Look What I Made: Chicken Posole

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Chicken posole (photos by Travis Awalt)

Everyday lately, it’s warm, it’s cold. It’s cold, it’s warm. Get it together, nature. There have been so many cloudless days the last few weeks that look so inviting, but it’ll be like 50 out, with a wind that charges directly through your soul. Then it’s hot in the sun, arctic in the shade. I don’t know whether to wear a parka or jorts (probably both).

Weather as ambivalent as this calls for a dish that works no matter what it’s like outside, so this week it’s all about posole. Posole is a classic, traditionally pork (but in this case chicken) and hominy soup/stew. How classic is it? According to wikipedia, pre-Columbian* classic. In other words, it’s an old dish.** It’s kinda crazy that, given it’s extensive history on this continent, I didn’t get the memo about it’s existence until 3 or 4 years ago. No matter, I have made up for lost time since then.

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Roasted goodness…

Posole is a humble dish; nothing fancy, just a spiced (if not necessarily spicy), meaty  soup (I’m calling this one for team soup) and a nice vehicle for hominy, which is a criminally underused ingredient. It’s a versatile dish; you don’t really see any two recipes that resemble each other too much. Which is great, really. Because there are so many variations, you can easily amend to texture and the flavors to suit a heatwave, a cold front or an unseasonable hurricane. And dishes like posole, that loosely revolve around a small group of components, sort of inherently allow the cook to frame the dish within their culinary perspective, to make it their own. Who doesn’t love making a dish your b#$@$?

Lastly, as I mentioned, I know this is traditionally a pork dish, but I don’t think it could fairly be said that I ever skimped on pork dishes. I made this one with chicken on a whim – mostly I didn’t feel like cubing pork shoulder – but there’s no reason you couldn’t use pork shoulder, just adjust cooking time accordingly.

Enjoy.

Chicken Posole

(serves 3-4)

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4 chicken thighs
1 15 oz can white hominy, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can low sodium chicken broth or about 1 3/4 cups home made
4-5 plump tomatoes
2 dried red chilies (I used New Mexico)
1 jalapeno
1/2 a medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
tsp cumin
mixture of ground coriander seed, half a bay leaf, ground oregano and a small sliver of cinnamon, about 1 tsbp total (Rather than add extra textures to the mix, I threw these ground herbs in a reusable teabag and steeped them. Worked great.)
oil
splash of fresh orange juice
salt
lots of garnishes – sliced radishes, chopped cilantro, shredded cheese, sour cream or greek yogurt, tortillas, tortilla chips or strips, lime wedges, pico, etc.

1. Reconstitute chilies in hot water for about 30 minutes.

2. Quarter tomatoes and jalapeno, toss in oil and broil for about 10 minutes, until veggies are starting to get charred.

3. Puree the roasted veggies and reconstituted chilies, then strain through a sieve, shaking it till there’s only pulp left, which you can discard.

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Strain the veggie puree

4. Sweat the onions and garlic over medium low heat until quite fragrant. Add the cumin and let it cook for about a minute.

5. Add the chicken thighs to the pot, along with the chicken broth, the strained veggie puree and the other spices. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until chicken is falling off the bone, about 1 hour.

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Simmering away

6. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and, when it’s cool enough to handle, shred it. Add the cooked chicken back to the pot, along with the hominy and a splash of fresh orange juice. Heat through and serve.

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Don’t be afraid to get really garnishy

*Also, according to wikipedia, well, I don’t want to spoil anything, just skip to the section about ritual significance.

**Older than the Hot Pocket, but not as old as biting random objects to see if they’re edible.