New Mexico conejo
Conejo is the Spanish word for “rabbit,” so, of course, this “New Mexico Rabbit,” is a take-off on the popular, but controversially named dish, Welsh Rabbit. Welsh Rabbit, according to my 1953 version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a dish, variously made, of melted or toasted cheese often mixed with ale or beer, poured over toast or crackers; it is a jocose term, like ‘Cape Cod turkey’ (codfish), that through failure to recognize the joke, is commonly modified in cookbooks to “Welsh Rarebit.’”
Those who fail to acknowledge the joke, and those who note that the English hardly ever pronounce r’s in middle-word positions (rarebit and rabbit are pronounced almost identically) have fanned the controversy to the point that the 1980 version of the dictionary drops all mention of the joke and beer or ale altogether. Welsh Rarebit, however, is still defined as Welsh Rabbit, not the other way around.
So, like its Welsh counterpart, this New Mexico Rabbit has no rabbit in it. It retains the humor and beer, and it also adds a piquant little kick, characteristic of its Southwest origins.
The cheese should be one that melts easily and that will bind with the cornstarch and beer to form a smooth, thick consistent sauce. The beer should be a light lager.
- 8 rashers of bacon, nuked
- 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
- 8 oz beer
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tbsp low-sodium Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp New Mexico ground red chile
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 1 lb sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- ¼ cup Coors beer
- 16 jalapeņo en escabeche slices
- corn chips, cornbread, or toast
Cook the bacon as described in Usage Guidelines and Notes, and slice the tomatoes. Put aside until the garnishing step.
Put the beer and condiments in a chafing dish or double boiler over medium heat and stir to combine everything. In a small dish, combine the ¼ cup beer and cornstarch and whisk around to remove lumps.
Grate, grind, or dice the cheese and, as soon as the beer mixture is hot, add the cheese. Stir continuously until the cheese just melts and then add the cornstarch, slowly while stirring, until the consistency is thick, but not too thick.
Serve over tortilla chips, toast, or cornbread, garnished with diced tomatoes, rashers of bacon and sliced jalapeņo peppers en escabeche.
The dish is also good as a breakfast accompaniment with scrambled eggs, huevos rancheros, or my Mo Hotta Frittata †.