I have been off adventuring for a bit. Now I am back and filled with inspiration for yummy topics! It's spring already where I live and I have been blessed to enjoy some time outside, watching the sunset, listening to the animals and observing the changes in the plants. I am reminded to start planting my garden. I have been fortunate to see a few plants through a rainy winter. I have a pineapple plant that still seems healthy and potatoes that are just growing like weeds! Speaking of weeds, I started weeding and I found a rogue tomato plant coming up!
I am also reminded at this time of year of the three sisters: beans, corn and squash. The three sisters are commonly planted together by many indigenous Americans. These three plants have a symbiotic relationship that allows all of them to have a better chance at survival. Each of them playing a role that helps one or both of the others. Their successful domestication made them staples in many native diets.
The eldest sister would have to be corn. She is widely revered among many Native American people's. Especially in modern day Mexico and in the New England area. Corn was the first domesticated food in the Americas. Corn is actually a grass that was bred to be larger and larger so that the grain could be easily harvested and produce a sizable yield. There are four to six different types of corn, depending on how you categorize them. Most common are: are pop corn, sweet corn and dent corn. Flour corn is separate and so is decorative "Indian" corn. So the corn you pop is actually quite different from the sweet corn on the cob.
It's easy to see how the evolution of corn dramatically changed the lives of the natives who first grew it. They now could have a sizable store of food that could be dried and sustain them through winters, droughts and other food uncertainties. The need to move around ceased, creating opportunity for organized settlements and different, more creative types of productivity. Artistic and architectural endeavors sprang up from lives of consistency and contentment. Carvings, paintings and weavings all became common sights of added beauty. Of course, culinary arts flourished, too!
How many native Nahuatl or Aztec prepared foods contained corn? The answer is: a lot! Even still today corn plays a massive role in Mexican cuisine creation. Traditional foods have become a mainstay and corn a revered staple in not only Mexico but in diets around the globe! The insightful natives did more than breed corn into a useable, delicious crop.
They also created a type of corn processing called Nixtamalization. This process uses alkalines such as ash or lime water to kill most of the toxins that might be contained in the corn. Done to dry corn, it would also reconstitute and change the chemical makeup. So that it was now capable of forming a dough that would not fall apart. This process is how we get hominy and masa for tamales, etcetera!
Which brings me to my recipe for today: Posole! This is an ancient dish from same native people the Spanish found in the glorious city Tenochtitlan. Even the name remains the same, a true Nahuatl word. However, given time, as with anything, this soup has morphed and taken on different characteristics depending on the region and the cook's preferences. So I am presenting posole in two ways. Both delicious and both possible to make at the same time! Both featuring the outcome of a thousand year journey of domesticated corn: hominy.
So before I build my alter to the mighty kernel, let's make soup!
The first posole will be traditional and mild. The second will be a red posole and will have the added flavor factor of chilies. In order to prepare the red sauce we will prep the chilies first.
3 dried ancho chilies (or chilies of your choice)
3 dried chilies de arbol (same as above)
4 garlic cloves (3 diced)
1 packaged of Gardein chick'n strips (sans sauce)
1 medium onion (diced)
5 cups veggie or mushroom broth (low sodium?)
4 cups of hominy (probably about two 15oz cans)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-2 tsp oregano (Mexican)
Salt (and pepper)
Tostada shells (or tortilla chips)
Break stems off of all your dried chilies and split them in half lengthwise. Clean out seeds. Place in bowl and pour boiling water over until the chilies are completely submerged. It helps to place a cup or small bowl on top to help keep the peppers submerged. Set aside while preparing the rest of soup ingredients.
Next, sauté chick'n strips in oil. Once they are thawed, add cumin, onions and diced garlic then continue to sauté until they are completely cooked through.
In a separate large cooking pot, bring broth to a boil. Then lower to medium heat and add chick'n mix. Add hominy and oregano and continue to simmer.
Finally, put chilies, remaining whole garlic, a generous pinch of salt and about 1 cup on the soaking water into a blender and blend until super smooth. Examine a spoonful. If there are no visible bits of skin it can be used as is. Otherwise, it can be strained through a fine mesh strainer.
Without the chilies, this is your traditional mild version! Slowly add chili sauce to taste. Simmer for 5 more minutes. This is your second version: red posole! Salt to your taste. Water can be added if you want a thinner broth. You can also choose a different veggie meat if you'd like. I recommend serving with at least one garnish of your choice.
That's it. I hope you enjoy!