Holidays are just around the corner following what may feel like the craziest year of your life.
We all need a little (or a lot more) love, warmth, laughter, and FAMILY with a year like this. 2020 has brought many unknowns into all of our lives; many what-ifs, whys, and hows. There is one thing that I know is solid: my family. I hope yours is too! Whatever “family” may be to you (your friends, parents, siblings, coworkers, community, or even pets), family is the one thing we all have to rely on and be extremely grateful for.
Due to COVID, all of our holidays may look a little different this year—socially distanced, no holiday parties, and the entirety of things that have become the norm throughout this wild, unforgettable year. Speaking as a native New Mexican, I can tell you there are still many things to be grateful and excited for this holiday season. For me, spending time in the kitchen with my loved ones and making our favorite New Mexican foods is a cherished time for me and one of the many reasons I look forward to the holiday season. We sometimes forget the simple pleasures of waking up to a messy kitchen, listening to grandparents tell stories, and spending quality time with your loved ones. This season is about bringing joy to others and being grateful and kind to one another in whatever ways we can. In my family, we cook for all those we care about. Let me tell you, the warmth I receive from giving something made from my heart and with my loved ones just hits different.
In my family, the holidays are a very big deal. From the decor to the food and drinks and even the music playing in the background behind the family chatter, all of the contributions are well thought out. Still, I genuinely don’t think that is anything like making something together as a family. As New Mexicans, we are all familiar with biscochitos and tamales, especially around the holidays. They are staples in New Mexican culture, especially as a holiday gift.
Although this may not be your typical holiday season, you can still make it one to remember with your loved ones. After a year that most of us never thought we would experience in a lifetime, you can mostly make it magical by giving to those who need it the most.
Biscochitos: A Traditional Mexican Cookie
Yield: 5 dozen / Cook time: 10 – 12 minutes
- 1 pound pure lard, room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 Tbsp. anise extract
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Beat lard with 1 1/2 cups of sugar medium until fluffy about 2 minutes
- Beat in anise and eggs
- In a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, and salt
- Add lard mixture and knead until dough forms
- Roll out half of dough 1/4 inch thick and cut out cookies with a 2-inch cookie cutter
- Transfer to ungreased cookie sheet
- Bake until golden brown and let cookies cool slightly
- Mix remaining sugar with cinnamon and toss warm cookies in mixture
- Let cool completely
Red Chile Pork Tamales
- Pork butt roast
- 15 – 20 dry red chile pods
- 1 pound box lard
- Corn husks
*Pro tip! Order 5 pounds of pre-made masa from Fenn’s at the deli.
Instructions: Pork Tamales Filling
- Cook pork butt roast in deep pot with a small amount of water on low to medium heat for about an hour or until tender
- Drain water but save it to use for the masa
- Let meat cool and shred it
- Put 15 – 20 dry red chile pods in water and simmer until they are soft (about 20 minutes)
- Blend soft pods with a small amount of water and salt to taste until the chile is very smooth
- Fry the meat with small amount of oil for about a minute of low heat
- Add blended chile to the meat (you want your meat to be a little saucy, not too runny)
- Let simmer on low for about 5 to 10 minutes; add more salt if needed
Instructions: Masa Dough
- Melt 1 pound box of lard and let cool
- Break up masa in big bowl
- Add the melted lard slowly and knead until all of the lard is added
- Add some of the saved water from meat and continue to knead the masa. Add salt and chile to give color. You don’t want it to be runny but it will be sticky!
- Use a rubber spatula to clean off sides of bowl and hands
- Put masa in small bowl and meat mixture in another when you sit down to make the tamales
- Unfold and separate corn husks. Put in warm water (this will make them easier to fold)
- Take a few out at a time so they can drain
- Use a knife to spread a thin layer of masa on the top portion of corn husk and a spoonful of meat mixture in the middle
- Fold the husk over and bring the bottom to the top
- Stand them in a deep pot without crowding and add about a fourth of a cup of water
- Cover with a dish towel or lid and steam for about 45 minutes.
- You can freeze the uncooked tamales until ready to eat or cook them! Enjoy!
Article written by Ali Lykins and originally published in Focus Regional 2020 Winter edition.