Question: On a perfect day in Santa Fe, N.M., we explored the shops surrounding the Plaza, enjoyed a late lunch, toured some art galleries, and ate dinner at SantaCafe. We didn't care about ordering because the table chili bread was so good. I'd like to have this recipe. - Paula Leary, Macon, Ga.Answer: In 1843, "Kit" Carson left his home in Taos, N.M., to intercept a wagon train on the Santa Fe Trail. As Carson and his companion, riding a mule, rode from timber to rolling plain, they were chased by a war party of Utes. Carson, astride a horse, could have outrun the Utes, but he chose to stay to defend his companion. As the Utes encircled them, the two men stood firm, back to back, with their single-shot muzzleloaders leveled at the war party's leaders. The standoff saved their lives. Out of respect for Carson's courage and character, the Utes wheeled their ponies and rode away.
Carson's larger-than-life escapades caught the imagination of the American public. The trapper guide, army scout and courier, Indian agent, campaigner against Mescalero Apaches and Navajos, rancher and Civil War hero became a celebrity. Although "dime novels" depicted him as an Indian killer (he was in charge of the Navajo campaign of 1863 that set Navajos on their tragic Long Walk to the Pecos), Carson's first two wives were American Indian, and he had a half-Arapaho daughter. He and his Hispanic third wife, Josefa, adopted a Navajo boy from a Ute war party. Some historians concede that Carson killed only when his life or property was threatened. The inscription on the plain sandstone obelisk in front of the Federal Courthouse in downtown Santa Fe reads in tribute to Kit Carson, "He Led the Way."
A brief stroll from the Kit Carson Monument takes you to Washington Street and SantaCafe, where the most asked question, "Red or green?" refers to the chili sauce on your New Mexican cuisine. The hotter red chili, rich in vitamin C and often prescribed for fighting a cold or nursing a hangover, has ripened on the vine longer. Lively green chilies lend SantaCafe's egg-rich Chili Brioche just enough heat to please the palette.
SANTACAFE CHILI BRIOCHE
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 ounce active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons lukewarm water (105-115 degrees)
2 tablespoons milk (105-115 degrees)
1/4 cup roasted, peeled and minced green chilies
3 small eggs at room temperature
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Fill a muffin tin with liners or paper baking cups and set aside. In large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, yeast, salt, red chili flakes and black pepper. Mix by hand to combine. Set aside. In small saucepan over low heat, combine water and milk, and warm to desired temperature. Make a well in center of flour mixture, add warm liquid all at once and stir to combine. Stir in green chilies. Break eggs into a small bowl, beat lightly, and add all at once to dough. Mix by hand until dough is well blended and forms a ball.
Using hands, work butter into dough piece by piece. Continue working dough for 2 minutes to distribute the butter. Dough will be wet and sticky. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead lightly in flour (adding a little more flour as needed) until dough can be handled. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces, roll each piece into a ball, and place in lined muffin tin. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place 1 hour or until dough rises and fills liners.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls 25 to 30 minutes or until they are golden brown. Yields 12 small rolls (or 1 loaf).