ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Poet Louis Jenkins teaches class in Santa Fe cooking -- mom and pop style

When Louis Jenkins decides he wants to cook New Mexican, he doesn't have to go out and buy a whole shopping cart full of food because he makes sure that he has lots of the main ingredient on hand -- chilies from New Mexico.

We are part of The Trust Project.

When Louis Jenkins decides he wants to cook New Mexican, he doesn't have to go out and buy a whole shopping cart full of food because he makes sure that he has lots of the main ingredient on hand -- chilies from New Mexico.
After that, it's easy.
"My cooking isn't fancy," he told a group of food lovers who had signed up for his class at the Blue Heron Trading Co. recently.
The Canal Park specialty shop regularly holds cooking classes at the store featuring local chefs as well as cooks in the community who are well-known for their great cuisine.
Jenkins' speciality is the tastes and textures of food from the Southwest, but, as he told the class again and again, his dishes aren't fancy.
"It's plain New Mexican food, like the kind you can get at any mom and pop restaurant in New Mexico," he said. "It's corn and beans and chili, basically."
Underline chili several times. For Jenkins loves the pungent and fragrant chilies grown in New Mexico. Any cook who wants the true taste of Santa Fe has to have plenty on-hand, he said. But not any chilies. The red chilies should come from Rancho de Chimayo, a great chili-growing area north of Santa Fe, and the green chilies should be grown in Hatch, N.M., which is in the southern part of the state.
The flavor of chilies are strongly determined by the place where they are grown, he said.
He also said that it is impossible to buy (or grow) good chilies here and recommends ordering directly from Rancho de Chimayo and Hatch. Both have Web sites, he said, and have prompt delivery service. "But the best thing to do is go out there and get it for yourself," he said.
Raised in Oklahoma, Jenkins lived in the Southwest for many years before coming to Duluth about 30 years ago.
"I missed the Mexican food, but you couldn't get anything here at all," he said. In those days, there were no Mexican restaurants, and Duluth markets didn't even stock tortillas, let alone good chili. "So I had to go to New Mexico for my supply," he said. He still does.
He also taught himself how to cook the dishes he missed so much.
In his style of cooking, chili is the major ingredient in both his green and red sauces -- tomatoes are not used.
Instead, beef or chicken stock, garlic, a little onion and lots of chili are used to create simple but great tasting sauces.
And oh, there's another ingredient Jenkins swears by to create his Southwest taste -- lard. He prefers to use lard he has rendered himself. It is unhydrogenated, unlike the lard one can purchase in the store. In its unhydrogenated form, lard has less cholesterol and saturated fat than butter, he said.
He uses lard in both his sauces and to fry tortillas. Other fats and oils can be used, but for the real taste of mom and pop restaurants in New Mexico, lard is essential, he said.
To create authentic New Mexican-style cheese enchiladas, the green chili or red sauce is layered with corn tortillas and cheese on individual plates and then set into a warm oven to melt the cheese. The enchiladas are served with pinto beans, Spanish rice and a bit of shredded lettuce.
At the end of the class, plates of Jenkins' enchiladas made with both the green and red sauces were passed around for the class to try.
The vote seemed to be unanimous. Comments like "Mmm, this is good," "Delicious," "I could have Mexican food at every meal," accompanied every bite.
Jenkins just grinned. "Now," he said, "Go out there and make good Mexican food."
For more information about taking a cooking class at the Blue Heron, call 722-8799.
NEWS TO USE
Louis Jenkins recommends these sources for New Mexican chilies:
For pure Mexican red chili powder, contact Rancho de Chimayo at (877) 244-6296 or http://www.chimayotogo.com
For Hatch green chilies, which are shipped frozen, contact Superbly Southwestern at (800) 467-4468 or http://www.hotchile.com
Both Web sites also feature Southwestern foods and other products.
To subscribe to the Budgeteer, go to the Budgeteer On-line Store

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.