Tuesday, June 14, 2011

(Nearly) Last Minute Pozole Rojo Con Pollo

Back when I made these pan-seared chicken breasts, I saw the recipe on SFGATE for Nopalito's Posole Rojo. I made the adobo part of the dish and stuck it in the fridge thinking I'd use the leftover chicken for some posole on Cinco de Mayo. You can make this (nearly) at the last minute if you make the main components in advance: the meat, hominy and adobo can all be cooked in advance and refrigerated for a short period. If you do that, the bulk of the work you'll have to do is to assemble the posole components and prep the garnishes. This dish is wonderful.

Along came Thursday morning, May 5 - Cinco de Mayo and I hadn't cooked the hominy. No, not the canned hominy. I never understood why (generally) I didn't like dishes like posole, or others that included canned hominy -- and canned was the only hominy I knew about. I liked the corn-y taste and the texture but there was some off-flavor that I couldn't identify that ruined (for me) whatever dish it was in. One morning at the market, I stopped by Rancho Gordo's stand (I have a lot to say about beans and about Steve Sando and Rancho Gordo, but that will be another post) and there was a bag of dried hominy (White Corn Posole/Hominy). I thought that I couldn't hate it more than canned hominy so I took it home and stared at it for a while trying to figure out what I'd make.

Ultimately I used it in a bean dish (that I cannot quite reproduce as I cooked it, damn it, because it was delicious) that I adapted from Heidi Swanson (who adapted it from a Nopa recipe by Laurence Jossel). I combined Christmas limas, some chickpeas and the dried hominy from Rancho Gordo. I cooked the hominy in advance and when it was tender took one and ate it hoping that I would like it (it smells pretty freaking amazing while it's cooking)...

Yes, yes and YES! It tastes intensely corny and has a chewy-tender texture. This is good stuff. Also it's important to cook them until (as I refer to it) they 'bloom', kind of like the way that popcorn opens up. I was thrilled that I could love something I'd previously given up on. I'm pretty sure it was mostly the canned taste. If you have to use canned hominy, I recommend that you rinse and drain it very thoroughly. 

So, back to the last minute Cinco de Mayo posole and the hominy I hadn't cooked. It was a busy work day (I was working from home) and I didn't have any time to tend anything in the kitchen so I dumped them in the slow cooker with a lot of water and a thin-sliced medium onion, set it on high and went back to work checking on them every couple of hours. I don't know how long it took, but by 4:00 pm, I had beautiful hominy ready for my posole. At that point I had a little time and cooked-down the left-over hominy water and reduced it in a sauce pan on the stove - I used this as part of the liquid in the posole, but it's not necessary.

RECIPE: POSOLE ROJO CON POLLO
 - Serves 6
 Adapted from Nopalito's Posole Rojo, published on SFGATE

Ingredients:
  • Hominy
    • 2 cups Rancho Gordo dried hominy
  • Adobo
    • 7-8 dried chiles (I used 4 ancho, 2 guajillo and 2 New Mexico chiles)
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 onions, medium dice
    • 1-2 teaspoons whole cumin seed, crushed (but not powdered) with a mortar and pestle
    • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
    • 4 stems cilantro
    • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  •  Chicken & Stock (for the Posole assembly)
    • 2 tablespoons corn oil or neutral oil
    • 4 cups shredded pre-cooked chicken meat
    • 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock (I used a combination of 2 cups reduced hominy cooking water, 1 quart vegetable stock and 1 quart chicken stock because that's what I had. If you cook the meat from scratch - as in the Nopalita recipe - your stock will come from the posole section of that recipe)
  •   Garnishes
    • 2 cups thinly shredded cabbage - I like napa or savoy cabbage for this
    • 8 radishes, julienned
    • 2 small-medium avocados, diced
    • 3 limes, quartered
    • 1/2 a small red onion, diced
    • baked tortilla chips = about 8 6" corn tortillas
    • dried Mexican oregano
    • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
    • 1 tablespoon ground, toasted chile de arbol mixed with kosher salt, to taste.

Method:
  • Hominy (at least the day before you plan to serve)
    • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Pick through the hominy then place it in a heavy casserole and cover with at 3" inches of water. Bring this to a gentle boil on the stove. Cover and place in the oven on the middle rack. Cook until the hominy has 'bloomed' but is not falling apart - about 2-3 hours. It should double in volume. Strain and store in the refrigerator, covered.
  • Adobo
    • Remove and discard chile stems and seeds and place in a bowl large enough to hold the chiles and hot water. Completely cover the chiles with very hot water for about 15 minutes until they are completely soft. You may place a plate (smaller than the diameter of the edge of the bowl on top to keep the chiles submerged) on top of the chiles. Once they are soft, remove the chiles and taste the soaking water. If it is not bitter (sometimes it is) ladle off about 1-2 cups and reserve. If it is bitter, have the same volume of water or stock at hand.
    • Add the chiles, garlic, onion, cumin seeds, oregano and cilantro to a blender and puree, adding enough of the soaking liquid to form a smooth puree. Season to taste.
    • The adobo can be made in advance and refrigerated.
  • Assemble the Posole
    • Heat the stock in a sauce pan, reserving 1 1/2 cups.
    • Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil on medium in a heavy pot or Dutch oven. When the oil is shimmering and on the verge of smoking, add the adobo (be careful - watch for splatter!) and 'fry' it in the oil for 2-3 minutes while stirring - you don't want to burn the adobe. Adjust the head down the heat as necessary.
    • Add 3 cups of the shredded chicken and adjust the heat so that the adobo and chicken is simmering.
    • Puree 1 cup of the hominy with the reserved stock.
    • Add the hominy puree and the remainder of the hominy to the pot.
    • Add one-half of the stock to the pot and stir. The consistency of the dish can be anywhere from soup-like to stew-ish - your preference. Continue to add stock until you are satisfied. Simmer the posole for about 20 minutes, covered. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If making ahead, let it cool, cover and refrigerate.
    • Serve
      • If you made the posole ahead of time, heat it up on the stove and prepare the garnishes.
      • Serve in bowls topped by the cabbage and radishes. 
      • Serve the remainder of the garnishes on the side in bowls for your guests to add as they wish.

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