I have two links to New Mexican food…my sweet sister-in-law has some extended family from there originally and my friend Lisa and I took a culinary and artistic road trip through Santa Fe and Albuquerque a few years ago.
That trip was so much fun, despite the fact that we learned a painful, yet important fact about culinary travel, which is that really spicy food plus a lot of fat that is partially used to tame the fire does not lead to happy times for one’s stomach. It was Labor Day weekend, which means green chile time. As we stopped to get our bushel of peppers roasted with our friend we were visiting in Albuquerque, her husband ironically slipped off to get us some Alka-Seltzer. If it wasn’t so painful, it would have been very funny. It was a good trip despite that. The Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe is about the coolest museum I’ve ever been to, perhaps barring the museums we went to in Florence. We shopped at The Spanish Table where I bought a couple jars of awesome piquillo peppers and moscatel vinegar, as well as some olivewood utensils. That’s just a fascinating store anyhow–they sell Paella pans that are literally 5′ across…I can’t imagine how many people could eat off of that much rice. The other thing we discovered about Santa Fe besides an awesome farmer’s market where we ate these rock hard fresh pippin apples was how easy it is to make U-turns there. I love u-turning!
But fond musings of New Mexico aside, apparently bizcochitos are a very famous New Mexican sugar cookie made with lard (they sure seem to use a lot of lard in their food), sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and flavored with anise seeds. I found out about them soon after Lisa’s and my trip, but I’d been avoiding them because I’m not a huge licorice fan. This year I figured I’d give them a chance this year because I can’t eat butter right now and I really love rendering my own lard (an odd fascination I picked up in learning to make tamales a few years ago). If I had known what crispy, pastry-like flaky cookies they would have turned out to be, I would have started making them a long time ago. These are one of those pastries that has multiple layers of flavor–you taste the crisp first, then the cinnamon sugar, then a faint bit of anise, and then the lard right at the end of the taste. Bizcochitos were hands down the dark horse of this year’s cookie selection. And the recipe (I modified it–this is not my favorite cookie book…good ideas, but the recipes don’t all work out right) makes about a million, so there are plenty of opportunities to take a couple without depleting the stash for all of the bags of cookies that I’ve made for people.