  teaspoons salt                                        
1 Tablespoon lard or butter
            1 package active dry yeast, optional 
¼ cup warm water (105-115 F) (gives pleasant yeasty aroma and
               a more elastic texture)
            1 ¼  cups scalded milk (approximately), cooled to room temperature
            Cooking oil for deep frying

1.   Combine dry ingredients and work in shortening, blending very well until mixture resembles corn meal.

2.   Dissolve the yeast in warm water and add this mixture to the milk, stirring well.  (If not using yeast, use 1 ½  cups milk and omit the ¼ cup water).

3.   Add liquid ingredients and work into the dough.  Place on board.

4.   Knead dough thoroughly for about 5 minutes until smooth, firm and elastic, adding no flour or the least amount possible.  (If dough is rubbery and very thick when first kneaded, sprinkle with a little warm water.)  Invert the bowl over the kneaded dough and let rest for 10 minutes or until the dough will yield a hole when poked.  Heat a 3 to 4 inch depth of oil to 400 F in a deep fryer.

5.   Working with one-fourth of the dough at a time, keeping the balance well covered with plastic wrap, roll to ¼-inch thickness or slightly thinner, then cut into triangles or squares; do not reroll any of the dough.  Fry the sopaipillas, a few at a time, in the hot fat.  They should puff and become hollow soon after they are immersed in the oil.  If they don’t puff up, keep holding under the surface of the oil with tongs or a spoon until they do puff.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Comino (Cumin) Rice

This is a very versatile Mediterranean style rice, that is the best prepared with Basmati rice, however it will not mold well as it is so fluffy.  If you wish to mold this rice, use a short grain rice.  And, if you do not have all 3 bell peppers on hand--you can substitute just one kind of pepper and even substitute chopped chiles.

This is my all-time favorite rice recipe--it tastes best when you divide the cumin, adding half as it is cooked, the balance just before you serving.  The confetti dots of yellow, green and red make for a very pretty side dish.  I have sometimes called this dish Peppered Rice.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

2 tablespoons lard or butter
2 cups diced green, yellow and red bell pepper
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon cumin (comino), divided
1-1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice (Basmati is best)
1-1/2 cups chicken stock, hot

1.   Using medium heat, melt the lard or butter in a 3 quart saucepan with a close-fitting cover. Add the peppers and onion and cook until onion is wilted. Add the garlic, ½ teaspoon cumin and rice, and stir until well mixed.

2.   Add the hot stock and mix to distribute the rice evenly. Using medium high heat, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover and steam for 15 minutes without disturbing. Then add remaining cumin and stir.  If not as tender as desired, cook to desired doneness.  If dry, add more stock.  Taste and adjust seasonings—I have always found the seasoning in the stock precludes the need for salt in the recipe.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Red Chile Beef Enchiladas

Red Chile Beef Flat Enchiladas are perhaps the most popular entrée in Traditional New Mexican cooking.  Native New Mexicans frequently eat a fried egg atop these.  In Northern New Mexico, they like them served spicy hot, so the egg is a great foil for the spicy heat.  The ground beef is cooked into the sauce, rather than serving the sauce over roasted, shredded beef called “deshabrado”.  These enchiladas can be prepared rolled, if preferred.  If you wish to roll them in advance and freeze, always freeze the sauce for topping them in a separate container. 

(Flat Enchiladas)

Use this recipe for Red Chile Beef Enchiladas.  You can adapt the recipe to Basic Red Chile Sauce, by omitting the beef and starting with 2 Tablespoons butter, lard or bacon drippings.

For Red Chile Beef Sauce:

Yield:  2-1/2 cups

1 pound ground chuck or 80% lean beef
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground pure mild red chile, such as Pecos Valley Spice Co.
1/4 cup ground pure hot red chile, such as Pecos Valley Spice Co.
2 cups beef stock or water
1 garlic clove, crushed
Pinch of ground Mexican oregano, such as Pecos Valley Spice Co.
Pinch of ground cumin, such as Pecos Valley Spice Co.
3/4 teaspoon salt (if not using stock)

1.   Saute  crumbled beef into a 9 inch skillet or sauté pan and cook until the pink color disappears.  Add flour and stir until smooth and slightly golden.

2.   Remove pan from heat and add ground chiles.  Return to heat and gradually stir in stock.  Add garlic, oregano, cumin, and salt, if using, and cook, stirring, about 10 minutes.  Simmer at least 5 more minutes for flavors to blend.

For Enchiladas:

Yield: 4 Servings

8 white, yellow or blue corn tortillas
About 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese
4 onion, chopped (may be cooked into the sauce)
4 to 6 eggs (optional), soft fried
6 to 8 lettuce leaves (optional), coarsely chopped
2 ripe tomatoes (optional), cut in wedges

1.   Place a little chile sauce on a warmed plate, then top with a tortilla followed by cheese, onion, and more sauce.  Repeat once or twice more, making a stack of 2 or 3 tortillas layered with cheese, onion, and sauce (see Note).  Top each enchilada with more sauce and cheese.  Place in the preheated oven until the cheese melts.  Top with an egg, if desired, and garnish with the chopped lettuce and tomato wedges.  These are traditional Santa Fe style.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Perfect Guacamole

My recipe for Perfect Guacamole has won high praise from Food Editors, students, friends and family for years. The only really important pointer is that you REALLY do have to use JUDGEMENT when adding the tomato, onion and jalapeno as the amount really will depend on the size of the avocados.  With smaller avocados, use less tomato and onion.  In this video you will see my favorite way to prepare it!


Guacamole at its best!  For greatest flavor, appearance and keeping quality – always cut avocados with two knives into coarse chunks about 1 inch square.

Yield:  4 servings

2 ripe avocados (preferably Haas)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste
1 medium-size tomato, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped Spanish onion
1 medium fresh jalapeno, minced
2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1.   Halve the avocados; scoop pulp into a bowl.  Coarsely chop with two knives.  Add salt and garlic; then slowly add lime juice to taste.

2.   Fold in tomato, onion and chiles.  Let stand a few minutes before serving to allow flavors to blend.

3.   Taste and adjust seasonings.  Some like spicy guacamole, while others like it quite mild.  Often piquancy is best determined by the other foods you are serving.  If some like it hot and others don’t, a solution is to serve a side dish of spicy salsa.

4.   Serve guacamole in a Mexican pottery bowl and garnish the top with a few tostados thrust into the top.  Serve with a basket of tostados.  As a salad, serve over chopped lettuce and garnish each serving with a cherry tomato.

Note:  Many myths seem to abound about placing an avocado pit in the guacamole to keep it from discoloring or oxidizing.  I don’t find that to work so well.  Cover the guacamole well or sprinkle with a few drops of ascorbic-acid mixture, the mixture used to prevent darkening in freezing fruits.  Be careful not to add much of the acid, as it can be slightly sweet.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pollo Rellenos

These party perfect stuffed chicken breast rollups dressed up with a simply beautiful Salsa Fresca are really a great fast entree for a light meal as they only weigh in at 205 calories each. I created this dish for my "Jane Butel's Quick and Easy" cookbook and have made them many, many times and have even sliced them into 1/2 inch rounds for an appetizer. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

If you prefer to bake them conventionally, use a 375F oven and bake for 20 minutes or until well done. The chicken is done when it is firm to the touch or reaches 185F



Relleno in Spanish means stuffed. Here, I have stuffed the chicken breasts with cheese and green chile, then coated them with a crispy coating. The traditional Salsa Fresca is wonderful as an accompaniment.

Yield: 4 servings

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of any fat or sinew (see note)
2 Tablespoons low-fat Cheddar Cheese or more to suit taste
2 Tablespoons chopped green chile (canned or frozen) or more to suit taste
¼ cup skim milk or buttermilk
½ cup cornflake crumbs (see note)
Salsa Fresca, optional

1.  Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Pound with a tenderizer mallet or the flat side of a heavy knife. Lay the chicken breasts out flat and divide the cheese and chiles among them.
Roll the chicken and fasten with toothpicks or skewers, tucking in the sides to hold the cheese mixture. Dip in the milk to coat uniformly then dip into the cornflake crumbs.

2.   Place in a microwave-safe baking dish, cover with wax paper, and cook on high for 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the Salsa Fresca, if using. Spoon a ribbon of salsa over each serving.

Note: You may need more corn flake crumbs for larger breasts.  Boneless, skinless thighs can be substituted, if preferred. Cheese-cracker crumbs can be substituted for the cornflake crumbs, but they contain more fat.

Salsa Garnish

½ cup chopped tomato
½ cup chopped onion
½ chopped green chiles

Combine the tomato, onion, and chiles; mix well.

Per serving: Calories 205, Protein 29 g, Carbohydrates 13 g, Fiber 1 g, Fat 3 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 74 mg, Sodium 242 mg.