Just before Christmas I went to go visit my dad in Santa Fe. I hadn’t been to “The City Different” in sixteen years, which is now half of my life. When I lived there as a kid I took it for granted. It has a very slow pace, which I appreciate as an adult, but really hated when I was young. Seeing it again after a decade reminded me of how unique it really is there.
Before I left to go out there I can’t even tell you how many people commented on the fact that “Wasn’t it lovely I was going to go somewhere warm?” If you know about Santa Fe then you realize how this statement proves just how little people know about Santa Fe. It’s the high desert. It snowed the day we arrived and the day we left. New Mexico is sort of like Delaware or Kentucky in that you know they exist but you probably don’t know much about them, and don’t care either.
Well, even if you never get to Santa Fe (but you really should!) you can try New Mexican Hot Cocoa. It’s different, and this leads me to my thoughts for the new year.
I have been trying a few different things lately and plan to keep them up. For instance, I’ve drastically reduced our wheat intake over the last few weeks. Considering how much I love to bake, I’ve been tinkering more and more with gluten-free and grain-free recipes. Some have worked and others haven’t but I plan to keep tinkering.
I’ve been trying to be diligent about meal planning. Although this does help save us money, it generally saves my sanity even more. For me, cooking mostly from scratch, I need to plan certain things out in advance so I know I’ll have enough time to get them all done. For instance, if I know I need corn tortillas to go with a meal, I need to figure in the time for making them, lest running to the store for the ones loaded with preservatives. And, of course, I’m using the FSC Meal Planners each week.
My husband and I have started making our own bitters too, which sort of feels like mixing alchemy, history, and cooking together. It’s a lot of fun, and I plan to keep it up.
My son is now 8 and he’s been cooking with me on and off for a few years but my goal this year is to get him to be more independent in the kitchen. Today I made him spread his own PB on his toast. I’m sure there are younger kids that can and have done this, but considering I tend of flip out a bit with kitchen messes, I haven’t been as great as I probably could’ve in having him do these things sooner.
RECIPE: HOT CHOCOLATE NEW MEXICO STYLE
(from the Museum of International Folk Art)
- 2 to 3 heaping T. of dark Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 1 quart whole or 2% milk
- 2 or 3 dried New Mexican red chilies, stemmed, seeded, and broken into small pieces*
- 1 t. ground ginger
- 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 t. cayenne
- 1/4 t. salt
- 4 to 5 T. granulated sugar
- Whipped cream
Pour about 1/2 the cream into a bowl or pitcher. Spoon in the cocoa powder and whisk really well. You sort of want to make a slurry with this small amount of liquid, otherwise the cocoa gets really clumpy.
Stir in the rest of the cream, milk, chiles, spices, and salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least a few hours, for the flavors to infuse.
Pour the chocolate mixture through a strainer into a heavy saucepan. Warm over medium heat, stirring gently, until tiny bubbles form around the pan’s edge and the chocolate is hot. Now add in the sugar. I noticed both times I made this I wanted a tad more sugar and cocoa in it, so I added some right at the end.
Serve with whipped cream. I also sprinkled a little more cinnamon onto the whipped cream before drinking it.
NOTE: If you can’t find the chiles you can use a dry red chile of your choice, just not one that’s too spicy, otherwise it will overpower the cocoa.
DAIRY FREE OPTION
The second time I made this I wanted to try it as a dairy free version. I used almond milk in place of all the milk and cream. I sort of used horchata as my inspiration for that milk choice. It was way too thin. This drink is supposed to be rich and you need the heaviness of the milkfat to stand up to the rich chocolate and the spice.
Here’s what I would recommend
Replace all of the dairy with a heavier milk, like a coconut milk. If you don’t want to use all coconut you could probably cut it with another dairy-free milk that has a heavier body like a hemp or almond milk. I would advise against rice milk since it’s so watery.