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Piñons & Pecans

Piñons and pecans have long been staple crops in New Mexico.

New Mexico chefs have devised various ways to bring the piñon nut’s mellow flavor into main dishes, sides, and desserts. We asked a few for recipes that could elevate a Thanksgiving feast. If New Mexico piñons aren’t available, you can substitute other varieties, which are generally available at grocery stores already shelled.

The pecan harvest kicks off in November, right in sync to make multiple appearances on Thanksgiving tables, where pecans finally get their chance to dazzle—in everything from crunchy dressing to gooey pie.  

Here are some of our favorite recipes

New Mexico Recipes HomeGo Nuts in New Mexico | Homemade In Hatch

    Piñon-Crusted Pork Tenderloin With Piñon-Basil Pesto

    Recipe courtesy of Sllin Cruz of Geronimo restaurant in Santa Fe.

    Pinon encrusted pork roast

    Serves: 2

    INGREDIENTS
    • 7 ounces pork tenderloin
    • 2 cups toasted piñon nuts
    • ¼ cup Japanese panko bread crumbs
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • Salt and pepper to taste 
    • 2 ounces fresh basil leaves
    • 1 ounce spinach
    • 2 parsley leaves
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    DIRECTIONS
    1. To make the pesto: Blend 1 cup of toasted piñon nuts, basil, spinach, parsley, garlic cloves, Parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil in a food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    2. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the tenderloin and rub the mustard onto its surface.
    3. Blend 1 cup of the piñon nuts and the panko crumbs in a food processor. Cover tenderloin with the crust mixture.
    4. Heat a sauté pan and sear tenderloin with 1 tablespoon of butter until browned. Put in oven at 350° for 12 minutes.
    5. Remove from oven and allow meat to rest for 5 minutes. Cut into equal portions and serve with pesto.

    Pine Nut Soup

    Recipe courtesy of Freddie Bitsoie of Mitsitam Café at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

    Pine Nut soup

    Serves: 4

    INGREDIENTS
    • 2 cups piñon nuts (plus a few for garnish)
    • ½ teaspoon canola oil
    • 1 small yellow onion, diced
    • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 bay leaf
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon pepper
    • 3½ cups vegetable or chicken stock
    • ½ cup milk
    • A few mint leaves, chopped
    DIRECTIONS
    1. In a sauté pan, sweat the onion in the oil over medium heat, then add the thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper.
    2. Add the piñon nuts and allow them to toast for a few minutes. (Do not let them burn.)
    3. Pour in stock, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes.
    4. Pour the soup into a blender and purée until smooth.
    5. Strain it through a sieve back into the pan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
    6. Add the milk and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot, garnished with mint and piñon nuts.

    Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Recipe courtesy of Chef Travis Tegreeney of Y’aak’a Café at Acoma Pueblo.

    Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Serves: 4

    INGREDIENTS
    • 2 acorn squashes
    • Salt, pepper, and ground coriander to taste
    • 3 cups chicken stock
    • 1½ cups wild rice
    • ½ cup piñon nuts
    DIRECTIONS
    1. Halve the acorn squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Brush the flesh with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, and coriander.
    2. Place in 350° oven for 35–40 minutes until fork-tender.
    3. Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock to a rolling boil, add the wild rice, and season with salt and pepper. When the mixture returns to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes until tender.
    4. Heat a sauté pan on medium, add piñon nuts, and cook for 3–4 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Remove from heat when the nuts are lightly toasted. Add to wild rice.
    5. Stuff rice mixture into cooked squash and serve.

    Optional: Top with your favorite chile sauce.

    Chocolate Piñon Torte

    Recipe courtesy of David Perry and Matt DiGregory of the Range Café, Albuquerque and Bernalillo.

    Chocolate Piñon Torte

    Serves: 12

    INGREDIENTS
    • 2½ cups toasted piñon nuts
    • 3 tablespoons flour
    • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    • 2 cups heavy cream
    • 6 eggs
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
    DIRECTIONS
    1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a saucepan or microwave, melt the chocolate with ½ cup of the heavy cream. Set aside to cool.
    2. In a food processor, grind the nuts until chunky.
    3. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform or cheesecake pan. Put the nuts in the pan and tilt to cover the bottom and sides. Gently tap out any nuts that don’t stick and return them to the food processor. Add the flour to the remaining nuts and pulse to create a coarse flour.
    4. Place the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar in a metal mixing bowl. Place the bowl over medium heat and whisk continuously until warm. (This helps dissolve the sugar into the eggs.) Put the bowl in a mixer. With a wire whip, beat the eggs until tripled in volume and thick. Fold the egg mixture into the cooled chocolate, then fold in the remaining nut and flour mixture.
    5. Whip ½ cup heavy cream to very soft peaks. (Do not overwhip.) Fold into the batter.
    6. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for exactly 15 minutes. Remove and cool. The torte will appear to be undercooked, but this is the desired appearance. Serve with the remaining cream, freshly whipped.

    Pecan Pie

    This particular pecan pie is a beauty, chock full of many more nuts than the oft-used recipe on the back of the corn syrup bottle. Can you use a store-bought crust? Sure, but if it’s Thanksgiving, or your loved one requests pie instead of cake for a birthday, consider making your own. It’s not nearly as tough as the manufacturers of those prefab crusts would like you to believe. For the most beautiful slices, let the pie sit for a minimum of two hours before slicing. Pecan pie can be made a full day ahead, if you wish.

    Recipe courtesy of Cheryl Alters Jamison

    Pecan Pie

    Serves 8

    Flaky Single Pie Crust
    • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small cubes, well chilled
    • 6 tablespoons lard, well chilled
    • 4 to 6 tablespoons ice water
    Filling
    • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
    • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
    • 2 tablespoons molasses
    • 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) unsalted butter
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 2 tablespoons bourbon
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 4 large eggs
    • 3 tablespoons whole milk
    • 2 cups pecan pieces
    • Pecan halves, about 1 cup
    Directions

    Grease a 9- to 10-inch deep-dish pie pan. Prepare pie crust. In a food processor, pulse together flour and salt, then scatter butter over it and quickly pulse several times just to submerge butter in flour. Scoop lard into small spoonfuls and scatter them over flour-butter mixture; pulse again quickly several more times until it disappears into flour too. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of water over mixture and pulse again quickly, just until water disappears.

    Dump mixture into a large bowl or onto a pastry board. Lightly rub dough with your fingers. Add more water a tablespoon at a time as you rub. When dough holds together if compacted with your fingers, stop. It’s ready. Pat dough into a disk about 1 inch thick. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

    On a floured board or counter, use a rolling pin to roll out dough into a thin round about 2 inches larger than pie pan. Lift crust carefully and arrange it in pie pan, avoiding stretching it. Crimp edge decoratively, then refrigerate crust for at least 15 additional minutes.

    Preheat oven to 375° F. Form a drip pan for the oven’s lower shelf, turning up the sides of a large sheet of aluminum foil.

    Prepare filling, first combining brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, butter, and salt in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and leave at a rolling boil for 30 seconds (give it 1 minute if cooking above 5,000 feet altitude), stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat and stir in bourbon and vanilla extract. Let mixture cool to warm room temperature, stirring occasionally.

    Whisk eggs with milk, then whisk into cooled syrup mixture. Stir in pecan pieces. Pour filling into pie crust. Top entire surface with a neat layer of pecan halves, in concentric circles if you like.

    Bake pie for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350° F. Cook for 30 to 35 additional minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and crust is lightly browned. Let pie sit for at least 2 hours before slicing into wedges and serving.

    Adapted from American Home Cooking, © 1999, Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison
    (William Morrow/HarperCollins Publishers)

    Chile-Pecan Sauce for Turkey

    On a New Mexican Thanksgiving table, it’s not the least bit uncommon to find red chile sauce alongside gravy, for ladling over turkey and mashed potatoes. This sauce can substitute for either, combining some of the best of both. I find the pecan crunch a welcome addition to the soft textures common to the holiday’s main dishes. Try the sauce some other time with grilled pork tenderloin. 

    Recipe courtesy of Cheryl Alters Jamison

    Red Chile Sauce

    Makes about 2 cups

    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 2 to 3 tablespoons minced shallots
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 tablespoons ground dried New Mexican
      red chile
    • 2 cups chicken or turkey stock, preferably a low-sodium variety
    • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    • 2/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted briefly in a dry skillet until fragrant
    • Sea salt or kosher salt

    Warm oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and sauté until softened and lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Stir in red chile and cook about 1 more minute, until fragrant. Pour in stock and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer mixture until it has reduced by approximately one-third, about 20 minutes. (Sauce can be made ahead to this point, early in the day. Reheat before proceeding.) Whisk butter into sauce until melted. Stir in pecans and add salt as needed. Serve warm.

    Pecan-Eggnog French Toast

    French toast is a crowd-pleasing breakfast when you’ve got a houseful of holiday guests. The eggnog lends a festive note. You can easily expand this one to serve more diners.

    Recipe courtesy of Cheryl Alters Jamison

    Pecan-Eggnog French Toast

    Serves 4

    • 8 slices of French bread, about 1 inch thick, preferably cut on the diagonal for
      a broader surface
    • 1½ cups store-bought eggnog
    • 3 large eggs
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • Unsalted butter
    • Vegetable oil
    • 1 cup pecan halves
    • Maple syrup

    Preheat oven to 300° F. Butter a baking sheet.

    Whisk together in a shallow dish the eggnog, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt.

    Dunk bread slices into eggnog mixture and soak them for at least 10 minutes, turning if needed to coat evenly, until saturated but short of falling apart.

    Warm one tablespoon of butter and one of oil together on a griddle or in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook French toast in batches briefly until golden brown and lightly crisp, turning once. Place first slices on baking sheet and keep them warm in oven. Continue cooking remaining slices, adding more butter and oil as needed. When all French toast is ready, add 1 more tablespoon of butter to the griddle. When melted, stir in pecans and sauté briefly until fragrant. Serve French toast immediately, with 2 slices angled over each other on each plate. Scatter pecans equally over portions. Serve with maple syrup.

    Adapted from A Real American Breakfast, © 2002, Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison (William Morrow/HarperCollins Publishers)