Posole

Having not an inkling of an idea as to what posole was prior to Heidi’s post on the subject over at 101 Cookbooks, I was instantly intrigued by the look of these beguiling little flowering kernels of corn.  Posole is whole corn kernels that have been soaked in lime juice.  The acid from the lime loosens the skin of the kernel, which is then scrubbed off, and then the corn is dried, which is how you buy it in stores.  For those of you that are as obsessed with the comforting ancient Mexican goodness of masa harina, corn tortillas, and tamales as I am, you’ll want to try this.  A bowl of hearty, uncomplicated, nutritious ingredients for dinner.

Though I was unable to find a single bag of posole at my usual stops (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s… duh), I ordered a few bags (oh, alright, and some other goodies) from The Native Seed, a great little operation running out of Tuscon, AZ that stocks heirloom beans, chile powders, salsas, grains, and numerous other Southwestern delights.

Though Cowboy was somewhat put off by the idea of posole for dinner (“What’s in it again?  Just corn?  No other vegetables?  No MEAT?”) he quieted down and let me do my thing in the kitch for a few hours.  He was pleasantly surprised, and ended up digging the dinner.  We’re both obsessed with posole now!

Red Posole

Posole

1 lb. dried hominy (soaked overnight)
1 cup diced onion
5 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 heaping teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
3 large dried red New Mexican chile peppers, halved, stems & most of the seeds removed (I left a few in for a more mellow taste)
3 teaspoons sea salt
lime juice, to taste
crumbled queso fresco or, alternately, parmesan, for garnish

Red Sauce

1 tablespoons mild-flavored olive oil
2 tablespoons onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/1 teaspoon dried New Mexican oregano
1 tablespoons unbleached white flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup ground red New Mexican Chile chile
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
juice from a quarter of one lime

Corn Tortilla Strips

3 or 4 corn tortillas
a little mild flavored olive oil, for frying

1.) Drain the posole after its overnight soaking, place it in a large pot along with the onion, garlic, oregano, and peppers, and cover with 3 ½ quarts water.

2.) Bring to a boil, and simmer until the posole is tender, but still retains a substantial, pleasantly chewy texture, and many of the kernels have literally flowered, and other burst into popcorn-esque shapes.  Depending on the age of your posole, this can take anywhere from 1-2 hours.

3.) Season with a couple teaspoons of salt about halfway through the cooking process. Season again once the posole is fully cooked.

4.) While the posole is cooking, make the red sauce.  In a medium bow, whisk the ground chile into 1 ¼ cups water.

5.) Heat olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over a medium flame.  When hot, add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes, until they have begun to brown.

6.) Add the onion, garlic, and oregano, and sauté a few minutes more.

7.)Add the flour and cumin, and stir continuously for another minute or so.

8.) Whisk the chile water into the saucepan, and then continue stirring with a wooden spoon until it thickens a little.

9.) Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minute.

10.)               Stir in lime juice, and season with a bit more salt if you’d like.

11.)                Make friend corn tortilla strips for garnish while posole is still cooking.  Brush 3 or 4 corn tortillas with a bit of olive oil.  Cut thin strips across 5 or 6 corn tortillas, halving the longer strips.  Fry strips in a nonstick pan over a medium flame until stiffened and yummy.

12.)               When the posole has finally burst into beautiful little balls of popcorn and flowers, stir ½ cup of the smoky yummy red sauce into the posole.  You may want to add a little more red sauce before serving.  I added maybe only a tablespoon more, if that.

13.)               Garnish with tortilla strips and cheese*.

*Cheese is an ESSENTIAL garnish for this, in my opinion.  It’s sorely needed to balance the dry smoky heat of the chiles – queso fresco, or even parmesan if you’re feeling lazy, beautifully bind the elements of this dish to create something truly special.

This recipe way adapted from Deborah Madisons’s cooking bible Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone.

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