Tag Archives: posole

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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SANTA FE RESTAURANTS 3: TERRA AT ENCANTADO RESORT

This has become one of our favorite restaurants in Santa Fe. We also like it for special occasions and celebrations. In an earlier post, I mentioned that our younger daughter was visiting with her 10-month-old from San Francisco. During her visit, she and her husband completed the negotiations on space for their new restaurant. That of course called for a celebration, so we made reservations at Terra.

Part of the charm of Terra is that it is several miles north of town, and the drive is beautiful. Another part of its charm is the beautiful view of the Jémez Mountains from the deck and huge picture windows of the bar and restaurant.

We chose the earliest seating so that we could arrive before the sunset to enjoy one of New Mexico’s incomparable evening displays.

We arrived at the front door of the resort and were immediately greeted by the friendly valet. The traditional Santa Fé scent of piñon smoke hung in the air as we passed the blazing fire in the huge fireplace on the deck.

As we entered the bar, we were greeted by the bartender and welcomed into a beautiful room flanked by another fireplace – this time modern and chrome – and huge windows looking over the distant mountains. We tried to sit outside in the cool early evening, but the heaters failed to work, even with the attention of the bartender and the manager, so we came back in. That was ok, because it was warm and we still got to enjoy the beautiful sunset along with flutes of New Mexico Gruet sparkling wine and some tasty truffle French fries.

Lights in the bar at Terra

Dinner kept up the excellent experience. The room was spacious, beautifully decorated, and blessedly quiet. Another breathtaking fireplace anchored the room with a glass-enclosed wine cellar on either side.  Our server was attentive and knowledgeable but not intrusive. The wine selection was enormous. Many of choices were well beyond our budget, but there were enough modestly priced bottles that we easily found an excellent option.

The menu presented a lot of hard choices, but eventually we made our decisions, and we were not disappointed.

Diver scallop and crispy pork belly with edamame purée was beautifully presented, the flavors blended.

Crispy sweetbread salad had its high and low points: the sweetbreads were crisp yet delicate, just as sweetbreads are supposed to be, and the “potato wheel” was amazing – a single spaghetti-sized strand of potato coiled into a perfect circle and fried to a delicate golden brown. The sauce was bland and needed salt (no chef ever wants to hear that).

Crispy sweetbread salad with potato wheel

The mains, though, were flawless. The venison two ways included a creative red chile venison tamal and a perfectly roasted venison lin with Cumberland sauce.

Venison two ways

The duck cassoulet was complete with a crispy duck leg and green chile sausage along with the traditional bread crumb crust. The big surprise was that New Mexico chicos substituted for the beans.

Duck cassoulet

The hot smoked salmon was topped with a crisp “chicharrón” of salmon skin and served with a delicate cauliflower mousse flavored with almond along with roasted kale.

Hot smoked salmon

Dessert included the traditional street food, churros, but raised to a new level and accompanied by rich cajeta.

This last week, we went back with our older daughter, Carol, and her two children. The scene was just as magical, and we now had an opportunity to try more things on the imaginative menu. I had the “West of the Pecos Winter Posole”, which was unlike any posole I have ever had. A big bowl was brought to the table with a nest of shredded ham hocks, posole, and micro cilantro nestled in the middle. The server then poured a steaming pitcher of fragrant broth into the bowl. The seasoning is not for the faint-of-heart, but it was a beautiful and flavorful start.

West of the Pecos winter posole

Carol had the warm chicory salad with crispy prosciutto and topped with a glistening, perfectly poached farm egg just begging to be opened so that the yolk could flavor the whole dish.

Warm chicory salad

She also chose the Guajillo prawns with – white chocolate molé! What’s not to like about that?!

The venison from the week before looked so good, that I chose that. As before, it was well-prepared with interesting seasonings. There was a delicate “cloud” of fois gras foam as an accompaniment.

Susan chose the wild mushroom ravioli with rabbit ragu. She pronounced it delicious.

 

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