I spent quite a bit of time this summer in France, and I really enjoyed the ritual of lunch. It’s no surprise really, that I warmed to this concept immediately. Family and friends gather together, usually on Sundays, for a long enjoyable meal full of delicious food, great company, conversation and wine. The food is plentiful and the wine flows freely, in our case, a large amount of lovely rose. It was summer in the French countryside after all. I was just trying to blend in. With a squeal of delight, I vowed to institute similar lunches as soon as I got home.
So now I find myself deep in an unseasonably warm January, many miles from the Gascon countryside and many months later and I have yet to have one of these lunches. Where does the time go? So as a sort of resolution, I’ve decided to get on with these things I always say I’m going to do. I called up some friends and decided to make posole for the New Year, something I’ve also been meaning to make for ages. No time like the present.
Santa brought some good stuff this year, namely a big box of beans from Rancho Gordo. I love this company, which I first discovered at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco several years ago. Steve Sando works with several growers here and south of the border to cultivate and grow magnificent, interesting and very tasty beans indigenous to North America. They’re just gorgeous.
Part of my holiday loot included a bag of white corn hominy or posole. Perfect! I have been wanting to make posole with these big kernels for some time and now I would. One of my other half-ass resolutions is to USE the special food gifts I receive or purchase. What exactly am I saving these things for?? By the time I find the perfect occasion, they’ve gone stale or outright bad. So let’s get on with it, shall we? Sunday lunches start NOW.
According to the Rancho Gordo website, “Posole (or Pozole) is dried corn that’s been slaked with lime (cal), giving it a nutritional boost and making the ancient grain more digestible. Also known as hominy, Posole works in stews, as a side dish, in classic Mexican and southwestern dishes or even ground in a food processor to make grits.” What I do know is that these kernels cook up rather large and after a soak/simmer they sort of “pop” and have a great chewy texture. Game on.
A recipe for Posole Rojo (red) was tucked into the Rancho Gordo box but I wanted to go green. Green always has been my favorite color. Luckily, those Rancho Gordo people know their stuff and had a Posole Verde recipe on their website. Bingo!
Working with the corn kernels was fairly straight-forward, much like working with dried beans. An overnight soak and a few hours of simmering. I used their recipe as a guideline, tweaking it to my tastes – an extra poblano and some poached, shredded chicken along with some typical Mexican flavors – cilantro, lime juice, oregano. Because I added some extra poblanos, it was a rather interesting shade of army green but tasty all the same. If I had access to Hatch green chilies, I would most certainly use those.
Traditionally, posole is served with quite the array of garnishes, allowing the diner to add a bit of this and that to customize their bowl. I laid out a humble spread of lime wedges, additional cilantro, sliced radishes, and avocado. I was supposed to finely shred some cabbage but forgot. I also forgot about a massive stack of homemade tortillas I had made as well. They would have been awful nice with the posole but what are you going to do?
Good conversation, lots of laughs and a delicious meal. It was the perfect Sunday meal with friends. And since it was lunch everyone was home fairly early with none of the hangover nonsense that usually ensues. As one guest commented, “This is great! I still have time to lay on the couch!” And that my friends, is a perfect day.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: OH SI POR FAVOR. First off, anything I can put an avocado in/on/next to is reason for rejoicing. Add some green chilies and I’m a happy camper. I live for green chilies and this one has them in aces. This soup/stew is warming and cozy and frankly, fun. That’s the thing about Mexican food. It’s always a good time. Add some margaritas or a cold beer and you’ve got the start of one helluva party. If it matters in any way, I hear this soup is rather healthy too. Suppose that’s a resolution I should think about at some point.
POSOLE VERDE adapted from the Rancho Gordo website
If you don’t have dried posole, canned would be perfectly acceptable – just drain, rinse and add at the same point the cooked posole is added below.
½ pound dried posole (whole dried hominy)
1 red onion, peeled and halved
20 small to medium tomatillos, paper skins removed
3 poblano chiles
1 serrano chile
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
1 ½ quarts low-sat chicken broth
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups poached shredded chicken, white and/or dark meat (see here for poaching tips)
diced red onion
thinly sliced cabbage
thinly sliced radishes
- Soak posole overnight in water to cover generously.
- Drain posole and place it in a saucepan with fresh water to cover generously.
- Bring to a simmer, cover partially and cook at a gentle simmer until the corn kernels are tender, 2-3 hours; many will split open.
- Season with salt and cool in the liquid.
- Roast the vegetables (onion halves, tomatillos, poblanos and serrano); traditionally this is done on a hot dry griddle, skillet, comal or directly on a gas burner, turning frequently until well charred on all sides. I prefer the hands-off oven method – 375°F on an oiled sheet pan for 40 minutes, turning the vegetables halfway through until the onions and tomatillos soften and the peppers are nicely charred.
- Put the roasted poblanos in bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam until cool.
- Transfer the other vegetables to another bowl and let cool, collecting their juices.
- Skin the cooled poblanos by scraping with the dull side of a paring knife, discarding seeds, stems and skin.
- Discard the serrano chile stem but don’t skin or seed.
- Put all the roasted vegetables and the garlic cloves in a blender, in batches if necessary, and puree until smooth. (Don’t wash the blender.)
- Heat the oil in a large stockpot over moderate heat.
- Add the vegetable puree and adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes to blend the flavors.
- In the blender, puree the cilantro, oregano and 1 cup of the chicken stock.
- Add this mixture to the vegetable puree along with 4 cups of chicken stock.
- Drain the posole and add it to the pot along with the shredded chicken.
- Season with salt and pepper and return to a simmer. Thin with additional stock if necessary.
- Serve warm in bowls with assorted garnishes and tortillas.