This time of year in Santa Fe–chile-roasting marks the beginning of the end of summer with smoky aromas of charred skins nearly everywhere around town. Giant gas-fueled chile-roasters are situated in grocery store parking lots, along roadsides, and in the town center, doling out bags of just-charred and peeled chiles to customers. On a recent visit, the Santa Fe Farmers' Market was host to several of these portable on-site roasters, selling chile varieties from producers within about 80 miles of the city. The smell of the roasting peppers floats through the air and sticks with you as an integral ingredient while you browse the bounty of possible accompaniments.
New Mexican cuisine is distinct beyond its annual chile-roasting season. Its dishes are rooted in history and culture, telling stories at the table. Fry bread, for instance, is a Native American recipe created in the late 1800s, when the U.S. government forced Native Americans to relocate from Arizona to New Mexico. The government supplied flour, sugar, and lard to prevent the population from starving. These ingredients were not otherwise part of the Native American diet (which consisted mostly of beans and vegetables), but the people learned to make bread from them and it quickly became a staple and a distinctly New Mexican dish.
This fry bread with roasted jalapeño salsa is easy enough to make wherever you are but tastes markedly like New Mexico. Roasting chiles over an open flame on a gas stove doesn't flaunt the same novelty as enormous rotating drums of charring chiles. But the smell is decidedly the same, and enough to remind you that swim suit season is almost over so you shouldn't fret over enjoying a piece of fried dough piled with steak, beans and fixin's.
Bean and Steak Fry Bread with Roasted Jalapeño Salsa
The salsa is hot, so serve it on the side if you're not sure where your dining companions' tastes fall on the Scoville Scale.
- For the fry bread:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons softened butter
- 1/3 cup warm water
- Peanut, corn or vegetable oil for frying
- For the jalapeño salsa:
- 6 jalapeños
- 1 pound garden tomatoes (any variety), peeled and cored
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 garlic clove, minced and smashed to a paste with 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- For the beans and steak
- 8 ounces flank steak, cut into 1-inch long, 1/8-inch thick slices (against the grain)
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions (white parts only, reserve green for garnish)
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Zest of 1 lime (reserve the rest of the lime for salsa)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked pinto beans (or one 15-ounce can)
- Grated cheddar cheese
- Sour cream
Start by making the dough for the fry bread. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter, stirring into the dry ingredients until well combined. Fold the water into the dry ingredients. When the mixture comes together in a ball, knead it for just about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Let it rest for about 30 minutes.
Combine the steak, scallions, garlic, cumin, coriander, black pepper, zest and oil in a medium mixing bowl. Cover and marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
3. While the dough rests and the steak marinates, make the salsa. Char the jalapeños over an open flame (either on the burners of a gas stove set to high heat or on a grill) until the skin is blackened all over. Transfer the charred chiles to a bowl, cover with a damp paper towel and a dry kitchen towel. After about 15 minutes, or when the chiles are cool enough to handle, peel away the charred skins. Remove the stems and seeds from the jalapeños.
Put the jalapeños and tomatoes in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add the lime juice, garlic and olive oil. Stir to combine and then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the steak, marinade ingredients included, to the pan. Sauté to brown the meat, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Add the beans, stirring to combine, and lower the heat to medium low.
Spread a spoonful of salsa on each piece of hot fry bread. Divide the steak and beans among each serving. Top with cheese, green parts of scallions, a dollop of sour cream and another drizzle of salsa. Serve extra salsa and toppings on the side.