Tomasita’s and the Atrisco Cafe are among a handful of Santa Fe restaurants that list genuine chicos on their menu. And in case you don’t know, chicos are kernels of ripe sweet yellow corn that has been dried by traditional methods dating back thousands of years. Their full name, ‘chicos del horno,’ is a reference to the horno mud oven in which the corn is steam-baked before being dried. The process is lengthy and time consuming and not too many farmers are prepared to take it on these days. Fortunately for us, our source, Jesus Guzman, has been growing corn and making chicos on his farm in Nambe since 1980
“I do it because I love it,” he says simply, “and I think it’s important to keep the tradition alive.” Born into a farming family, all his seeds are heirloom and organic.
Corn baked in an horno acquires a distinctive color and sweet, smoky flavor and, once dried, will keep for a long time. “It makes for great comfort food,” says Jesus, “especially in the winter.” One horno can hold about 1,000 ears of corn, so, in spite of the short harvesting season (from the end of August through September) he is able to make enough chicos to sell year round. Jesus also sells chicos and other corn-based products, at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings.
Tomasita’s features chicos and beans Fridays and Saturdays and the Atrisco Café serves them on Mondays. Be sure to ask your server for chicos in your beans. If you haven’t tried our chicos, you’re in for a treat!
CHICOS for beans or other stews
4 oz dried corn chicos
¾ lbs diced pork (butte or shoulder)
1 quart. water (add more during cooking if necessary.)
1 cups diced onions
¾ tee-spoon salt
1 table spoons dried granulated garlic
1 table spoons oregano
1 table spoons olive oil
1 table spoons chicken base
Rinse and drain chicos
Preheat pan add pork & oil sear until golden brown
Add onions & sauté until almost golden
Add corn to above ingredients & stir
Add water to cover and stir in chicken base, bring to a slow simmer
Soup is finished when chicos are tender but not soggy, still a bite to the corn.
Now, add this chico “soup” to your pinto beans, red or green chile, or any soup or stew. For beans, the ratio should be about 20% chicos and 80% beans. You can freeze the stew for later use.