“Too fabulous to be stuck in the kitchen” was how Johnny Vollertson (better known as Johnny Vee) started our cooking class at Las Cosas last night- describing himself. With such a humble beginning, it was hard to imagine how the class would unfold. The theme was New Mexico favorites so I was curious as to what I would learn since I have been cooking New Mexican food for the past 25 years.
Well…here goes… test yourself and see how many of these questions you can answer that Johnny Vee taught us in his class. (answers at the end):
1. What does the word enchilada mean?
2. Why were chile ristras invented?
3. What is the state question according to the New Mexican constitution?
4. What is a chipotle?
5. What historically was known as the Holy Trinity of New Mexican cooking ingredients?
6. How many types of chiles exist on our planet?
7. What is the name of the ingredient that makes chiles hot?
8. How many pounds of chiles does one plant normally produce per year?
9. What is the hottest chile pepper in the world?
10. Is a hotter pepper normally fat or skinny?
11. How can you tell when a spice has lost its flavor?
These are a few of the plethora of things we learned cooking with Johnny Vee. I do not know if the best thing about the class was spending time with my funny and self effacing friend, Johnny Vee, or eating the delicious hot homemade tortillas right off the griddle, the chile con queso we made with 17 ingredients (oh my!), the green chile chicken enchiladas, the grilled tomato or tomatillo salsa, the hot homemade sopapillas, or the chocolate ice cream peanut tacos as we were lucky enough to be able to do? Or possibly spending time laughing, cooking and learning with my friends and family who enjoyed the class with me! If you want any of Johhny Vee’s recipes from our class, I will be happy to share them though they may taste a little less delicious than enjoying them with Mr. Fabulous!
1. “in chile”. Most people know that Texans roll ‘em, while New Mexicans cook and serve them flat.
2. To get New Mexicans through the harsh winter months with chiles. Folklore says that one needed to have a ristra the size that is half times your height to have enough chile to get you through the winter. So, since I am five feet tall, I would need a 7 and a half foot long ristra of chiles to make it through each winter.
3. Red or Green? Referring to the type of chile you want on your food and as most know, the answer is Christmas!
4. Not a chain fast food restaurant but a ripened dried smoked jalepeno pepper.
5. Chile, beans and corn since all 3 crops could be planted in the same patch of land and were plentiful.
6. Over 5000 but only 6 or 7 types are typically used in New Mexican cooking.
9. Presently 2 are tied – the bhut jolokia (also known as the ghost pepper) and the scorpion pepper.
10. The skinnier the hotter.
11. When you can’t smell it.