Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pumpkin Chipotle Pozole

From Wikipedia: Pozole (Nahuatl: pozolli), which means "foamy"; variant spellings: pozolé, pozolli, posole) is a traditional pre-Columbian soup or stew from Mexico, which once had ritual significance. It is made from nixtamalized corn, [Hominy] with meat, usually pork, chicken, turkey, pork rinds, chili peppers, and other seasonings and garnish...Since corn was a sacred plant for the Aztecs and other inhabitants of Mesoamerica, pozole was made to be consumed on special occasions. The conjunction of corn (usually whole hominy kernels) and meat in a single dish is of particular interest to scholars because the ancient Mexicans believed the gods made humans out of masa (cornmeal dough)...It is a typical dish in various states such as Sinaloa, Michoacán, Guerrero, Jalisco, Morelos, México and Distrito Federal. Pozole is often served in Mexican restaurants in the American Southwest.

To celebrate autumn, I took this formerly special occasion stew, and combined it with another seasonal festive ingredient, pumpkin.  The spiciness of the stew, the smokiness of the chipotles and the sweetness of the pumpkin made a contrast that complimented the contrasts of textures between soft beans, tender pork, and al dente hominy.  Hominy is a kind of big, puffy, chewy corn, that tastes like a corn tortilla or tamale.  It has been treated, like masa, to release more nutrients, but I like it for the taste and texture.  You can find it either by the canned corn, or with the Mexican ingredients.  Either yellow or white will do.

Mirepoix of chopped celery, carrot & onion, about 1 carrot, 1 onion, and two ribs celery worth.
6 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 lbs cheap pork, like pork butt or country-style boneless ribs, cut in bite size chunks.
1 pie pumpkin
1 onion, diced
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 cans hominy
1 can pink beans
1 can chipotle in adobo, 1-2 peppers minced, sauce from can reserved
1 can chopped green chilis, rinsed
1 stick unsalted butter
chili powder
Mexican oregano
4 packets Sazon seasoning
salt & pepper

Cut pork into bite size chunks, approximately 1" cubes.  Toss with salt, chili powder, and oil.
Add additional oil to a large stock pot, and sweat the mirepoix with some salt over low heat.  When onions begin to turn translucent, add garlic, cook one more minute, then remove vegetables and set aside. 

Crank up heat, and brown the meat in batches, turning to brown evenly.  Add water, about a gallon, and return mirepoix and garlic to pot.  Add Sazon seasoning, minced chipotle peppers to taste, and all the adobo sauce you can get out of the can.   Wear disposable gloves to keep the capsaicin in check if you have them!  Simmer, covered, on very low heat until pork is very tender.  I let it go all night. 

Strain soup through a fine mesh sieve, remove pork to a container, and discard spent mirepoix.  Refregerate both pork and broth.  When a disk of fat solidifies and hardens on the surface of the broth, remove, and skim up any remaining droplets.

To finish, reheat broth, reducing at a boil if needed.  Add onion, green chilis, and simmer.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 °F.

Cut, scoop out, and peel outer rind from pumpkin.  This will take a while, unless you have a very good peeler, but you can do this ahead of time.  Cut into 1" chunks.  Melt the butter in large microwave-safe bowl, and add pumpkin, tossing to coat.  Toss with generous amounts of cinnamon, and a light sprinkling of chili powder.  Spread evenly on a cookie sheet covered in foil, and bake for 45 min to an hour, until soft, with a nice outer crust.

Meanwhile, add tomatoes, drained hominy, pork, and a few tsp Mexican oregano to the pot, and simmer.  When pumpkin is finished and cool enough to handle, add what you were able to keep from popping into your mouth into the pot.  Just before serving, add beans and heat through. On serving, sprinkle bowls with additional oregano, or give guests some on the side to sprinkle on their own. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tamagoyaki: Easy rolled Japanese omelet

When you want to shake things up at breakfast or brunch, this is a very cool alternative that will make people think you have mad skills.  The flavors are interesting and subtly different, but this is a super easy recipe.  If you are making more than one serving, you can make a few of these and then slice and serve.  The rolling technique can be seen here.


¾ cup egg beaters (or 4 large eggs)
1 Tbs tamari or other soya sauce
1 Tbs granulated Spenda (or sugar)

Mix all ingredients.   Nonstick spray or oil a large nonstick pan and heat over medium low – medium heat, as you would for any omelet.  Our mixture evenly in pan, cooking until mostly set.  Swirl pan to run remaining liquid egg around edges, like a crepe.  Fold sides in to make a rectangle. Roll omelet,  aiming for a 2” wide, flat roll.   Remove to a fine cooling rack, or to a cutting board with paper towels, and allow to cool.

To serve: Place on a cutting board and trim both ends square.  Cut in half, then half again, until you have 1” thick pieces.  Arrange on plate.  Garnish with my sesame sauce (below) and black sesame seeds, but you could do a lot of other options for garnishing, including more traditional.  Some teriyaki or unagi sauce would go very well with the sesame sauce for contrast.

Serving suggestion: serve with some funky melon and lox or kippers.

Sesame dressing

I use this as an alternative to Japanese mayonnaise sauces.  It is lighter, and tastes better in my opinion, but is better for you too.  Makes a great salad dressing. You can also spice it up with Chinese 5-spice or Thai spice blends for use with fish, as an Asian alternative to tartar sauce.

These proportions are guesses, I do this to taste, and so should you.  It should be pale tan, with a salty-sweet, subtle flavor, with a creamy consistency.  The primary flavor should be of sesame.

Plain, Nonfat Greek Yogurt   1/4 cup
Tamari or other soya sauce 1-2 tsp
Splenda or other sweetener 1-3 tsp
Sesame oil, several dashes
Fresh ginger, 1 tsp grated and squeezed through a fine mesh strainer (or a few pinches dried ground)

Mix ingredients.  If garnishing meat or tamago, place in a pastry bag with a fine tip, or a sandwich bag with the very corner snipped off, and pipe away.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Smokey 40-Clove Braised Chicken

 Summer gets all the attention.  Fresh vegetables, grilling, picnics, all that good stuff.  But for my money, Fall is really where it's at.  When the weather turns cool, it's time to make some slow-cooked, hearty peasant food with deep, rich complex flavors.  While Summer is all about the ingredients, Fall is all about time and technique.  Summer is a culinary one night stand, while Fall is...well, you get my drift.

This dish came about, as many good dishes do, out of what was ready to hand in the pantry.  Smokey, subtly spicey, and sweet with slow-cooked mellow garlic and red peppers, it is easy to make but is bowl-licking good.

The short version:  sweat the veg, brown the chicken, deglaze with dry vermouth, add the tomatoes, stock and spices, braise in the oven for a couple of hours until the chicken pulls apart easily.  

Full recipe:

5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts (one large family pack)
3 bulbs garlic (you read that right), cloves separated and peeled
1 large yellow onion, 3/4"dice
1 large sweet red pepper, 3/4" dice
1 package (8oz) fresh button mushrooms, quartered if large
Two  14.5oz cans diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
3/4 cup dry (white) vermouth
2 cups chicken stock or low sodium canned chicken broth
1 tsp liquid smoke
1-2 tbs sweet Hungarian paprika
2 tsp dried herbs
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 250° F.
Preheat a heavy pot with lid, preferably an enameled cast iron dutch oven, over medium low heat.

Sweat onions in olive oil, with a sprinkling of salt, until they just begin to soften.  (Note: I like to add small amounts of olive oil as I go, adding just enough for each step).  Add mushrooms, adding oil if needed, and continue to sweat until onions become translucent and mushrooms soften and pick up some color.  Toss in the garlic cloves a couple of minutes before the other vegetables are done, and saute, then remove everything to a bowl and set aside.

Turn up heat, adding oil if needed.  Quickly brown the whole chicken pieces, working in batches if needed, until they just get some color all the way around.  Remove to a plate.   Add tomato paste to the oil, frying a couple minutes to caramelize the sugars, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go.  Deglaze with the vermouth, scraping any remaining brown bits from the bottom of the pot, followed by the tomatoes with their juice, and the stock.  Stir, allowing to reduce and thicken a couple of minutes.  Stir in liquid smoke, paprika, and black pepper, season with salt if needed.  Add vegetables, sweet pepper, and chicken,, making sure chicken is covered in sauce.  Cover with lid, and move to oven. Cook 2 hours.

After 2 hours, remove pot.  At this point the chicken should be able to fall into shreds if pressed with a spoon.  Stir in herbs (I used an Italian herb blend and fines herbs, along with some ground marjoram).  Shred the chicken with a couple of forks, incorporating into sauce.  Move back to the oven for another half hour.  Remove and serve.