Recipe Testing: Amor, Familia y Sopa – Green Pozole with Chicken

Green Pozole with Chicken

The radish, avocado, cilantro and lime toppings take this sopa to the next level!

There is a reason soups fall in the “comfort food” category. Soup just screams warmth, comfort and family. Which is why maybe soup in the heat of August is a little weird. But bear with me. Last week, my grandfather passed away quite suddenly. Heartbreak, grief, and exhaustion set in and stiffened all of us to the core. So what did I do? I cleaned my mom’s house and made pozole.

I didn’t get much home-cooked pozole growing up. I became a tried and true pozole addict at Consuelo Mexican Bistro at Santana Row in San Jose, CA (seriously. If you can, #gotothere). So, I had to do a little digging to find a recipe that wouldn’t take all day, but would still be full of well-built flavors. I found this one at Epicurious.com and, while a little involved, it only takes about 2 hours from whipping out the chef’s knife to digging in.

This recipe creates a really robust, spicy pozole with lots of “stuff.” As my husband might say, “There is a high stuff to broth ratio.” There are a lot of types of pozole out there, so you might be looking for a milder or more brothy version. For milder, shoot for the smaller jalepeños that have less time to age and build up capsaicin, or choose a still-flavorful, less spicy pepper, like Poblano or Anaheim. Remove all the seeds and the VEINS, which is where all the spice really builds up in a pepper, before tossing it into the blender. For a version with more broth, save some of that shredded chicken for a ridiculously amazing barbecue pulled chicken sandwich later in the week, and/or reduce the amount of hominy. You could go all the way down to half the amount of hominy and still have a meaningful pozole. Don’t just add more broth – that dilutes the flavor you just built up in the first part of the recipe.

Me and Papa

My grandfather at my wedding

A couple other things to note about this recipe are about pumpkin seeds (pepitas), step 10, and pans. Let’s start with pepitas. You can usually find these in the “Mexican” section of the grocery store. Get the green ones with lots of meat. Don’t let the “roasted” and “salted” ones fool you – those are more for chewing and spitting at the ballpark than this recipe. Not only are they too salty, but they are lacking the meat that gives your soup base the delicious body it deserves.

Now, your warning about Step 10. When the recipe says “it will splatter and steam,” it really means it. Invest in a splatter guard, wear an apron, and perhaps consider long sleeves. But when you are tempted to turn the heat down to protect yourself, just remember – it is supposed to be doing that! You’re ok – go with it. I acquired this cooking zen moment when making dry caramel, but that is another recipe for another time.

Finally, pans. This called for 3 separate pots of different sizes and a little pan. I already make more dishes than anyone I’ve ever met, so I scratched that and just used my 6-quart Dutch oven the whole time (except the little pan part), wiping down when appropriate.

This pozole warmed my heart with all sorts of good memories of my grandfather, of family, and of togetherness. Hopefully, when you need a tasty hug, a warm embrace (from the inside), or just want to pass a little familia to your loved ones, you can turn here.

Green Pozole with Chicken

Gourmet Magazine, February 2003 and Epicurious.com

Ingredients
9 cups water
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 large white onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs
1/2 cup hulled (green) pumpkin seeds (not roasted; 2 1/4 ounce)
1 lb tomatillos, husked and scrubbed
2 fresh jalapeño chiles, quartered (including seeds)
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon dried epazote or oregano (preferably Mexican), crumbled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 (15-oz) cans white hominy, rinsed and drained

Accompaniments: diced radish; cubed avocado tossed with lime juice; shredded romaine; chopped white onion; lime wedges; dried oregano; cilantro

Special equipment: an electric coffee/spice grinder

Preparation
Cook the Chicken
1. Bring 8 cups water, bay leaf, half of onion, half of garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil, covered, in a 6-quart heavy pot
2. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes
3. Add chicken and poach at a bare simmer, uncovered, skimming off any foam, until just cooked through, about 20 minutes.
4. Transfer chicken to a cutting board to cool. When chicken is cool enough to handle, coarsely shred with your fingers or two forks.
5. Pour broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, discarding solids, and reserve.

Roast the Pumpkin Seeds
6. Cook pumpkin seeds in a dry small skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until puffed but not browned (seeds will pop as they puff), 6 to 7 minutes.
7. Transfer pumpkins seeds to a bowl to cool completely, then finely grind in coffee/spice grinder.

Make the Sauce
8. Simmer tomatillos and remaining onion in remaining cup water in the original 6-quart heavy pot, covered, until tender, about 10 minutes.
9. Drain vegetables and purée in a blender with jalapeños, 1/4 cup cilantro, epazote, remaining garlic, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

Put Everything Together
10. Again using the original 6-quart heavy pot, heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add purée (use caution as it will splatter and steam).
11. Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
12. Stir in pumpkin seeds and 1 cup reserved broth and simmer 5 minutes.
13. Stir in shredded chicken, hominy, and 3 more cups reserved broth and simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes.

Eat!
Serve pozole in deep bowls with accompaniments.

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The Cake Box

The layers of a baumkuchenspitzen

The layers of the baumkuchenspitzen at The Cake Box come from the special dunk and cook method of the oven.

I found one of my favorite places in Huntington Beach right away. When I first moved to town, my mother, a friend from LA, and I decided to explore. Considering that bakeries are some of my favorite places, when I saw the sign (it opened up my eyes!!) for The Cake Box, I knew we should pop in.

One strange thing about a lot of fantastic local places in Orange County? Instead of having beautiful facades and detached buildings, many of them have the tiniest little signs and are in, of all places, strip malls. So I turn into this little particular one on the southeast corner of Warner Avenue and Springdale Street and pop in to The Cake Box.

The first thing you notice is that there is a strange looking, incredibly tall cake in the window. That, my friends, is the specialty of The Cake Box – a baumkuchen. You heard me and, no, I did not sneeze. This amazing cake is built layer-by-layer on a spit in an oven designed especially for this purpose. There are only a small number of these bad boys in the United States – it is so unique, and The Cake Box is so unique, that the LA Times wrote a story about it! Now this cake has a nutty, rich taste and a pound cake-like texture. You can get it with a delicious sugary glaze or dipped in chocolate. You can special order REALLY tall ones. You can buy shorter ones. You can even buy baumkuchenspitzen, little pieces of the cake dipped in chocolate, one of which is pictured above.

While the baumkuchen is unique, the whole of this bakery is special. Baker/Owner Paul Gauweiler is a European Master Baker who trained in Germany and is still there every morning I stop in, baking everything in the cases. After the baumkuchen, I’d go straight for the breakfast pastries, which are beyond delicious and only $1.25 a pop for myriad flavors of danishes, turnovers, and more. Then I would get the chocolate dipped crescent sandwich cookies. They are heaven. Oh, and the petit fours will impress even your most discerning grandma.

I feel that it is important to support small, local places like this one, that are hand-making top-notch goods. So stop in to The Cake Box, 6054 Warner Avenue, Huntington Beach, RIGHT NOW!

Starting out on a Journey

Hello! My name is Leslie Fay Marks and I’m going to start out on a journey with you. I love to cook, bake, eat, explore, and try a million new things. I would like to keep it all in one spot (here) and share it with you! Maybe you would be willing to help me do all these things – tell me where the places to go are, the best recipes to try, suggestions on how to do better. That way, we can all learn and journey through a Life Well Tasted together.