'Tis the Season for Torta de Huevo—I'm not Catholic, but I was born and raised in New Mexico, which is pretty close. (“I was born here all my life, eh?”) Likewise, I don't observe Lent, but I still get into that whole “no meat on Fridays” thing with a similar religious fervor. Why? The Lenten special. A traditional New Mexico Lenten special is either a fish-based dish, or a plate of torta de huevo (like a small, open-faced omelet or frittata), quelitas (stewed greens), calavacitas (sliced, sautéed zucchini, corn and green chile), fideos (marinated spaghetti noodles) and red chile, served with tortillas. It's only served on Fridays during the season. Then it's gone. See this week's “Chowtown” for suggestions on what's available right now. Of course, if you're observing Lent and you need a break from tradition, do what my drummer and his fiancée do on Fridays ... go out for sushi. Lent ends on April 8, though, so eat it up while you can.
Torta de Huevo
This dish has been a Lent mainstay for hundreds of years in New Mexico. Eggs are plentiful during the spring, and a quality source of protein when meat is scarce or forbidden. Dried chile ristras strung up after the fall harvest provide the flavor.
Yields 4 tortas
15 to 18 dried red chile pods
3 cups water
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
1 tablespoon cracker crumbs
1) Remove stems and seeds from the chile pods, wash and dry. Place the chile on a cooking sheet and bake at 350°F until pods are soft. Purée pods and water into a paste in the blender.
2) Combine flour and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until brown. Add chile purée, bring to a boil and simmer until it reaches the consistency of gravy. Add crushed garlic and salt to taste. Simmer an additional 30 minutes.
3) Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Separate the egg whites from the yokes. Beat egg yolks and add cracker crumbs. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff, then fold in the egg yolks. Drop the egg mixture into the hot oil and brown on both sides. Drain on a paper towel. Repeat until all the egg mixture has been cooked. Serve hot with red chile and tortillas on the side.