Monthly Archives: January 2014

POSOLE

Posole (po-so-lay) is decidedly Southwestern and maybe even uniquely Northern New Mexican, although it undoubtedly has some kinship to hominy from the American South. The word refers to at least wo different things.

First, it is one of the names used for nixtamalized corn. That’s dry corn treated with lye or an alkaline solution to remove the hard outer husk. It is a process that was developed by the peoples of the New World. You can read more about the process in one of my earlier posts about the history of corn. In other places, posole is called hominy.

Second, the word refers to a soup made with posole. In New Mexico the soup is popular during the Christmas-New Year holidays, but it is really a favorite during all the colder months of winter. For that matter, lots of people eat it all year long, sometimes instead of beans and rice. The soup has as many versions as there are cooks, but some things are constant: (1) posole, (2) chile (either red or green – you could probably even use both, (3) onions, (4) protein (chicken, pork, turkey – maybe even tofu and vegetarian), and (5) herbs and spices (cumin, cilantro, and Mexican oregano). Optional items include grated asadero or Monterrey jack cheese, sliced radishes, and diced avocado.

You can buy posole canned, frozen, partly cooked, and dry. For me the best version of the soup uses dry posole, but if you choose to use it you should be prepared for a long cooking time, much longer than described in most recipes.

Whatever version you choose, it is well worth the effort. For our family, it is a universal favorite that is required some time during a visit to Santa Fe.  So here’s the recipe for pork green-chile posole.

RECIPE

Pork Green-Chile Posole

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces dry posole
  • water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1½ pounds boneless pork shoulder, cubed (If you’re feeling festive, you can substitute chops)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 7 ounces fresh-roasted, frozen, or canned New Mexico green chiles
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 pints chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled in your hand
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups grated asadero or Monterrey jack cheese (optional but highly recommended garnish)
  • 2 cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional but highly recommended garnish)
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and diced (optional garnish)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced radishes (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)

Method

  1. Soak the dry posole over night in a large pot of water. Add more water if the posole absorbs it all.
  2. At least 6 hours before you plan to serve the soup, heat the oil over a medium-high flame in a large frying pan. Cast iron works well. Add the pork to the hot oil, being careful not to crowd it so you can get a good brown crust on the meat. Remove the browned meat to a plate with a slotted spoon.  Lower the flame to medium-low. Then add the chopped onion. Add more oil if needed. Cover and let the onions sweat for about 5 minutes, stirring them occasionally. Do not let them brown. Add the green chiles and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Stir in the browned meat and pressed garlic. Add the flour and stir to completely coat the meat and vegetables. Cook for an additional 5 minutes to lose the flavor of uncooked flour.
  3. Drain the soaked posole into a large bowl, reserving some of the soaking liquid. Transfer the meat and vegetable mixture to the soaking pot, add the chicken stock and enough of the soaking water to cover.  Bring the mixture to a boil, add the soaked posole, and adjust the liquid so that everything is completely covered.
  4. Add the cumin and crumbled Mexican oregano and reduce to the simmer. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add water if necessary.
  5. Cook until the individual posole kernels are soft and “exploded” to resemble (a little bit) popcorn. They should have the consistency of al dente pasta.
  6. When the posole is done, serve it in large bowls. Pass bowls of cheese, cilantro, avocado, radishes, and sour cream for each guest to add to taste.

Notes:

  • This recipe should serve 6 to 8 people
  • If you think the soup is finished before you are ready to serve it, just turn down the heat or even re-heat it. Posole is one of those things that gets better with time.
  • Some people prefer chicken. Use that instead if you wish. It is every bit as tasty.
  • Piquancy is controlled by the heat of the chile. Food sensitivities in our family dictate mild, but you can always add your own hot sauce if you want your bowl to be spicier.
  • Asadero is a Mexican cheese made with a process similar to that of mozzarella. If you can’t find it, mozzarella or Monterey jack will substitute perfectly.
  • Mexican oregano often comes in a package of leaves, twigs, and flowers. That’s the kind you want. You should crumble the dried pieces between your hands to get the full flavor.
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GUMBO – PART TWO: THE IMAGES

Oops! I am not having much luck with the internet these days. First I bought a new Netgear router for my home network. It worked like a charm until I discovered that it would not talk to WordPress. After several calls the Word Press people said it was not their problem. Then I called Netgear and spent two days talking with technicians in India. While they were friendly and tried to be helpful, they could not solve the problem.

We left for LA with my laptop in tow, only to discover that it no longer connected to the internet, and the repair would cost the same as a new computer.

Next, we went to our daughter’s house, and I tried to use her computer. Her router went down and had to be reinstalled. Then I tried to use my wife’s computer at the place we are renting. You guessed it – the router went down.

Now I am working from the only 3-prong plug available, sitting out in the bright sun. I couldn’t see the screen very well and wound up pressing”Publish” instead of “Update”.

As a result of all of this, my gumbo post got published without the images. I am giving it a second try.

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DR. D’S LOUISIANA ANDOUILLE AND CHICKEN GUMBO

During this Christmas holiday, we were fortunate to have visits from two of our children and their families. Christmas is always a time to enjoy old family favorites, and since our youngest spent most of her growing-up years in Louisiana, we decided to make gumbo for our first evening. We lived long enough in Louisiana to learn how to make some of its classic dishes. We also benefited from lessons from some great cooks among our friends, some of them Cajuns. Nothing says “Cajun” quite as much as gumbo, and the great thing about the dish is that you can make it with whatever you like: oysters, shrimp, a mixture of seafood, duck, alligator, or whatever. This version, chicken and andouille sausage, is one of the most popular because the ingredients are readily available and taste so good together.

I don’t know where I got this recipe. Certainly it has been influenced by my friends, Reggie Graves and Ronnie George, but over the years I have tuned it and tweaked it so that I feel like it is “mine”.

When our daughter, Sarah, was in cooking school at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, as with all of the students she was responsible for preparing one family meal for her classmates. She chose to make this gumbo, and it was so popular that it was included in the official recipe book of the school. They called it, “Dr. D’s Gumbo”, and so here it is. It’s really very simple, but there are a lot of individual steps. You can take shortcuts, but if you do, it just won’t be real Louisiana gumbo.

Chicken stock. First, you make your own chicken stock. Actually, you start out with commercial chicken stock, but with your own vegetables, seasonings, and chicken, it becomes home-made and doubly rich. You will need chicken, commercial chicken stock, yellow onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and fresh tomato along with salt and black peppercorns.

The Cajun Holy Trinity. Second, you need to prepare your vegetables – the so-called Cajun Holy Trinity of onion, green pepper, and celery – before you start to cook. When you make the roux, you will be skating on the edge of disaster. It must be just the right color – as dark as you can make it – but if it burns, you will need to start over. The cut vegetables serve several important parts of the recipe. Of course, flavor is a major purpose, but stopping the roux from further cooking is equally important. That’s why you need to have it at your elbow to dump in the pot just when you think the roux is finished.

Roux. Third, you need to find the heaviest pot you have and the biggest metal spoon. Undoubtedly you have made a traditional French roux for béchamel or as thickening for various soups and sauces. That is not Cajun roux. The whole idea is to get the roux as dark as you can so that the rich smokiness flavors the soup. That requires constant stirring in a heavy-bottomed pot until your level of fear overtakes you. Any black bits – in other words, if it burns – you have to start over from the beginning.

Thickening.  As the roux darkens,  the flour loses its thickening power while adding to its flavoring power. As a result, there are two other ingredients used to thicken the soup.

First is okra. In fact the OED says that the word, “gumbo” comes from the Angolan word for okra. Many cooks prefer okra in the gumbo during the growing season. In the winter, when gumbo is guaranteed to take the edge from a cold day, filé becomes the preferred ingredient. There are many Cajuns who prefer filé for thickening all year long.

Filé is ground up dried sassafras leaves. If you live in the US South, you probably know where there is a nearby sassafras tree, and you can make your own filé. Aficionados swear it is by far the best to make your own. For the rest of us, there are several Louisiana food companies that sell filé in bottles. Once you buy your filé, the first thing to do is to transfer it to an empty Old Crow half-pint whiskey bottle to serve as your decanter on the dining room table.  Tightly stoppered, the filé keeps for a long time, but if you notice it has lost some of its thickening power, buy a fresh bottle.

Sausage. Traditionally, gumbo is made with andouille sausage. The Louisiana version is made with pork; the French version is made with chitterlings (I think you know what they are) so be sure you know what you are buying.  These days, most large super markets have andouille in the meat section, but if you have a hard time finding it you can substitute Polish kielbasa.

Spice. Gumbo can be as mild or spicy as you like. most folks from Louisiana like it on the spicy side, but food sensitivities in our family dictate a mild version. Fortunately you can add your favorite chile sauce to give the gumbo you prefer. Traditionally, Tabasco is often favored, but it has a vinegary punch that some don’t like. There are any number of other Louisiana hot sauces you can choose, or you can opt for Cholula from Mexico, or the current popular hot sauce, sriracha.

RECIPE

Louisiana Andouille and Chicken Gumbo

Ingredients

  • 32 ounce container of commercial chicken stock
  • 1 whole chicken, giblets and neck removed
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved
  • 2 ribs celery cut in thirds
  • 1 large carrot, cut in thirds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 or 4 stems of parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 whole black pepper corns
  • water to cover
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1½ pounds andouille sausage
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery chopped
  • 2 large green bell peppers, seeds removed and chopped
  • 5 scallions with green tops chopped + more for garnish
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (You may use lard if you want to be authentic)
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Louisiana hot sauce (optional)

Method

  1. In a large stock pot, pour in the chicken stock. Add the chicken, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, salt and pepper. Add water to cover the chicken. Then bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the chicken is done, about 45 minutes. With your hand, squeeze in the tomato, seeds and all. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Remove the chicken to cool until it is easy to handle. Strain the stock into a large bowl, and set aside.
  2. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin. bones, and any veins you might see. Cut the chicken meat into bite sized pieces and set aside.
  3. Cut the andouille sausage into 1 inch sections and then quarter each section. Set aside.
  4. Combine the chopped onion, celery, green pepper, and scallions in a large bowl. Place next to the roux pot so you can add it quickly to the roux before it burns.
  5. Using a very heavy pot and long-handled metal spoon, place the oil over high heat. As the oil begins to shimmer and just before it smokes, sprinkle the flour gradually into the oil while stirring constantly. The flour should sizzle as it hits the hot oil. It will start to darken immediately. Constant stirring is essential, being ure to scrape the corners of the pot. You can stop whenever the roux is colored to your liking, but Cajun moms will push it until it is almost black (ALMOST black – if you get some black flecks, it means that you have burned the roux and need to start over)
  6. Immediately dump in the chopped vegetables to stop the roux from darkening further. Stir. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft and translucent.
  7. Stir in enough of the chicken stock to get the consistency you want. Return to the boil. Add the chicken and andouille and simmer for another 30 minutes to meld the flavors.
  8. Correct the seasoning with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
  9. Serve in a large soup bowl over a heap of cooked white rice. Pass chopped scallions, filé, and more hot sauce so that all can suit themselves.

 

A bowl of chicken and andouille gumbo

A bowl of chicken and andouille gumbo

 

File in the obligate Old Crow bottle

File in the obligate Old Crow bottle

 

Your choice of Louisiana hot sauces

Your choice of Louisiana hot sauces

 

Apot of gumbo ready to be served over rice

Apot of gumbo ready to be served over rice

 

Cooked chicken ready for the gumbo pot

Cooked chicken ready for the gumbo pot

 

Andouille sausage

Andouille sausage

 

Gumbo base simmering

Gumbo base simmering

 

The Cajun Holy Trinity stirred in to stop the roux from darkening too mucn

The Cajun Holy Trinity stirred in to stop the roux from darkening too mucn

 

Roux beginning to cook but it needs to get a lot darker than this

Roux beginning to cook but it needs to get a lot darker than this

 

You need the biggest metal spoon you can find to keep you from getting burned with Cajun napalm

You need the biggest metal spoon you can find to keep you from getting burned with Cajun napalm

 

The bowl of chopped vegetables ready to be dumped into the roux

The bowl of chopped vegetables ready to be dumped into the roux

 

Chopped vegetables

Chopped vegetables

 

The Cajun Holy Trinity

The Cajun Holy Trinity

 

Cooking the chicken to also make a double-rich chicken stock

Cooking the chicken to also make a double-rich chicken stock

This recipe should easily serve 8 to 12 hungry people

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CHUNK O’CHEESE BREAD

One of our family’s favorite breads is Chunk o’Cheese.  The original recipe was developed by Mrs. Richard W. Ojakangas from Duluth, Minnesota. With it she won Second Grand Prize in the ninth annual Pillsbury Grand National Bake-Off. The recipe was published in Best of the Bake-Off Collection, Book Publishing Industries, Inc., 1959, page 21. Since then, the recipe has been reprinted numerous times in various cookbooks and recipe collections as well as on the internet.

Chunk o'cheese loaves fresh out of the oven

Chunk o’cheese loaves fresh out of the oven

During a recent visit to Los Angeles, I made the bread with my grandson, who had a great time pushing the little chunks of cheese into the dough. That is a very important step, because cheese on the surface of the dough melts in the oven. It can make a big mess. For that reason, be sure to line your baking pans with aluminum foil Also be sure to remove the foil from the finished loaves while they are still cooling. Otherwise you will wind up with pieces of aluminum foil stuck in the cracks of the firmed-up bread.

All it needs is some butter

All it needs is some butter

The basic recipe is really the very old-time American classic, anadama bread, but the cheese sets it apart.  The original recipe called for American cheese. (That and Velveeta were the kinds of cheese found in most American kitchens in the 1950s.) I prefer to use sharp Cheddar, but you can choose your favorite so long as it melts easily. Monterey jack, Muenster, Swiss, mozzarella, or provolone will also work. You can even try a mixture of cheeses. I have also added a little whole wheat flour to make the loaf even more flavorful and crunchy.

RECIPE

Chunk o’Cheese Bread

Ingredients

  • 2¼ cups lukewarm water (110°F)
  • ½ cup cornmeal + more for shaping loaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable shortening
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 4½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound cheddar cheese, cut into ¼ to ½ inch cubes

Method

  1. In a 2 quart saucepan, combine 1 3/4 cups of the warm water, cornmeal, and salt. Stir until smooth. Then place over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Continue to stir until thickened, about 5 minutes after it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat.
  2. Stir in molasses and butter or shortening. Cool to lukewarm.
  3. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the remaining ½ cup of warm water. Add the cornmeal mixture and blend thoroughly.
  4. Stir in the whole wheat flour until well combined. Then, one cup at a time, stir in 3½ cups of the all-purpose flour to form a sticky dough.
  5. Spread the remaining 1 cup of flour onto a clean work surface. Place the dough on the flour and knead until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic.
  6. Return the dough to the washed, dried, and greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean cloth, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in volume.
  7. Turn the risen dough onto a work surface sprinkled with cornmeal, and work the cheese cubes into the dough by flattening the dough, sprinkling with about ¼ of the cubes, and folding over the dough, then repeating the process until all of the cheese cubes are incorporated.  Make sure that all of the cheese cubes are covered.
  8. Divide the dough into two equal pieces.
  9. Shape into two round loaves. Place in two 8 or 9 inch cake pans tightly lined with well-greased aluminum foil. Make sure the cheese cubes are well covered. Otherwise they will melt during baking and make cleanup difficult.  Cover the shaped loaves with a clean cloth and let rise until doubled.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 1 hour. Test for doneness.  When the loaves are baked, remove from the oven and cool in the pans for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Remove any bits of aluminum foil that cling to the loaves while they are still warm. Otherwise you will have a hard time removing the foil.
  11. Cool completely before slicing. although you will be tempted to try an early sample.

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