Posole

There is one good thing about having to hike out to the dumpster with the trash, especially when you’re cooking something.  If you stay in the kitchen too long you olfactory sense habituates to the aromas.  Take out the trash and you get a great new olfactory preview when you get walk back into the kitchen–especially if you spend a bit of time chatting with the neighbor who is also taking out the trash.

This cold weather has me cooking stew-y sorts of things.  A friend sent me a care package from New Mexico recently: blue and white corn with a recipe for making posole (or pozole, if you’d rather). Today was the day, since I was organized enough to remember to soak the dried corn overnight.  By the time I had sauteed everything, browned the pork, onions, garlic, added the oregano (had to do Turkish rather than Mexican until I do another Penzeys order), and the chilli pods I wasn’t fully appreciating the aroma of the cooking. I popped the covered dutch oven into the oven and took– out the trash.

When I opened the door and walked into the living room, I was definitely getting a fresh sensation: the browned pork, the oregano, the chillis–this smells like warmth and comfort on a cold day!

White Corn Posole

This is the recipe that came with the package of Los Chileros de Neuva Mexico package of white corn posole. I more or less followed the recipe–

Ingredients

  • 6-8 chile pods
  • 2 pounds cubed pork (or beef)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of salt.

Preparation & assembly

  • Soak the posole (12 ounces) in water to cover overnight.
  • Boil the posole in salted water for about 2 hours.
  • Add meat, chilli pods, oregano and garlic.
  • Cover and simmer for another hour or until the posole is tender, stirring occasionally.

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My first deviation from the recipe was to brown the pork (in a little bacon fat) before adding the liquid and the other ingredients. My second deviation was to use 4 chilli pods (ancho and guajillo) and then about 2 teaspoons of Hatch chilli powder.  I had tasted before adding the chilli powder–and it’s wasn’t spicy enough. I’ll see what it’s like when I reheat it. My other deviation was to add way more garlic.

I’d looked at other recipes for posole online, and found lots of recipes calling for other ingredients–cumin, coriander, and even tomatoes. I decided to start with this simple, rather a straightforward one for my first try at posole.

I really think that Mexican oregano is a must–the Turkish just isn’t quite right here–it’s sweeter than the Mexican to my taste and would fit better with the corn flavor. I’m likely to add some cumin and coriander next time around as well. I may add onions (caramelized) as well. It’s a recipe in evolution now. I think a little more “brown” in the flavor would be good, as well as some smoke from either chipotle peppers or from pimentón–but definitely Mexican oregano next time. I used water here and not pork stock, but I think that pork stock would be tastier–especially if the bones/meat were browned before making the stock.

Even though this is a simple soup/stew, a bowl of this is very satisfying on a cold day when you need warmth and a full tummy!

My friend also sent blue corn–which I’ve only had in tortilla chips, so it will be interesting to see how that compares to the white. I do suppose you could make this with canned hominy, but this seems to have more corn flavor that I remember from canned hominy. I’m going to enjoy trying out different seasonings here.

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Celebrating the autumnal equinox.

I woke up to a lovely fall morning–sunny, breezy, cool–absolutely lovely day, some leisurely time over coffee in the sunny kitchen, and realized that I’ve gradually been shifting into autumn cooking mode–cooking urges that are very different from the hot, humid weather of summer.

I’ve been making meals in the multitasking rice cooker lately: whipped up a great spicy lamb and garbanzo bean stew and another of braised pork and collard greens.  Some of immediate use today, and some of each of those to stash in the freezer for quick meals on a cold winter day when I need serious comfort food.

The lamb and garbanzo “stew” was one that I literally threw together in about 15 minutes while I was finishing an index to send to a client. A good friend who knows how much I like to use chili peppers gave me a wonderful chile powder from Made in New Mexico.  I used lamb shoulder chops, a healthy batch of chile powder, some Mexican oregano,  Goya garbanzo beans, and a can of diced tomatoes. The lamb chops came out of the slow-cooking melt-in-your-mouth tender, with just enough spice to accumulate a bit of burn by the time you’ve eaten a bowl of it, but not enough to rip you taste buds out by the roots.  This chili powder is the best I’ve ever used–I’ll be ordering more of that one.

Another job that just could not be put off any longer was cleaning the gas stove. It is one of my very least favorite things to do so I do tend to procrastinate about it; that does not make the task any easier and I know that but I still procrastinate about it. (I think that a house elf would be a wonderful thing to have around!)

Now the stove has at least had a  lick and a promise as my grandmother would have said. Well, at least the lick, but still needs the promise though that is going to happen today. (Definitely no pictures here!)  So happy that the oven is self-cleaning since it gets lots of use in cool weather for carefree braising while I’m working at home.

Now I’m ready for a plate of braised pork and collard greens!

Chilli con carne redux update

I’ve finished the “fast” version of the chilli con carne that I posted about in Chilli Con Carne Redux!  I’ll concede that it’s only sort of faster in terms of the active prep time–it still needs to cook long and slowly, but it is a success.  I don’t think that I can tell the difference (tasted side-by-side with the more laborious version from the freezer) and friends have given it the nod of approval.  So here are the changes and additions to the original chilli con carne that I posted.

  • After the bacon browned, 3 tablespoons of tomato paste was added while the onions were sautéed, and this was browned–again to enhance the umami, not to add tomato flavor.
  •  None of the meat (pork or beef) was browned before adding liquids.
  •  Added bay leaves to increase the earthiness (used five large for this 6 pounds of meat).
  •  Added Mexican oregano–about 2 rounded teaspoons. (You really do want Mexican oregano for this–much different flavor than Turkish or Greek (Mediterranean) oregano–after all it is an unrelated plant, but worth having in the kitchen if you like chili.)
  •  Sun-dried tomatoes (about 1/2 cup chopped) were added for more umami even though this was NOT made in a slow cooker, I was not aiming for tomato-flavored chili.
  • During the cooking time I tasted some in a bowl with a little fish sauce added (yep, I did get up the nerve to try this) and it tasted wonderful; so I added about 4 or 5 tablespoons of fish sauce.  (I suspect that if you don’t have fish sauce a couple of anchovy filets thrown in would have the same effect.)
  • The final thickening was one with a brown roux made with masa harina.  For the fat in this roux I reserved about 1/4 cup of the fat from the de-fatting step.  I heated this and made sure that all liquid was evaporate, then added about 6 tablespoons of masa harina and cooked it until it was a medium brown and toasty smelling.
  • Because of my work schedule, this was cooked in a lower oven (about 195° F) for about 10 hours.

After another run on this I’ll have to post a revised recipe for the “fast” and easier version, but if you feel so inclined you can work with these changes–after all chili con carne is one of those things that really doesn’t need a recipe to be followed strictly.