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