Friday, September 28, 2012

duel of the pozoles

We all know my strange affinity for Mexican flavors...especially when the hot months roll around (and copious amounts of margaritas are seasonally appropriate).  But that strong urge to eat tacos, guac, and elote in (probably) unhealthy amounts at an alarming frequency tends to dissipate once the smell of fall is in the air.  That is, unless I'm making a mole.  But who has time to make mole?  I sure as heck don't. I can just imagine:

- Hey work, I'll be taking a vacation (at the busiest time of the year)
- Must be important, considering your abysmal timing, where are you going?
- kitchen. 

Sadly, no one would really be surprised if that happened. But I'd also most likely get fired.  Maybe I'll do it, sans the vacation time.   But ALAS, I have been cooking a dish for the past few months - first as 'chilaquiles', next as a taco for ladies night, and then just as a stew, kinda.  Clearly, we all were having a difficult time figuring out what the heck it was at first, besides freaking delicious.  Throw some chips in it - CHILAQUILES! Throw it into a tortilla - SHREDDED POLLO EN ADOBO.  Throw it in a bowl - ?!  Well, it all came together after I stumbled upon some Indian (indian as in native american, thank you mr. columbus) red corn hominy.  Again, my urge to purchase anything new and exciting got the best of me.  Lo and behold, all along, I had been making my own form of POZOLE base! I hadn't even realized it until these gems popped up in front of me. Yup. Throw in some hominy, and there ya go. 

So, as with all 'peasant' dishes, recipes and variations go far and wide. Seems as though as long as hominy is included, you're good.  Pozole comes in many forms - red, white, or green, with pork, chicken, or straight up vegetables, spicy or name it, it'll most likely work out.  I'm sure if you asked 100 different abuelas, you'd get 100 different recipes. Here's the thing about those 100 different recipes...I'm sure that more than a few involve an insane amount of steps that are both tedious and time consuming.   Creating a chili paste from scratch, preparing the hominy, prepping meat, etc.  Fortunately, the following recipe is nowhere close to that!  It's a dish you can make at the last-minute when you're out of ideas - and after trying this, it'll definitely be a go to.

First and foremost, I'll let you know there are TWO recipes that follow, one for green pozole, and one for red.  I had been cooking a red pozole that is out of this world, but also wanted to make something that showcased the color of the hominy I picked up.  So green it was! It's nice to see the juxtaposition of the two. So, here you go - two straightforward, simple, delicious pozole recipes.

Pozole Rojo
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (I use San Marzano)
3-5 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1 small roasted chicken
3 cups chicken stock
2 14-oz cans hominy, rinsed and drained
Olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

In a large stockpot, heat about 2 T of olive oil over medium-low heat. After a couple minutes, toss in the onion and garlic.  Allow to cook slowly, about 15 minutes, until soft and translucent, stirring often.  Turn the heat to medium, and add in the diced tomatoes. Allow the tomato to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring only a few times.  While the prior ingredients are cooking, you can start shredding the chicken.  If you're dainty, you can use forks, but if you're like me, just get after it.  There's no way you can get in those nooks and crannies without using your hands! 

(Remember, Paula Deen unknowingly challenged me to dethrone her as the world's best chicken picker...maybe true.)
Next, add in the chipotle peppers, along with a bit of the adobo sauce.  Honestly, how many you use here depends on the level of spiciness and smokiness you want.  Spicy and smoky gets me every time, so I tend to put in extra.  Stir until combined.  Stir in the chicken, toss in the hominy, and pour in the chicken broth.  If you want more of a "soupy" soup, rather than a thicker stew, feel free to add more chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and let simmer for about 10 minutes, until the chicken had started falling apart even more.   Taste, and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve hot with accompaniments!

Pozole Verde
1 lb tomatillos, husked and halved

1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 small green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 poblano, roughly chopped
2 small jalapenos, seeded and quartered
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 T oregano leaves
4 cups chicken stock
4 chicken breasts, poached, roasted, grilled (or another rotisserie chicken, if ya crazy)
2 14-oz cans hominy, drained and rinsed
Sea Salt
Fresh ground pepper

In a food processor or blender, add the tomatillos, onion, garlic, peppers, and herbs.  Puree until finely chopped, scraping down the sides with a spatula.  Add in 1 cup of chicken stock, and puree until smooth.  Season to taste and reserve.  Note: this can be made way ahead of time!

If you're starting with raw chicken breasts, you can do whatever you want to them! Grilling is probably a good option, because it'll impart a bit of "grill" flavor.  I don't have a grill, so I went with the broil.  Preheat the oven around 350/400F, and flip it to broil as soon as you stick the chicken in.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper on both sides, cook for about 10-12 minutes under the broiler (flipping halfway through), and rest for another 10. Perfect! No matter what chicken you're deciding to use, make sure it's shredded and ready to go in the soup.  In a large stockpot over medium heat, add in the tomatillo puree.  Let cook, stirring often, until the green puree reaches a darker hue, about 10-15 minutes.  Next add in the remaining chicken stock, the hominy, and the chicken. Bring to a boil, stir, and let simmer for another 15 minutes. Season to taste.  Serve with accompaniments and enjoy!

To serve both/either, bring an assortment of accompaniments to the table for everyone to choose from.  Chopped cilantro, diced avocado, sliced radish, lime wedges, and cotija cheese are all perfect! Some add raw onion, diced iceberg lettuce, and various spices.  Do whatever looks best to you!  Heck, bring in some tortilla chips too, just for the heck of it.   The red corn hominy added a great nuttiness to both the green and red posole - a flavor not imparted by standard white hominy.  Think of it as akin to wild or black rice! (My favorites!) Both of these pozoles have GREAT flavor to them, and are great to have side by side, sheerly because they're almost exact opposites.  The pozole rojo is thicker and smokier, with a deep flavor that warms you up from the inside.  The green pozole is bright and fresh, and perks you up as soon as you take a spoonful.   Granted, both of these recipes make a bunch of pozole - about 4 big servings each, potentially 6-8 smaller servings - but it's well worth it.  It'll go in a flash, and you'll be glad you made so much! As for me, you'd think I was throwing a quinceanera this weekend, especially considering there are only two people to consume all of the above food that was made.  Again, worth it.  It'll be gone in two days, I'm sure. So go for it...make one, make all, get crazy! 

If you pick up dried hominy, soak the kernels overnight at room temperature.  For both recipes, I used 16 oz. of dried hominy.  Next, let them simmer in salted water or chicken stock (a bit more than to cover) for  at least two hours, if not longer, until tender. Some of the husks should pop open, or "bloom" - then you'll know they're ready! Drain and reserve until ready to put into the posole.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

duck a l'orange sanguine

I'm sure you've noticed the weather has been a bit crisp as of late (unless you live in the desert...or Hawaii)...September is definitely coming at us in full force, getting us ready for a beautiful fall season.  That being said, the Fall gloves are out, the scarves are hung, and my Member's Only jacket has been dusted off.  Yeah, you heard me right. Member's. Only. Jacket.  I may be the last remaining member, and I like to consider myself the president.  Besides those minor details, it's perfect for Fall weather.  You know what else is perfect for this kind of weather? Duck! Sure, you can eat duck any time of the year, but specific preparations and accompaniments really make it appropriate for a brisk day.  A slow heating to render off the fat (and save for later!), served with something braised maybe? Sounds about right.  I was getting all up in Autumnal colors' business this time around as well - purples, reds, oranges, browns - I had to restrain myself from purchasing the world and going too over the top.  I faired relatively well, all things considered. 

So, what all are we working with here? Well, magret duck breast to be certain.  Radicchio de Treviso - regular radicchio is cool if you can't find it.  Blood Oranges.  And some other stuff.  A solid combination!  I mean let's be real - duck + orange always = a good time.  Add some warm spices, and you're good to go!

Spiced Duck Breast with Blood Orange Reduction, Braised Radicchio, and Root Vegetables
Serves 4
2 large magret duck breasts.  (For 4, you want somewhere around 2 lbs total, so adjust depending on size, the ones I got were  massive) 
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
~2 T ground cinnamon 

To prep the duck breast, gently score the fat across the breast, each about 1/2 in apart, being sure not to cut into the meat itself.  This helps render the fat properly.  Season both sides generously with salt and pepper.  Set aside until ready to cook.

When ready to cook, dust both sides of the duck breasts with cinnamon.  Place the duck breasts, skin side down in a large, cold saute or cast iron pan.  Place the pan over medium heat and cook for at least 10 minutes, until the fat has rendered and is nicely browned and crisp.  Turn and cook for 2 minutes longer for a good medium-rare.  Transfer to a plate, cover with foil. and let rest for at least 5 minutes.  Slice into 1/4-in thick slices.

Blood Orange Reduction
3 blood oranges, juiced

Yup. One ingredient.  This juice is so good that it does not need ANY additional spices, herbs, butter....nothing.  Just the juice, straight up.  Bring to a boil, and reduce until it has reached a syrupy consistency.  Reserve.

Braised Radicchio
1 head radicchio, Treviso or other
1 cup chicken stock
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
Saba, to finish - you can use a good, thick balsamic here as well if you don't have saba

Trim the base of the radicchio, peeling off the outermost layer.  Quarter the head of radicchio, being sure to keep the base intact, holding each quarter together.  In a sauce pan, bring the chicken stock to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Gently add the radicchio to the liquid and let cook until the base/core is fork tender.  Once you get to this point, you can bring the liquid back to a boil and reduce it until it's almost gone.  This will concentrate the flavor of the stock with any liquid released from the radicchio.  Remove from heat and set aside until ready to plate.  

Roasted Root Vegetables
4 long, thin sunchokes (Jerusalem artichoke)
6 'spring' onions or cipollini onions, halved
~4 T olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/4 c water, vegetable, or chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 350F.  In two small, separate pans (tall sided for the onions), individually toss the onion and the sunchoke with 2 T olive oil, a generous pinch of sea salt, and a few grinds of black pepper.  Toss until well coated.  Place the water or stock in the pan with the onions, and cover with foil.   Place in the oven, and cook for about 40 minutes, or until fork tender. 

To plate, divide all of your components up evenly.  Honestly, the best part of this dish is the duck with the blood orange reduction, combined with the saba radicchio...that, my friends, could be a dish in and of itself. But as we know, sometimes I go overboard.  Either way, the ingredients came together perfectly! 

On a serving plate, brush or spoon a bit of the blood orange reduction onto the plate, and layer a few slices of duck over top.  You can drizzle the reduction over top as well, but frankly, it actually looks like blood so...depending on who you're with you may want to forgo that.  Sprinkle with a few finely minced chives.  Place one quarter of radicchio around the duck, and drizzle with a bit of saba - this adds a little more umami-ness to the radicchio, and also helps balance out the bitterness with a touch of sweet.  Scatter around some sunchokes (finished with olive oil and sea salt) and onions (finished with blood orange zest) and get ready to dig in!

Friday, September 7, 2012


The passing of Labor Day has really put my transition from summer to fall MO at full speed, whether or not we still have 85 degree days to look forward to.  So, before I really got into the autumnal flavors routine, I had one last hurrah with the summer time goods.  Super fresh corn and actually good tomatoes - you'll be gone soon enough, and all too quickly! But seriously, it's kind of sad.  This recipe puts forward these A-list ingredients in a bright spotlight, and they sure as hell shine.  That being said, check it out, and get your ingredients to make this before it's TOO LATE! 

Coconut Crusted Turbot with Pickled Red Onion Summer Salsa
Serves 4
Pickled Red Onion Summer Salsa
3/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
5 allspice berries
5 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 T nigella seeds
a small, dried chile de arbol
1 large red onion, peeled, and thinly sliced into rings (I used a bunch of small red pearl onions)
1 pt heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
1 kernels from one ear of corn
1 T olive oil
1 t nigella seed
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper

This recipe obviously makes more pickled red onions than you'll need for the whole recipe, but these are so damn delicious, you'll want some extra.  The nigella seeds are a must in this situation - aka "black caraway seeds".  These are tiny black seeds that look almost like pitch black sesame seeds - but the flavor is AWESOME.  AND, they come from this crazy flower.  But most importantly, they remind me of Shy Guy's eyes from Super Mario 2. But enough of this small talk - back to the recipe!  In a small, non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, seasonings and chile de arbol until boiling.  Add the onion slices and lower heat, then simmer gently for 30 seconds.  Remove from heat and let cool completely. For the remainder of the recipe, you'll need ~1/4 C of the pickled red onions and it's pickling juice.   Place that 1/4 C into a large mixing bowl.  Pour the remainder of the pickled onions in a jar, and refrigerate - these keep for a long while.  

Back to the bowl! Toss in the fresh corn and the cherry tomatoes.  I like to cut my guys along whatever plane preserves the integrity of the fruit's actual look and shape - so pear shapes still look like pear shapes, cherries still look like cherries, etc. Yeah, I said that.  Toss with the olive oil, extra nigella seeds, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  So delicious - and beautiful!

For the fish:
2 lbs turbot fillets (no skin), or some other flaky whitefish
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
~1/3 C unsweetened, grated coconut
Olive Oil

Season both sides of the fish with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Next,  place the fillets (what was) skin side down and coat the top with Wondra Flour.  The greatest flour! This helps achieve a nice golden color while sauteing.  Heat up a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat.  Swirl in a few tablespoons of olive oil and heat up until shimmering.  You don't want it to be TOO hot, so watch your temperatures! When the oil shimmers, place the fish fillet, Wondra side down, into the oil.  Depending on the size of the fillets and the size of your pan, this may have to be done in batches.  Cook the fish until it's golden brown, and flip.  With a fish as thin as turbot, it should only take a couple minutes per side to be finished - it all depends on the thickness of your fish though! Remember the Ripert trick with the metal skewer? Do that.  Right before the fish is cooked through, sprinkle evenly with the unsweetened coconut.  Finish under the broiler, until the coconut is just toasted.  Easy enough!

To plate, divide the salsa evenly between four plates...try not to take more for yourself.  Finish each with a fillet of turbot - and more nigella seeds if you wish! The nigella seeds take the gold here.  So go crazy!

Seriously.  This is the best way I can imagine to enjoy the end of the summer, at least in dish form.  Celebrate those ingredients! The salsa really stole the show here. Not only is it gorgeous to look at (hello, every color of the rainbow, but also neon?!), but the flavors are outrageous!  It's perfectly sweet, perfectly tangy, and perfectly crunchy.  A sweetness come from the corn itself, as well as a more subtle sweetness from the tomatoes.  Those tomatoes also give a subdued acidity that plays nicely with the punch packed by the pickled red onions. Say that three times fast! Lawd.  And the nigella seeds.  Don't knock it til you've tried it! Find a package of these seeds immediately! Back to the food.  Even though the salsa has a lot of prominent and strong flavors, it still manages to be delicate enough to work with the fish.  The flavor of the fish comes through, and is even played up a bit from the coconut - which, in and of itself gives an awesome toasty, nuttiness to the dish all around.  Wa-BAM! That's all folks.  Make this immediately!

want more.