Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Olé! Pozolé!

Grab your sombrero and break out that bottle of Cabo Wabo that you've been saving for a special occasion, 'cause it's time for some Pozolé! Er, is it "Posolé"? Or "Pozole"? Or "Posole"? Maybe it's "Mexican Chicken Soup"? Or "Mexican Pork Stew"? Ah, who cares? Call it what you want, just don't neglect to make yourself some, and soon. (Hat and tequila optional.) This stuff is not to be missed! It is soooooo gooooood! In fact, if I were somehow forced to limit my soup choices to only one kind for the rest of my life... well, it wouldn't be Pozolé, actually, it would be Pho. But if I could have two choices, then it would definitely be Pho and Pozolé, that's for sure! I love Mexican food, and Pozolé has in it all the flavors that I associate with good Mexican food- white corn, jalapeno, tomato, cilantro, lime, and cumin, just to name a bunch. It's like Mexico in a bowl, or something. In fact, if it's not the national dish of Mexico, it should be. Somebody get me Felipe Calderon on the phone, we'll straighten this out right now.
I got my first taste of Pozolé awhile back at work. One of the guys happened to bring some in that he'd gotten from one of the many Mexican stores/restaurants in the area. I didn't really like working with that guy. I'm glad he's not there anymore, to be honest, but when he brought that soup in that day and offered me some, he certainly caused me to overlook a lot of the reasons I didn't like working with him. I'm still glad he's gone; but I'm glad he worked there, too. Anyway, I'd never had it before, and didn't even know what it was, but when I got home I did some looking around on the internet and managed to find a recipe for something that sounded like it might be it. So I asked the boss to order some hominy so we could try it out, and a couple days later I brought the recipe in to give it a go. Now at Sweeney's, where I work, we have a Soup of the Day, which we sometimes offer as part of our daily special. So we have to make sure we have enough on hand to get through the day. And since this is Pozolé we're talking about here, I knew we'd need kind of a lot; I don't know, maybe 20 servings or so. But if you look at the recipe, it's only written for 4 servings. Hmm.... So this is going to entail math or something? Jeez, I just wanted to make some soup here, not calculate Fermat's Last Theorem. So I pretty much just gave the recipe a quick read-through to see what it called for and get an idea of how to do it and then tossed it aside. (I really do have a hard time following recipes.) I posted the link above mainly as a reference. You really don't need it. Pozolé is just one of those foods that are really flexible and kind of hard to make wrong. So let's get to it, shall we?

Ok, as I said, Pozolé is really flexible- meaning there's lots of different ways to make it and still call it Pozolé. So some of these ingredients can be considered optional, and you can use others that may not be called for in a particular recipe. I'm just going to list a bunch here that I think would be good, not that I would necessarily use all of them myself. Think of it as an ingredient smorgasbord. Some ingredients, obviously, are not optional, like the hominy. The recipe link I posted above says that if you can't find hominy you can substitute frozen corn kernels. I wouldn't go that far, myself. The flavor is too different, not to mention the appearance. (If you've never had hominy, it's flavor is like that of corn tortillas.)

Pork, shredded
Chicken, shredded
Chicken stock, preferably homemade
Various chilis
Lime juice
Chili powder
Diced tomatoes
Black pepper

Did I miss anything? I know on the Pozolé wiki page they mention cabbage, lettuce and radish as garnishes also. I listed pork and chicken for the meats- my understanding is that it's commonly made with either. My first taste of it was with chicken, but when I make it for myself I usually go with whatever's cheaper, since I'm kind of broke. It can also easily be made completely vegetarian and still be just as awesome tasting.

Chances are, you'll have to go with canned hominy, instead of dried. It's pretty hard to find, for some reason. Some people think the dried might taste better than the canned- I'm not so sure. (I know that when I make that Hummus I posted about earlier, canned chick peas taste exactly the same as the dried.) But I do happen to have some dried hominy, so one of these days when I get around to trying it out, I'll post an update here with my opinion on the matter. In the meantime canned will do just fine- however- brand does make a difference! At work we've been using Bush's- the same brand that makes the baked beans- and it's been very good; very tasty. But I happened to have a can of Juanita's on hand at home-

so I made a batch with that. Noticeable difference in quality, with the Juanita's being not nearly as good as the Bush's, and not very good in general. Sorry Juanita, but it's true.

Now as to the putting-together of it all... easy as pie! Actually, it's even easier than pie. Here's what I do...
I start off with either the chicken or pork, whichever I happen to be using, and cook it off in the oven; but I don't just cook it as is, although you could and it would still be good. I like to marinate mine in that guajillo salsa I told you about in a previous post. Oh yes. Major tastiness right there. Just coat it all up good in that stuff, place it on a pan or in a dish, add a little water or chicken stock, and cook on 350 F or so until it's done. It won't take long. You may want to avoid getting on the internet, though, or doing whatever it is you might be addicted to, while it's cooking. You might just forget about it like I did, hehe...

(I used it anyway; it was fine.) While that's in the oven, this would be the time to get the other stuff going. Heat up a large pot- like a stock pot- trust me, this stuff is good good good, and whatever amount you happen to make, you'll wish you had made more, so you might as well go for a lot right off the bat. (Incidentally, it doesn't do terribly well in the freezer, but it'll get eaten long before you need to freeze it anyway.) Add your oil, or butter, or whatever fat you happen to like cooking with. I'm currently using canola since I bought one of those industrial size containers of it at Sam's Club, but I think corn oil would be the obvious choice here. Add whatever veggies you're going to be using (except the diced tomatoes and hominy), along with the chilis and spices, and sauté away. I'd avoid adding the avocados at this point- they're meant as more of a garnish on the finished dish. Here's what mine looks like-

If it looks like I just threw the spices at the pot without so much as even a glance toward any sort of measuring device, well, that's because I did, pretty much. I can't be bothered to go over to my cupboard or drawer, look for the cups and spoons, then come back to what I was doing and evenly and accurately measure stuff out! Who's got time for such nonsense? Not me, that's who. (Hence the name of my blog. Who cares about recipes and such- How's it Taste? Don't worry, it'll be totally fine. This stuff's hard to mess up.)
Anyway, normally my Pozolé is not this red, but I had some smoked paprika that I've been wanting to try out, so I loaded it on.
Once all the veggies are cooked to the desired tenderness level, add the chicken stock and diced tomatoes. Bring just to a boil-

then turn down

way down low

almost off

but not quite.

[Ok, that was just an inside wink to a friend, so maybe not quite that low. Just down to a simmer, then.]

While that's simmering happily away, go check on the protein situation, if you're using any. If it's ready, shred it up. (Assuming you've let it cool enough to handle. Now that I think about it, you may want to take care of this part a little further in advance of the actual soup making part.) At this point, add the meat and hominy, and cook for about 10 minutes more. Right at the end is when you want to add the lime juice and cilantro. Now it's ready!

Garnish with additional lime juice, cilantro, cayenne, avocado, and whatever else makes your mouth water.

                            Olé! Pozolé!

p.s. Deborah over at Taste and Tell recently posted a recipe for Green Posole, (and I saw another new one somewhere else) - I swear I'm not ripping hers off- (hey, mine's red, hers is green! ; ) I've had this post planned since the very beginning; it just takes me awhile to get around to taking care of business.


Deborah said...

I was just going to say that yours sounds and looks WAY better than mine!!

jb said...

Well Thank You! : )

(Lol, maybe we should have a Bobby Flay style throwdown! : D )