Seeking Comfort in My Grandmother’s Recipes from New Mexico

Elena and her grandmother, Martha Romero

In times of resistance, I find myself seeking comfort in family and food. I was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a city with a rich cultural history and a strong sense of community. I grew up eating calavacitas con chile verde and enchiladas at family gatherings, sipping posole during the holiday season, and sneaking extra biscochito cookies when my parents weren’t looking. After living in Washington, D.C., for five years, and working in 2020 when our most fundamental rights are on the line, I often find myself longing for the familiar feeling and comfort of home.
In partnership with my grandmother, Martha Romero, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite New Mexican recipes to share in celebration of Latinx Heritage month. I’ve learned that making the meals that bring me comfort can be almost as fun as eating them. I hope you have the chance to enjoy one or two recipes, and that they offer you even a brief moment of peace.
A note from my grandmother, Martha Romero:

In traditional New Mexican recipes, there are no set rules. Typical New Mexican dishes are a combination of Spanish, Mexican, and Native American recipes. These dishes became popular across the country because they are nutritious and tasty.
Since there are no rules, every cook adjusts the ingredients, especially the spices, to their liking. But all follow the Spanish proverb “Panza llena, corazón contento.” This means “A full stomach makes for a happy (content) heart.”
Buen provecho, amigos!

Calavacitas Con Chile Verde

  • 1-2 cobs of fresh corn, sliced off the cob
  • ½ cup of roasted green chile, peeled and chopped
  • 4 medium sized summer squash (the round, striped squash is the best)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil or bacon drippings

Shave corn off the cob and thinly slice summer squash so that each slice has some of the green outer peel. In olive oil, sauté corn, green chile, squash, and salt.

New Mexican Enchiladas

Serving size: enough for 4 people

  • 8 corn tortillas
  • Chile sauce (see chile sauce recipe)
  • 1lb ground beef, cubed pork, or shredded chicken (optional)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 small white onion

Fry corn tortillas in a hot and deep pan with olive oil or fat. Spread a layer of chile sauce in an 8×8 baking dish, and add 4 tortillas as a base layer. Sprinkle with cheese and onions, and another layer of chile sauce. Add 4 more tortillas, sprinkle with cheese and onions, and add a final layer of chile sauce. Bake until cheese melts, about 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Tip: In New Mexico, many like a fried egg on top of their enchiladas. You can also add ground beef, cubed pork, or shredded chicken to the chile sauce.

Chile Sauce

Serving size: enough for 4 people

  • 3 tbsp cooking oil or lard
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 8 tbsp chile powder
  • 2 cups of cold water
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or ¼ tsp of garlic salt

Brown flour in cooking oil. Add chile powder to mixture and brown some more. Add cold water and bring to a boil. Be sure all lumps in the chile powder are dissolved. Add salt and oregano.
Tip: Chile can be used as a base for enchiladas. You can also add cooked ground beef or chicken to chile sauce.


Cooking time: 4-6 hours

  • 1 bag of frozen posole, uncooked
  • Water – enough to cover posole, add more as needed
  • 1lb of cubed pork
  • 4 dried chile pods – red
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1tsp marjoram
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium white onion chopped
  • 1-3 tsp of salt, to taste

Bring uncooked posole and water to a boil. When some kernels begin to burst (about 1 hour), add pork, chile pods, and spices. When nearly done, add additional seasonings to taste (garlic, salt, oregano). Continue boiling until all the kernels of posole burst and are soft.


Traditional Christmas Cookie & the Official State of New Mexico Cookie

  • 2 cups lard or 1lb butter at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 tsp anise seed
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 6 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup water


  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, cream lard or butter (usually done by hand). Add anise seed and sugar. Add beaten eggs, beating or blending until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt. Add flour mixture into lard/butter mixture one cup at a time. Add water and knead until well mixed. Let stand for a few minutes.
Roll dough ½ inch thick and cut into shapes of your choice (stars, circles, squares). Then, roll cookie in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.
Bake in oven at 350 degrees until slightly brown, about 12 minutes. Check often to prevent burning.

  • 1-quart milk
  • 1 stick of cinnamon (1 inch)
  • 2 tbsp strong coffee
  • 2 squares of sweet chocolate, melted (melt in microwave or ½ cup of boiling water)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp nutmeg

Heat milk to boiling with cinnamon stick and coffee. Remove cinnamon stick and add melted chocolate. Heat again to a boil. Remove from stove, add vanilla and salt. Beat with egg beater or whisk until foamy.