Small and good things: a core of comfort

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For such a simple dish, pozole (or posole) is surprisingly exotic to many.

Admittedly, the lexicon of the dish is confusing: the pozole can refer both to the recipe – a hearty soup / stew with a deep Mexican heritage – but also to a processed grain itself called pozole and anglicized as hominy, confusing things even more with its echoes of rural southern South America.

You may have noticed a qualifier there – transformed – because as venerable as the main native ingredient of pozole is, the specific method of its manufacture – nixtamalization – dates from 1200 to 1500 BC, making pozole an example of one of the first processed human foods.

Nixtamalization involves soaking and boiling dried flint corn – not sweet corn – in an alkaline solution (lime water or similar) and drying it again, creating nixtamal, the original Aztec-Mexican name for pozole. .

Corn (left,) Pozole

The process performs a few auspicious functions. First, it loosens the shell and softens the kernels, making the end product easier to grind into masa for use in breads and other preparations (tamales, tortillas). More importantly, the process removes fungal toxins that could cause spoilage and improves the quality of nutrients (mainly niacin), which makes it easier for the human body to process. In the early part of the 20th century, non-nixtamalized corn caused many deaths in the United States before the connection to niacin was discovered by studying the pre-Columbian source.

What is the particularity of pozole, the dish? On the one hand, it’s a top-notch comfort food and cause for celebration. (It appears on Christmas and New Years tables across Mesoamerica.) The base and namesake of the stew are cooked whole grains of hominy that, when simmering slowly, “bloom” or bloom into pieces. tender but substantial, reminiscent of corn like they started out.

Most pozole recipes are labor-intensive, meat-based red chili sauces, but this holiday version is sweeter and sweeter: the green sauce (made with tomatillos, green chili peppers). , ground roasted nuggets, aka pumpkin seeds) is just as traditional, and this one puts mushrooms in place of meat.

Note: Yes, canned pozole is ‘one thing’, but it’s not something you want to subscribe to. If you’re going to do this, it’s worth starting from scratch. Look for quality raw materials; I can’t recommend a better recommendation than the Rancho Gordo product, found online.

Cook the grain a day or two before to save time. Refrigerate the corn in its cooking juices. The sauce and the final dish come together in the blink of an eye and result in almost better leftovers. You can take comfort in that.

Pozole Verde con Hongos (Green Pozole with Mushrooms)

Adapted from Rancho Gordo; sserves 6

2 large white or red onions, peeled, ½ onion chopped; the rest cut into thick slices
1 cup prepared dried hominy cooked to make 3 to 4 cups (pozole)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1½ pound tomatillos, shells removed
½ cup toasted shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), finely ground
4 to 6 cloves, crushed
2 to 4 escabeche jalapenos, drained, stoppered, split and seeded
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (stems OK)
2 teaspoons of dried Mexican oregano (marjoram or verbena substitute)
5 to 6 cups vegetable broth (or broth made from dried mushrooms – porcini suggested)
2 sticks of Mexican cinnamon (or Ceylon)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 to 5 cups (about 1½ pound) button mushrooms
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Toppings

toasted nuggets
Red onion, finely chopped
Persian lime wedges or Key
Cilantro leaves, cleaned
Optional: shredded napa cabbage, sliced ​​radishes, avocado, chicharrones, crumbled queso blanco or other cheese, sour cream, tortillas

  1. Cook the hominy: In a large pot, add the hominy and enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Cover and let soak for at least 6 to 8 hours and up to 10 hours. Transfer the pot to the heat; add chopped onion and more water as needed to cover 2 inches. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat; cook for 10 minutes then lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the grains are tender and split (flower) without chalk, 2 to 3 hours. (Check occasionally, adding more water as needed to keep it covered by about 1 inch.) When finished, drain the hominy on a colander over a bowl. Set aside the hominy and reserve 2 cups of the cooking juices. (While the corn cooks, roast the whole mushrooms in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes to concentrate the flavor. Cool, cut into large pieces and set aside.)
  2. For the green sauce: In a dry pan over medium heat, sauté the onions, garlic and tomatillos in a single layer, turning regularly until golden brown and tender (about 15 20 minutes). Transfer the vegetables to a bowl to cool.
  3. In a food processor / blender (working in batches), combine the accumulated vegetables and juices, cilantro, oregano and 2 cups of reserved hominy cooking liquid to keep the blades moving. Scrape sides as needed until everything is mashed.
  4. Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the mashed vegetables and adjust the heat to maintain a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Stir in the ground pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring, another 10 minutes. Add 2 cups of broth to get a thick soup-like consistency. Add the cinnamon sticks; keep the sauce on low while you prepare the mushrooms.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the roasted mushrooms, olive oil and a little salt. In a medium skillet over high heat, cook the mushrooms until just browned, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium; cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from fire.
  6. Add the cooked hominy to the simmering mash. Cook 10 to 15 minutes; add the mushrooms, adjust the seasoning and return to low heat; thin with additional broth if necessary. To serve, pour into bowls and serve with your favorite toppings.
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