Monday, November 3, 2014

Posole Verde - Ancient Comfort Food

Days are getting colder, and I kind of love that, because it means more baking and casseroles and soups and stews and...well, let's just say that I love warming up in my kitchen.

Lately, I've been on an intense flavor kick.  A little bit is not enough.  Spices, herbs, acidity...I'm craving it all.  And that doesn't always translate for the younger members of the household, but lately they've been troopers about trying new dishes and flavors that they might not be used to.

A couple of weeks ago, inspired by some tomatillos that my friend Amy of Amy's Organic's gave us when we picked up our apple CSA haul, I decided to pull out a dish that I had made a long time ago.  One that was all right, but needed tweaking, and I had just never gotten back to it. Posole Verde.  

Posole is a Mexican stew, of sorts.  It's full of flavor, but this one is not overwhelmingly spicy.  It's loaded with delicious, filling elements like chicken and hominy, and fresh flavors like tomatillo, peppers, and cilantro.  And then you get the fun of making it your own with the toppings!  Like a choose your own adventure meal.  Always a hit around here.

So, it turns out that since maize was a sacred plant to the Aztecs, posole was consumed only on special occasions.  For my family, it's almost the other way around.  Posole makes our regular family dinner a bit more special around here.  The discussions get a little more cheery, everyone lingers at the table a bit longer, and there just seem to be more smiles.  While it's not from any part of our heritage, it's comfort food to us.   An instant comfort food. 

And, like most of my favorite recipes, it's not hard to make, and it doesn't take long.

I usually make posole when I have leftover roasted chicken, because it's a great way to use up those leftovers.  If you don't have leftover chicken, you can just grill, roast, boil, or broil 2-3 chicken breasts, or the chicken pieces of your choice, and shred those up.  Either way, you want to have cooked chicken in small pieces.  Think "fits on a soup spoon easily" sized pieces.

Making the flavor base of the soup is pretty entertaining, because you get to use a blender, which for me always is the sign of a good time.  Here's what you want to toss into your blender:

6-8 tomatillos, husks off and quartered
1 onion, quartered
2-3 milder green hot peppers, like poblano, seeded and cores removed
2 jalapenos, seeded and cores removed
6 cloves garlic, smashed
a large handful of cilantro
a small palmful of fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Pulse that a few times to get it all broken down, then add in a cup of chicken stock and puree it until it's a smooth consistency.

In a large pot with a heavy bottom, heat about a tablespoon of cooking oil, then add the tomatillo puree and cook it for about 10 minutes.  It should smell wonderful and start to turn a deeper green color.

Add in 2 quarts of chicken stock and two large cans of drained hominy.  Bring it all to a boil.

Add in the shredded chicken, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook until everything is heated through.

Serve with all sorts of toppings.  Sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, lettuce, radish, avocado, more cilantro, lime wedges...make it your own!

My favorite is to add some sour cream, tortilla chips, cheese, and a squeeze of lime.  I could eat this all day!

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