With the springtime nearly upon us, and Easter just a few weeks away, most people turn their thoughts toward rebirth, renewal, and the flowering of another season. This is the time of year when flowers and plants begin to bloom again, when seedlings sprout and, for us chile lovers, when the spring weather urges our favorite red and green peppers to start their growth cycle to be ready in early autumn.
Like Christmas, the other major holiday celebrating a seasonal change and a pivotal event in religious and cultural history, red chile is also a mainstay of Lenten and Easter feasts around New Mexico.
Catholics worldwide observe Lent by abstaining from meat on Fridays, and on Good Friday, the last Friday before Easter Sunday, a large, meatless meal is prepared and eaten with family and friends. New Mexico Catholic families have a very unique set of dishes they prepare for the annual Lenten meal: salmon or tuna patties, beans, quelites with red chile flakes, a dessert of cinnamon-spiced natillas, and torta de huevo with red chile sauce.
Torta de Huevo
Torta de huevo are small patties made from beaten egg whites mixed with the whipped yolks (and a few other things). They are fried quickly in hot oil and served on a floating river of rich red chile sauce. Similar to how red chile sauce is used as gravy in New Mexico households at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, torta de huevo are a staple at Lent and Easter tables throughout the state. It’s nearly impossible to imagine either holiday without a bowl of luscious, rich red chile sauce at the table to ladle over potatoes or turkey or to pour generously over a bowl of beans or tasty torta de huevo patties. This is my grandmother Jean’s traditional family recipe. Enjoy!
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/3 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 tablespoon cream of tartar
- Salt to taste
- Grapeseed, canola or olive oil for frying
- 3 cups red chile sauce
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ small onion, finely diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules or paste
Optional: 1 Tablespoon flour or cornstarch to thicken the red chile sauce
- Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
- Mix up the yolks with a fork, and add the salt.
- Add the cream of tartar and the baking powder to the egg whites. Beat with a hand mixer or in a Kitchen Aid mixer until stiff peaks form and hold a point.
- Fold the egg yolks into the whipped egg whites.
- Heat the oil in a skillet at medium high heat. Ladle in a tablespoon scoop of the torta de huevo mixture. The eggs will fluff up as they cook.
- Cook the torta de huevo until it becomes golden brown. You may need to turn it once in the hot oil to ensure all sides are cooked evenly.
- You can cook up to 5-6 patties at a time, but don’t overcrowd your skillet or they will come out soggy and greasy.
- Drain the cooked torta de huevo patties on paper towels.
- Lightly saute the garlic and onion in a bit of oil, and add to the red chile sauce. Heat together, then add the salt, pepper, and chicken bouillon. Taste for seasoning and texture. If you prefer a thicker red chile sauce, whisk in the flour or cornstarch here.
To serve: either plate several torta de huevo and cover generously with red chile sauce, or do what my grandfather would do, and make a bowlful of beans, covered in red chile, and float the torta de huevo on top.
Please leave your recipe modifications, or any questions that you may have, in the comments.
If you live in an area where red chile is hard to find, you can order from the Hatch Chile Store. They ship frozen red and green chile nationwide. They have mild to hot varieties available. Each package is 1 pound, which is approximately 2 cups.