Beehive oven used for cooking New Mexican dishes
Santa Fe, New Mexico — there's unusual outdoor cooking in New Mexico, off and on the 18 pueblos, 19 if you include the Hopi of neighboring Arizona. The cooking comes from an adobe outside oven called a horno by Spanish-speaking New Mexicans and others who appreciate its charms.
A bee-hive shaped object, the horno fits naturally into the Southwest landscape described by writer William Hardwick as "sun, shadow, sand, adobe and silence." From the efficient adobe oven comes some of the best food you have ever tasted, especially meat dishes, breads, and baked deserts.
You don't have to be an Indian to bake in a horno, but it helps to have lived a long time among the Indians. When Kansas-born Blanche Rottluff moved to Santa Fe, she wanted to continue this unique style of cooking learned while working many years as an archaeologist on various Indian reservations.
Her adobe oven was built by friends, Isabella and Ben Gonzales of Rancho de Taos, New Mexico, and their grandson Paul. It is placed next to the garden at the back of the comfortable, spacious home which she and her husband Karl have filled with Indian and Southwestern artifacts.
Here are several New Mexican recipes from a small pamphlet Blanche and her husband prepared for friends one year at Christmas. All can be done in a traditional over or certain types of outdoor barbecue ovens. Adobe Oven Chili Con Carne 3/4 pound pinto beans 1 1/2 pounds pork rib and additional pork bones 1 pound ground boneless chuck 2 onions, chopped 1 pod of garlic, pressed 2 red chili pepper pods or 1 tablespoon chili powder 3 green chili peppers or 1 can green chili 1 can tomato puree 1 teaspoon oregano 1 teaspoon cumin Black pepper and salt to taste
Wash beans thoroughly. Cover with water and soak overnight, or 8 hours. Remove pork from bones and dice it. Brown diced pork and bones, beef, onions, and garlic lightly. Add to beans in large oven proof pot along with other ingredients including bones. Cover with water and mix well.
Bake in oven 4 to 6 hours or until beans are tender. You may boil beans separately for 35 minutes before combining with other ingredients; cooking time will be decreased about an hour.
Remove bones from chili con carne and serve with tortillas. Four tortillas are traditional, but the ones you find in your supermarket freezer in most large cities will substitute.
According to Blanche Rottluff, fruit pies and cookies are delicious baked in the horno. The traditional cookie of New Mexico is Biscochito, and here is the recipe from "The Best from New Mexico Kitchens," New Mexico Magazine, 1978. Biscochitos 6 cups flour 1/4 teaspoons baking powder 1 pound (2 cups) lard 1 1/2 cups sugar 2 teaspoons anise seeds 2 eggs 1/4 cup milk 1/4cup sugar 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Cream lard with sugar and anise seeds until fluffy. Beat eggs one at a time. Add flour mixture and milk until well blended.
Turn out on lightly floured board and pat or roll to 1/4-or 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into shapes. The Fleur-de-lis is a traditional pattern.
Dust with mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Place on baking sheets. Bake 7 minutes or until lightly browned. In an ordinary oven, bake about 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.