Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Mesilla, New Mexico

 The Location: Mesilla, New Mexico

2013 census: 1,896 people; 48.2% Hispanic, 48.1% white. 2012 per capita income $34,206
Mesilla means "Little Tableland" in Spanish. Prior to the European invasion, the area was home to the Mansos and the Apache Indigenous peoples. The entire region was incorporated in 1848 when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, establishing the US border further south, which made Mesilla part of the United States. By 1850, the region was being colonized by the US, displacing the Apaches who were already living there. When the Apaches acted to defend their lands, the US government responded by building Fort Fillmore to fight against them. At this time, the US declared the whole area part of the United States, even though Mexico still claimed it as theirs. It took three years to settle the issue, but the United States eventually bought the land from Mexico, making it officially part of the US.

During the Civil War, Confederate troops from Texas invaded and the Union troops stationed at Ft. Fillmore surrendered. The Confederate troops took over the fort and Mesilla became the capital of the Confederate Territory of Arizona. In 1862, the Battle of Glorieta was fought and lost by the Confederates, forcing them to retreat back to Texas, thus ending Mesilla's involvement in the war.

During the time of the Wild West, Mesilla was a commercial and social hub. Events such as stage plays, cockfighting and bullfights were lively draws to the city. The clientele coming to such events were known for their lawlessness and the city was a rather violent place to live. People like Pancho Villa and Billy the Kid were known to frequent the town. Two stagecoach lines went through Mesilla, making it easy to get to.

When the railroad was coming through the territory, Mesilla bid for it but bid too high and it went to Las Cruces instead. The commercial and social dominance of the region was then shifted to Las Cruces and Mesilla had very little growth after that point. Because the people who live there still wanted to keep the flavor of history, much of the town was carefully preserved or rebuilt to look like it had in the 1800's and today it is known for its tourist appeal because of this. Each year the city holds large Cinco de Mayo and El Dia de Los Muertos celebrations which draw many tourists to the town.

The Food: Posole

Normally I would wax poetic about the history of the dish I made, but what I discovered made me so uncomfortable that I am actually not going to write about it here. If you want to know, you can easily find it on the internet, but do so at your own risk. The basic history, though, is this: Posole comes from Mexico and has a very long history that goes back to ancient times. It was a dish eaten in ritualistic fashion for spiritual ceremonies and though it is still very popular now, the recipe has changed over the years.

Posole is essentially a meat, chile, and hominy stew. This is the first time I have ever eaten hominy and I have been looking forward to trying it for a long time. It did not disappoint. The flavor and texture of hominy is fantastic! It tasted like eating corn tortillas in little nugget form. It's chewy and filling and acts as the starch in the dish. At first I was concerned that such a simple recipe would be enough to work for an entire meal. The hominy is definitely enough to fill you up. Though I did dip a flour tortilla in the sauce and that was lovely too. And because New Mexico is known for their chiles, I wanted to feature a dish that used them, and this dish did just that. In fact, the chiles and sauces I bought came from New Mexico, which made it feel extra special to me.

 I had a basic recipe I found and a couple recipe cards of my own but I really just turned this into my own dish. I will share the link of the base recipe but type out what I did. This was really easy and I did it in the crockpot so it was even easier! I got a late start but it still ended up being done in a few hours anyway. It was a bit spicy, so you might cut back on the spices I added if you like less spice. Here's the recipe:

Summer's Crockpot Posole-
1 (25oz) can hominy, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can green enchilada sauce
1 (15 oz) can red enchilada sauce
1 (4oz) can diced mild green chiles
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 lb. pork spare ribs, trimmed of fat, diced in bite-sized pieces
1(ish) Tbsp. canola oil
1(ish) tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt/Pepper to taste
Cilantro-You might think this is a travesty, but I used dried cilantro because I am one of those cilantro haters. However, I don't hate the taste as much as I cannot stomach the smell, so dried cilantro fixed that issue for me. I didn't have to chop any, but I got a bit of the flavor, but not so much that it ruined it for me. You are more than welcome to use fresh if you like, but if you do, add this to the crockpot about a half hour or so before you'll be serving the posole. You can also use it as a topping for the dish too.

In a frying pan, saute the onions and garlic until softened. Add the pork and brown on all sides. Add chili powder, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Pour the hominy, enchilada sauces, and green chiles into the insert of a crockpot. Rinse out the inside of the cans with water and add this to the crockpot. When the meat is browned, pour the contents of the frying pan into the crockpot as well. Stir well and put the lid on it. Turn it on high for about 3 hours. This makes 4 servings.

This was such a delicious meal and it was so easy to make. I think the hominy was the best part and I really need to research other dishes for it because I could see myself eating that all the time now. If you like spicy foods, you will like this. And if you prefer one of the colors of enchilada sauce over the other, you can absolutely use all of one or the other. I just couldn't make up my mind so I did one of each. I highly recommend dipping tortillas in the sauce. It's really good that way! If it's too spicy for you, I suppose you could mix in some sour cream to cut the heat a bit, but I didn't try that. If you try it like that, you'll have to let me know what you think!

City History

Basic Recipe

City Pic

City Map-Note, the blue is Mexico, not the ocean.

City Info

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