Wednesday, March 18, 2009

From carnitas to posole

Very often one or two great ingredients can drive my cooking for several days. This week, beautiful avocados and poblano chiles are taking that role. Ive always loved Mexican border food, and when I discovered Santa Fe or New Mexico-style cooking I was over the moon. Mind you, Ive never been to New Mexico to eat. But I will be, for sure. My discovery came back in about early 1986 when I forgot to return a book club shipment notification and received, unwanted, The Taste of Santa Fe by Buckley Dent. There were no photographs, but boy, could I see what he loved to eat. From that I taught myself how to make flour and corn tortillas, tamales, and carnitas. With great carnitas and the broth from cooking the pork it was a short step to a great bowl of posole. You can use canned products for nearly all of the making of posole, in fact many cooks do, but of course when you can use some key fresh ingredients the brothy stew of meat, hominy, and chiles in a cumin and garlic-scented bath goes over the top. And you can use chicken thighs instead of pork if the mood strikes you.

Yesterday I made chicken carnitas. Today we have posole. How did I get there? Yesterday I threw half a dozen frozen whole chicken thighs into water to cover, added about a tablespoon of whole cumin, a couple of dried red chiles, and a few whole garlic cloves. Then I pulled three cups of rich chicken stock from the freezer and added that. All that cooked for about three hours then I strained the stock and picked and shredded the chicken. Stock, about five cups, went to the fridge. The chicken went for a quick sauté to get crispy edges, then rolled up in flour tortillas that I had trimmed to 10x6 from giant locally-made tortillas. (I go for authentic but I am also pragmatic; these days I cant stand in the kitchen all day without a lot of pain so I don’t always make my own tortillas these days.) I brushed the flautas with oil and convection roasted them for about 20 minutes until they were GDB. Served them with some guac (my nod to St. Patricks Day) and green salsa mixed with sour cream.

Today I am making a quick posole. Posole means the stew but also the hominy that goes into it. I am using canned today, a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Frankly, I forgot to put the dried hominy on to soak yesterday. Six more chicken thighs into water with garlic, red chile, cumin and a cup of yesterdays broth. That cooks for an hour or two then the same routine as yesterday: strain and shred. While it cooks I roast and peel two big fresh poblanos and dice them. Then chicken, poblanos, hominy and onion go back into the pot with todays broth and the rest of the stock from yesterday. If it doesnt look like there is enough green chile in it, I add a can of chopped green chile as well. Simmer for an hour or so and serve with diced avocado, jack cheese, chopped onion and flour tortilla crackers. For the crackers, brush pieces of tortilla with oil, sprinkle with salt, and convection bake at 425 for couple of minutes until just golden at the edges and crisp.

Tomorrow? Leftovers. Oh, darn.

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