Cheryl Alters Jamison talks with Ray Sandoval, head of the Kiwanis Club’s Zozobra project, about food traditions around Santa Fe’s hottest event
A favorite during Zozobra’s burning and Fiesta de Santa Fe, this is from the 50th Anniversary Rancho de Chimayó Cookbook (© Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, 2015). A good batch of New Mexico chicharrónes is considered a real delicacy, a true cause for celebration. Forget the crinkly pork rinds that people in other areas call chicharrónes. The New Mexico dish is a crispy morsel of meat fried slowly in its own fat. The most popular way to eat them is in a hand-held burrito, though you can smother them in green or red chile sauce and eat them plated if you wish.
3 pounds fatty pork butt or shoulder, untrimmed, cut into strips about ½ X 2 inches (often labeled as meat for chicharrónes in New Mexico)
1 quart water
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
6 large flour tortillas, warmed
About 3 cups chopped roasted mild to medium New Mexico green chile, fresh or thawed frozen, warmed
1. Place the pork in a large Dutch oven or other deep heavy pan. Pour the water over the meat and add the 1 teaspoon of salt.
2. Plan on a total cooking time of 1½ to 2½ hours. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring the mixture up from the bottom after 30 minutes and again after an hour. Quite a bit of fat should render from the pork so that after an hour or so, the pork should be frying slowly in its fat as the liquid gradually evaporates.
3. In the second hour of cooking, stir every 10 minutes or so, to make sure the meat cooks evenly throughout. Watch the chicharrónes carefully, stirring more and more frequently toward the end of the cooking so the meat doesn’t burn. Chicharrónes are ready when the meat is richly brown, completely tender, and crispy chewy in spots. You will still have lots of strips of meat, but also crumbly extra-crisp bits of meat and fat that separated during the stirring. Drain with a slotted spoon and cool on paper towels. Sprinkle with more salt if you wish.
4. Arrange about 1½ cups of chicharrónes down the center of a tortilla. Scatter about ½ cup of green chile over the meat. Roll up the tortilla snugly around the filling, securing if you wish with a “collar” of folded foil surrounding 1 end to keep the burrito rolled. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
5. Serve warm, picked up and eaten with your hands.
Ahead-of-time note: Chicharrónes can be kept at room temperature for the rest of the day that they are made. If any remain, they can be bagged and refrigerated. To serve again, scatter on a baking sheet and reheat them for a few minutes in a 250° F oven.