Robert C. Ross
- Published on Amazon.com
The Western National Parks Association described this book when it was published in 1999 as follows:
"Color photographs and straightforward directions show you how to enjoy the delicious traditional food of the Southwest. Includes all the favorites from delicious standards like chicken enchiladas and caldo to tasty Indian fry bread and empanadas."
The Association is dedicated to producing high quality books about the parks, the cultures and the food of the western United States, all well edited and very reliable. Best yet, any profits go to the Association itself which provides a number of services at several National Parks.
I was lucky enough to tour several western National Parks last summer, and in the visitors centers, this book was always on display, and almost always with the word "BESTSELLER" in red text on a white circle prominently appearing on the cover. I asked the volunteers what they thought about the book, and to a person they had copies at home and often used them. Finally, at Chaco Canyon, I finally succumbed, and bought a copy of my own. I am very glad I did.
In the Introduction, Nysom asks:
"So what is 'real' Southwestern food? A taco in Texas might be made from shredded beef and red chile, while a taco in New Mexico might be prepared with ground beef and green chile. An enchilada in a trendy Dallas restaurant might have crab in it, whereas the chef in an upscale Phoenix eatery might be equally as proud of his ground lamb enchiladas. A television chef from Santa Monica might tout the use of raw poblanos and a restauranteur promoting a book on a morning show might induce the host to eat shark fin tamales.
"In Authentic Southwestern Cooking we have tried to give you a taste of the cooking as exemplified by what cooks in the Southwest make and eat when there is no one watching and they are not trotting out the fine china for company. In this way we hope you will get the real feel of the area and be able to create some of these wonderful dishes in your kitchen."
Nysom's text is just the ticket for that sort of approach: direct, simple, loving, careful to explain in very clear terms what an outsider to the cuisine might not understand. But never condescending. A friend at your side, whether just reading for general education or trying to make your own Green Chile Sauce or a Basic Red Chile Sauce.
Sure, you can buy countless versions of either sauce from grocery stores, restaurants, gift shops, on Amazon or from roadside stands. But I suggest you would learn a great deal about the Southwest by giving this recipe a try in your own kitchen:
"You can use this classic red chile sauce for enchiladas, huevos rancheros, and as an accompaniment to posole.
"Although many purists do not like tomato added to this sauce, I feel that a touch of tomato gives more body to the sauce.
15 to 20 dried mild red chile pods
(or to your taste -- you can use hot, if you prefer)
4 to 5 cups of water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tomato past (optional)
Wash the chile pods and remove the stems and place in a heavy saucepan, add the water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for approximately 15 minutes. Let cool, then spoon some of the chile pods into a blender, covering with water until the blender is no more than half full. Pulse until blended, then strain through a sieve.
Repeat the process until all the chile pods are blended. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, stir in the flour, and let cook, over high heat, until the four just begins to turn brown.
Stir in the red chile, cumin, salt and tomato paste. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes.
Makes 5 to 6 cups
Cumin? In the Southwest of the United States? Really?
Really. While making up a batch, I checked out cumin on the Internet, and found that it has been known for thousands of years, brought to the Americas by Spanish colonists, and thriving in Southwest cuisine as a result.
There are many other discoveries in this slim book, 60 pages in all, and available for as little as a penny from Amazon vendors. I'd say it is worth bit of that -- and as much as the Western National Parks Association charges for it -- around eight bucks in the places I saw it last year.
Robert C. Ross
revised April 2015