Okay, let me first explain the picture you see above. I know it looks like a big pile of goo covered with melted casein, er, cheese…and to be honest with you, that’s pretty much what it is!
The beauty of New Mexican cuisine is that it has developed into a perfect hybrid of traditional Spanish/Mexican flavors combined with traditional Native American faire. Red and Green chiles grow like wildflowers in our climate, so pretty much every “native” dish in our state includes chile, chile sauce, chile powder, fried chile, grilled chile…chile chile chile. The New Mexico state motto is “Red or Green,” so you can understand where I’m going with this!
New Mexico is 100 Years Old!
If you read anything about the history of the New Mexico territory (became a state in 1912, happy 100th!), you will understand that this particular patch of land was periodically occupied by Native Americans (mostly pueblo Indians), the Spanish, the Native Americans again, the Mexicans, the Texans, the army, then the Confederacy, Billy the Kid, the Mexicans again (Pancho Villa), and finally the U.S. Cavalry and statehood. In case you didn’t know, Santa Fe is the oldest contiguous capital in the U.S. Amidst all of this conflict, a rich and unique culinary tradition has grown over the last 400 years.
So we get back to that chile thing again. Basically, all native cuisine in this state is designed to incorporate red or green chile in as large a quantity as possible. The pueblo Indians were experts at growing corn, so corn tortillas became a preferred delivery vehicle (they were really more like corn pancakes, not the limp skinny things you buy in the store today). Add some meat (whatever is available, really…pork, goat, cow, horse)…marinate on low heat in your chile sauce, and you have a fairly complete meal.
When the Anglos arrived (gringos to the uninitiated) they brought cheese and potatoes, and more importantly, wheat (I’ll refrain from commenting on that one…at least for now). All of these culinary traditions collided in the New Mexico territory, but one thing remained constant: chile.
Yes, you read that correctly…chile (as in the pepper) is spelled with an E. Chili (as in the meat/tomato stew) is spelled with an I. This is a major pet peeve of mine and I can spot a Midwesterner anywhere I see a recipe titled “Red Chili Enchiladas” (which undoubtedly calls for Wolf brand canned meat chili….which, by the way is NOT gluten free as it contains commercial oats, which are highly contaminated by glutonium. I know this fact because I used to love this enchilada recipe pre-celiac diagnosis…I am from Ohio afterall).
It’s Really a Hodge Podge
If you are a native (or transplanted) New Mexican, the mash-up that you see above that includes potatoes, bacon, chile, onions and eggs will make perfect sense. If you don’t hail from this part of the world, it will look a little foreign (I love Andrew Zimmern…please come to my house!).
Typically, these ingredients are folded together and wrapped in a wheat flour tortilla, which we affectionately refer to as a breakfast burrito (or “lunch” in the land of mañana!), but you can experience this incredible explosion of flavors in a burrito bowl, minus the flour tortilla (think “lower carb”) or you can also use a corn tortilla…or even better, try wrapping this filling in a gluten-free Sandwich Petal (I bet the Chimayo Red Chile variety would be a great pairing…check out my review of Sandwich Petals – from early 2010 - here).The cool thing about New Mexico cuisine is that it is not an exact science. You really get to be very creative here. Start with your base: bacon and potatoes. Fry up (or bake up) some Ore-Ida hash browns or some Ore-Ida tater tots. While that is percolating, fry up some bacon. In a separate sauce pan, start some chile sauce (there are many alternatives, some are available in your local store, some REALLY good ones for mail order).
Chile peppers also pack some powerful health benefits, assuming you aren’t mounting an immune response to chile (while most people will reap the benefits of chile in their diet, there are some who shouldn’t have it…after all, we’ve all been told that whole grains are good for us, but we know that whole grain GLUTEN grains are not in any way healthy for us!).
Meeting In the Middle
I think this concoction is a great compromise for families who are still “gluten-mixed.” There is enough of the fat and goo and deliciousness to keep your gluten-eaters happy, but it is also a naturally gluten-free alternative to a classic southwestern staple. So when everyone gathers at your home for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, you can serve a burrito bowl that everyone will love. And if your boyfriend/husband thinks he is man enough to take on some serious heat in his breakfast, then just see how many glasses of milk or water he has to chug down while he is “missing” his traditional gluten filled breakfast!
Remember folks, this series is not necessarily about “uber” healthy living (yet). I am trying to help people who didn’t necessarily “choose” the gluten free diet, rather it chose them when they were “accidentally” diagnosed with celiac disease while not having the classic gastrointestinal symptoms (gluten may not have made me feel overtly sick…but boy, oh, boy was I sick!). I am trying to help people who are struggling to commit to a strict gluten free diet. I am also trying to help those families who have a monthly food budget of $600, who need to shop at their local “big box” store, and who are just trying to do the best they can with what they have. Mike is going to break down the dollars and cents for everyone in an upcoming post (he’s a money guy, so don’t try to argue with him), but this recipe is a relatively easy and inexpensive way for you to get some moderately healthy foods into your morning routine without too much trouble.
Budget, Budget, Budget!
After all, not everyone can afford to drop $500 on a Vita-Mix and the subsequent organic foods that make up the morning green smoothie. It would be cool if this were possible for everyone (and I think it can be possible with a little planning!), but most importantly, are we trying to help people go gluten-free, or are we trying to win a war that most of our “soldiers” can’t even begin to fight?
Naturally Gluten-Free Burrito Bowls
- Start by baking up some Ore-Ida tater tots (just follow the package directions). If you are feeling particularly bold, then fry up some Ore-Ida hash browns. Start your bacon at this time as well.
- In a separate, small sauce pan, dump your 505 Red Chile Chile Sauce (or Gluten Free Enchilada Sauce (or try making your own homemade gluten free enchilada sauce) on low and let it begin to slowly simmer (if you have Bueno frozen sauce in your local grocery store, I highly recommend it; if not, then you can order great sauce from 505).
- While all of this is happening, prepare your scrambled eggs (or attempt over-easy for the true die-hards) and chop some scallions. A pre-shredded bag of cheese should be available, unless you want to shred your own.
- The potatoes are the base of your bowl, then a thin layer of chile sauce. Sprinkle a little cheese and some bacon. Then a lighter layer of potatoes, more chile sauce and cheese, add some green onions and flop the eggs onto the top.
- More chile sauce (always keep a “topping” amount), the rest of your bacon and onions…and perhaps a dollop of sour cream if your audience is not used to the heat (the dairy will help to “cut” the heat from the chile).
- The great thing about New Mexican cuisine is that it is pretty much a “free-form” skillet, as long as you incorporate red or green chile into your dish.
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