Friday, April 23, 2010

Pozole Rojo

Now this is closer to the version I’ve long known to be pozole. I would say it’s really non-fuss but I hate straining the chile puree. But in just a few relatively uncomplicated processes, you can bring forth history in a pot.

Its the stuff that ancient Aztec kings feasted on for special occasions (but you know.. like, sans the left over meat from your human sacrifices - cause like Willy Wonka says, “that is called cannibalism my dear children, and is in fact frowned upon in most societies”).

I checked into what my “Savoring Mexico” book had to say on red pozole and found a version the author took from a friend that resides in the state of Sinaloa. Her recipe used all manner of pig from the ribs to the feet to the head (of which the ears are a delicacy). Pig head is hard to come by in the commissary so pork shoulder will do me just fine and isn’t really a deviation at all, traditionally speaking.

I mentioned before that pozole can differ a bit from state to state but you can find any mix of preparations anywhere you turn. I’ve mapped out a few of the states that are known more for one addition or another. (My Mother In Law is from Guerrero – which is why I’m surprised I’ve never seen her serve Pozole Verde, for which they are known. She’s hiding secret recipes from me! lol)

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Pozole Rojo

4 qt Water
2# Pork Shoulder – fat trimmed and cut into large chunks
1-2 Heads Garlic – tops trimmed off and papery skin removed
1 Onion – peeled but left whole
½# Dried Chiles (Ancho/Pasilla or Guajillo or preferably a mix for more complexity)
- de-stemmed and de-seeded
4 c. Hot Water
2 corn tortillas – flash fried & torn into small pieces
2 lg cans Hominy
1 T. Mexican Oregano
1 Sprig Epazote
Sea Salt

~ In a large stockpot put on water, pork shoulder, garlic head(s) and onion to a simmer and continue this way for at least 2 hours. Remove solids when this time is up, setting aside the meat for shredding. Skim the fat and other little extra bits off the broth
~ In the meantime, prep the chiles by trimming the stem off with kitchen shears, cutting the pod open and scraping out the seeds – from here you can either place chilies in a large bowl and cover with hot water or put them in a stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Steep the chilies in hot water for an hour
~ Put chilies in a blender along with the onion and garlic from the pork broth (squeeze the garlic out from the skins) and the bits of fried tortillas. Blend with 1 c. of chile steeping water to make a puree. Strain this puree through a fine mesh sieve and add to the stockpot of broth
~ Add shredded pork, hominy, oregano and epazote to the pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and serve hot with favorite condiments.

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As I said, I used 2 different chiles for added depth to the stock. The slender smooth skinned one is a guajillo and is very common for use in mild salsas. The wrinkled one is an ancho (also falsely called an pasilla by some Americans – anchos are dried poblanos where pasillas are dried chile negros – both are similar in heat and have sweet raisin-esque qualities when in dried (seco) form)
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Very simple to de-seed. Just trim the top off and run your shears along one of the folded edges and open the chile pod like a book.
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After steeping, nicely reconstituted and color is perked back up
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Here is where the elbow grease comes in, but it isn’t all that bad. Just strain the chile puree through a fine sieve until all you’re left with is a lump of bits in your strainer and a bowl of nice smooooth sauce
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Guajillos aren’t terribly hot on their own so if you want heat in your soup I suggest adding a spicier pepper, like a chile de arbol or serrano, to the puree mix.

Now the chile salsa is added to the pot along with the hominy and shredded pork - all this is left to simmer, reduce and meld
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Showing the viscocity of the soup – a bit thicker than I bargained for but it wasn’t a bad thing at all. Add more water to you pot if you want it really brothy.
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Now that’s good eating!
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And that would be my gringo attempt at pozole, which serves this family just fine. Besides, I don’t think I’m not far off. I seldom make this soup due not only to the dread of cleaning my sieve but also the lack of ethnic ingredients required and that are mostly never in stock on Kuwait supermarket shelves. It was good though that I had decided to make en entry on it and research the background of the dish a bit more. Food’s synergetic history and undertones never cease to amaze me.

So do me a favor one leisurely weekend and busy yourself with creating a pot of this fantastic brew – and pay never-no-mind to the Aztec/Willy Wonka quip as you do so :D Oh! And be sure to include the radishes! They might look strange to the American palate to have in a soup but they truly are a perfect condiment!

Savoring Mexico pg. 92 – Marilyn Tausend

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pozole Verde

Pozole, posole, pozsole... However you find it spelled you will still find a hearty bowl of steamy, spicy, fragrant goodness. Pozole is a traditional soup of Mexico - one that has many variants but one constant being the presence of tender lime-treated corn. Pozole translated in English means “foamy” - meant to describe the fluffy appearance the corn kernels have once the hull [and germ] has been removed. (I’ll touch a bit more on this later). [Hominy is another name by which pozole kernels are known in the U.S. - They are usually sold in tin cans in most grocery stores but can also be found bagged in Mexican tiendas/mercados.]

My first experience with pozole was in sampling my Mother In-Law’s version with red chilies and chicken pieces (pull the meat from the bone yourself). Since then I was totally under the impression that this was all that pozole has ever been. However, I have recently discovered that while pozole may be a national dish of sorts, many different areas/states have their own take – the commonality, again, always being the inclusion of those meaty puffy maize kernels.

Today I present a new (to me) preparation of pozole, utilizing tomatillos and green chilies. This particular recipe I swiped from my Savoring Mexico cookbook (omitting the use of mushrooms in the original ingredient list. I can just hear my husband now.. “My Mom never used mushrooms in pozole!”).

This soup, in addition to being a green version of pozole, is a vegetarian soup and has a unique method of thickening that I’ve seldom seen. First, it includes ground pumpkin seed - a traditional thickener in Mexican soups and sauces. Then it also includes a puree that has broken bread & tortilla bits blended in. So we’ve got thickening by pumpkin seed and bread puree. Beats roux IMO!

Pozole Verde

3 T. Vegetable Oil
1 Corn tortilla
2 thin slices day old Baguette/Bolilo
7-8 c. Water
1# Tomatillos – chopped
1 sml Onion – chopped
4 cloves Garlic
2 Serrano Chiles – chopped
1 c. Cilantro sprigs
3 T. Sesame Seeds
3 T. Pumpkin Seeds - toasted
1 Stick Cinnamon
1 Sprig Epazote
4 Whole Cloves
Favorite Stock Cubes
2 c. Hominy

Thinly sliced Radishes
Avocado Slices
Fine minced onion or pico de gallo
Fried tortilla strips
Shredded White Cheese
Shredded Cabbage
Lime Wedges

~ Heat oil in a frying pan and flash fry the tortilla and bread slices for 1-2 minutes. Drain them on paper towels. Tear into small pieces once cooled.
~ Make a spice bundle by placing the cinnamon, epazote & cloves in a piece of cheesecloth and tie off with some kitchen twine
~ In a blender combine tomatillos, onion, garlic, chiles, cilantro, and bread/tortilla pieces with ½ c. water and puree til smooth. In the same frying pan used for the bread/tortilla, fry this sauce on high heat for a few minutes and then let simmer uncovered for 10 more minutes.
~ Use a spice mill to finely grind the sesame and pumpkin seeds. Place this mix into the unwashed blender with 1 c. water and blend
~ In a large stockpot combine 6 c. water, the tomatillo mixture, the seed puree, the spice bundle, the hominy and stock cubes – bring to a simmer and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Season with salt and ladle into hot bowls. Serve with bowls of favorite condiments so that everyone can add to their soup as they like.

Mise – just add water
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Tomatillos are a mild green tomato that proliferates in Mexican cuisine. It has thin papery husks and is related to gooseberries.
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This smelled fantastic while it was frying. It was like the aroma of salsa verde amplified by 10.
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I can’t find fresh epazote here but was able to score some dried from Dean & Deluca – it’s a wonderful little herb that I find to be reminiscent of dill
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Making the spice bundle – I didn’t have cheesecloth or twine on hand so I improvised with some medical gauze and dental floss, haha
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Grinding the seeds. I have yet to buy a mill for this purpose and thought that I didn’t have these ground fine enough but they turned out okay in the soup. No grittyness.
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Condiments - I found an awesome cumin seed gouda in the market the other day..
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Spoons Up!
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Drake’s creation ☺
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Tatum’s ☺
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Now to briefly explain the process by which pozole is created.. Simple and ingenious really. First, dried white corn is boiled/cooked with an alkaline solution (the lime I referred to in the beginning of the blog is one example of an alkali product - but it’s not the thing we know as that green punchy citrus. We’re talking about calcium hydroxide, which is created by mixing calcium oxide (quicklime) with water ( CaO + H2O = Ca(OH)2 ). For chemistry’s sake, we’re just going to say it’s a mineral and call it a day).

Once the corn is cooked through it is rinsed and [traditionally] hand rubbed to remove the hulls. The by-product of this process is now called nixtamal (and the process itself is called nixtamalization). From here, the corn can be eaten in a soup/stew or it can be ground for masa.

I’m sort of amazed that ancient peoples even thought to do this. One of the original ways they performed this process was with ashwater. By removing the hull they’ve made the corn more nutritious (by un-binding the niacin it contains), easier to digest (we can’t process the hulls) and have made it more malleable (tortillas, tamales & grits! yum!).

Additionally, the alkaline treatment reduces toxic molds (mycotoxins) that often plague maize (and are carcinogenic!).. AND the alkaline solution infuses the corn with minerals like calcium, zinc and iron. Not too bad for a people convinced that humans were fashioned from cornmeal.. (haha, I guess dust isn’t much more “logical” but moving on).

Anyway.. This soup came out spectacular IMO. It’s completely vegetarian but was so filling. Mine came out a bit paler green than I thought it would but I think that was because the pumpkin seeds I bought were very white. The husband was impressed and told me about 5 different times throughout dinner about how much he’d missed pozole verde – that his mother seldom made it due to how “time intensive” it is and that mine was spot on.. *dusts shoulder off* :D

Savoring Mexico pg 98 – Marilyn Tausend

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rosemary Crusted Lamb Chops and White Bean Cassoulet

OMGoodness! Really easy dinner tonight. Had to share, it was too flippin' good.
I did an easier rift of a recipe I got off epicurious having to do with lamb chops, white beans and gremolata.

Again, I didn't plan on blogging about this one so no mise, but here's the recipe all the same.

Rosemary Crusted Lamb Chop and White Bean Cassoulet

2 dz Lamb Chops - frenched
Sea Salt
1 t. Rosemary (fresh would be best, just chop it, but dried is fine)
Olive Oil

1 med Yellow Onion – bite sized julienne
3 cloves Garlic – minced
2 cans Chopped Tomatoes
3 cans White Beans (cannellini, flageolet, navy etc.) - drained
1 c. frozen chopped Spinach (or 2-3 c. fresh if you prefer)
2 Lemons - zested and juiced

~ Pre-heat oven to 350*F

~ Sprinkle chops with rosemary and salt and then in a large oven proof pot (or pan) with lid, add a swirl of oil to pot over high heat. Sear the seasoned side for 1-2 minutes. While this is happening, season the other side and sear. Take chops out of the pan, place on a plate and set aside (do in batches if you must).

~ Add another swirl of oil to the pan you've been using and add the onions to saute for a few minutes until translucent. Add minced garlic and saute another minute. Add canned tomato to pot and let simmer for 5-7 minutes to let the tomato juices reduce a bit. Add beans, spinach and lemon to the pot and stir.

~ Place seared lamb chops over top of the cassoulet mixture, in a single layer. Cover the pot and place in the oven to “stew” for 25-30 minutes.

~ Serve lamb chops over the cassoulet and garnish with a lemon slice. Serve with a side salad and some yummy crusty bread!

Serves 6.

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I used fagioli cannellini in this recipe and oh! The beans were so creamy and tender.. Not to mention the chops with their nice brown sear, tender pink (but thoroughly cooked) meat and lovely rosemary fragrance. My husband especially loved the punch of lemon throughout.

For some information on nuances of beans I highly suggest checking out the article "Know Your Legumes" on Chowhound. You will be surprised at how characteristically different beans can be.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sweet Potato & Coconut Milk Soup

I don't have many pics for this entry because 1.) I hadn't really planned to blog about it in the first place but am just getting into the habit of taking pictures when I'm cooking and 2.) after I made it I figured a better and less work intensive way of making it is in the crock pot so.. that's the kind of recipe I'll give.


I love quirky soups like this one I stumbled upon, and the fact that it contains some form of coconut endears it to me twice fold. It's got a lot going for it.. Multi-faceted in flavor, spiced, rich, vibrant, healthy and cheap if you play your cards right.

I'm not sure how much sweet potatoes proliferate in Thailand (Although I know they are used - I've already admitted once or twice my weakness in asian cuisine) but this soup is at the very least a thai-fusion dish with the coconut, chiles, spices and lime.

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The way I will make it next time is pretty much entirely in the crock. And I will give a vegetarian recipe although there are many variations online that use diced chicken (I myself used diced ham but realized this soup would be every bit as fulfilling sans meat).

Sweet Potato & Coconut Milk Soup

2 med. Sweet Potatoes – large dice
2 med. Carrots – large dice
2 apples – peeled, cored & large dice
1 lg. Yellow Onion - diced
2 green chiles (I used jalepenos) – seeded, de-ribbed & minced
2 garlic cloves – minced
1 t. fresh ginger - minced
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. coriander
1 t. turmeric
1 can Coconut Milk
4-5 c. Vegetable Broth (start w/4 – add more after puree step to adjust consistency)
1 lime – zested & juiced
Salt to taste
Minced fresh Cilantro for garnish

~ Add all ingredients except the lime to a large crock pot and cook on High for 3-4 hours (until potatoes are tender)

~ If you are fortunate enough to have an immersion (stick) blender, use it at this time directly in the crock to puree the vegetables to a desired consistency - **If you do not have a stick blender, feel free to transfer the contents of the crock to a blender and puree in batches if you must

~ Stir in lime juice and salt to taste – garnish with cilantro

(If you want to add in diced meat, just saute the meat and add to the crock after you have pureed the soup for ½ hour more on low setting)

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Well that's it! I didn't really research anything but rather just wanted to share a dish that had a pleasing turnout for me. Ciao now!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

On a Lazy Weekend Morning.. Can't Beat Beignets!!

Known in some shape or form all over the globe, deep fried dough looks to be an universal language. From Spanish churros and buñuelos to European crullers and zeppolas to Chinese you-tiaos and all the way back to the United States' 200+ year amour for the hot, fluffy, powdered sugar-crowned beignets, everyone seems to have an innate love for choux pastries.

Choux is a traditional french dough that has a high moisture content in which steaming is the method by which the dough rises. It's the dough by which we make creampuffs (profiteroles) and eclairs. It doesn't need a leavening agent, but sometimes yeast and other leavening ingredients are added to a recipe. Such is the case with the lovely puffy, fluffy, slightly chewy beignets. But differing from the classic method of baking choux dough, beignets are fried.

The verdict seems to be out among food historians as to by whom and exactly when the delicious fritter was brought to us yanks from the European motherland - but a general consensus seems to lie with french colonists who came to the port of New Orleans, Louisiana in the 18th century. Since then, beignets have been nationally associated with the city, and in 1986 were deemed the “official doughnut” of Louisiana. And when you're in Louisiana, you eat your beignets with a piping hot cafe au lait made with coffee, milk and chicory (chicory was used back in the day as a “filler” for expensive coffee but it actually lends itself extraordinarily well to balancing and smoothing out the bitterness of dark roasts).

So I got this recipe, which is actually widely distributed online – It's such a cinch to make, and you do up the dough the night before so you have something in the morning that you can roll out fast and fry quickly.

Beignets (yeast dough recipe)

1 ½ c. Warm water (looking for between 105-110*F)
1 pkg Active Dry Yeast (or 2 1/4 t. from jar)
½ c. Sugar
2 Eggs
1 c. Evap milk
1 t. Salt
¼ c. Shortening or Butter, softened
7 c. Flour
Oil for frying
10x Sugar for topping

~ In a bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water for 5 minutes – Blend in sugar, eggs, milk, and salt
~ Mix in ½ flour until smooth - Mix in shortening and then add remaining flour til just combined
~ Cover and chill for 4 hours or overnight
~ On a floured surface, knead the dough a bit and roll out to 1/8 inch. Cut into 2 in squares and fry in 360*F oil (or in a deep fryer) for about 2 minutes on each side or until puffed and golden brown. Keep warm in a low oven
~ When serving, pile on the powdered sugar and don't skimp! Serve with hot coffee

Now this recipe will get you a buttload of beignets so for your average family of 5, you can use about half this amount and chill/freeze the rest.

Beignets can be adapted to a number of flavors and can be filled with both fruits and savory items (vegetables, meats, cheese). I saw a sweet potato beignet recipe that looks very interesting.. Just another new thing I learned about beignets today.

MISE (left out the shortening but you need that too – pretty simple though eh?)
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Dough chilled overnight
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Rolled and cut into squares
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Frying – the dough pulled a bit when I was cutting it so they're more like rhombus-es rather than squares. Lawl.
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Finished Product! NOM!!
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These would be just as lovely topped with a yummy fruit compote, or drizzled with honey, agave nectar or maple syrup! And some spices thrown into the dough would take them to another level I'm sure! Cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, anise.. The sky my friends..

Bon Appetite!