Nixtamalized Corn = Hominy = Posole

Nixtamalization is getting a lot of buzz these days, especially with the many vested in preserving and promoting the traditional foods of Mexico.  For anyone else interested in authentic flavors and elemental nutrition it should matter, too. It seems we have come full circle from what the Aztecs knew centuries ago.

The Aztecs would grind the kernels of their maize or field corn against the limestone rocks found in the riverbeds, and they discovered the beneficial interaction between the two.  They noticed how their bodies responded after eating corn that had been ground in limestone. This corn did not cause digestive problems and gave them energy and spiritual alertness.

Scientists have since confirmed that lime releases niacin, an essential amino acid, in the corn.  The increased health benefits of nixtamalized corn are substantial:  it can reduce bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol, and contribute to the optimal functioning of other body processes such as digestion, cellular repair and elimination of toxins. Niacin also seems to reduce the level of triglycerides in the blood and much more.

Hominy is made with either white or yellow corn, but specifically it is from flint or dent corns which have a tougher outer seed coat than others. Soaking the kernels in an alkaline solution loosens or dissolves this outer portion. In the process, the kernel absorbs water and the alkaline solution which is key to nixtamalization. When cooked, the chemical composition of the kernel is altered, boosting the nutritional value of maize.  This process also provides hominy with its readily identifiable flavor and chewy bite.

Posole, hominy,  nixtamal, are all the same thing: they are corn that has undergone the nixtamalization process. Posole, a derivation of the Nahuatl word for hominy, has come to broadly refer to a soup or stew made with hominy.  So popular is posole in Mexico, it is considered a national dish, with various regions proclaiming their unique version as the best.

Here’s an easy posole made with a combination of pork, tomatillos, and pasillas or other hot peppers.

The hominy and tomatillos  provide added thickening power and flavor that melds with the pork into a rich and supple stew. Serve it straight up in bowls with favorite toppings like avocado, cilantro and crema. Or, cook it down until thick for a tortilla filling. Enjoy with spicy slaw, fresh avocado, salsa, cilantro and whatever else pleases you!

Pork Posole

Ingredients
2 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 large onion, slice into strips
2-3 pasilla peppers, or other hot peppers, seed & cut into strips
3 cloves garlic, divided
1½ – 2 lbs pork sirloin, trim, cut into strips
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. oregano
7-8 tomatillos, husk, quarter
1 tomato bouillon cube
Few dashes favorite hot sauce
2 tostadas or corn tortillas, in small pieces
1½ cup water, enough to barely cover
2 cups cooked white hominy, rinse and drain

Accompaniments:  warmed corn tortillas, guacamole, cilantro, crunchy slaw, hot sauce

Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté to soften, add the pepper strips, 2 cloves garlic cut into thin strips, and continue to cook until the peppers have softened and garlic is aromatic. Remove all from pot and set aside.
  2. Season the pork strips with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium high and add remaining 1 tbsp. oil to the pot.  When shimmering add the pork and brown on all sides.  Add the third clove of garlic cut into slivers, and toss briefly along with smoked paprika and oregano.
  3. Stir in the tomatillos, crumbled tomato bouillon,  a dash of hot sauce, the corn tortilla pieces, water to barely cover the pork, and stir to combine well.
  4. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until the pork is tender. Or, to use multi-cooker, seal the lid, bring to high pressure and cook for 25 minutes. Turn off system, let pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes, then release remaining pressure.
  5. When the pork is tender add the reserved onion and pepper medley. Stir in the hominy and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or longer, until flavors are well blended and the posole has thickened. Adjust seasoning.
  6. Serve the posole in bowls with favorite garnishes. Serves 4.

 

Soup in a Flash

When it comes to preparing quick meals, planning ahead makes all the difference.  Instead of eating the last of the roast chicken, I like to tuck a portion into the freezer for a rainy day. One large chicken breast could be the makings of a taco dinner for two or a comforting soup, with the help of a little chicken stock.

Hominy is another item that has plenty of applications.  The same corn staple used for grits in the south,  it’s a versatile ingredient used in hearty Tex-Mex breakfasts and serves as a wonderful addition in Mexican soups and stews. Markets often prefer stocking the jumbo cans, which could mean a lifetime supply—unless you are into menudo.  So, when I spot the smaller 12-ounce cans I like to grab one or two for handy use later.

Chicken Lime Soup with Hominy
Chicken-Lime Soup with Hominy

If you happen to have those three ingredients on hand, pat yourself on the back. You have the basis for a tasty soup dinner that’s ready in less than 30 minutes. Zip it up with a heavy squeeze of lime to emulate the flavors of Mexico’s Yucatan; top it freely with a fresh cheese like cojita or a feta and garnish with cilantro or avocado.

Chicken-Lime Soup with Hominy

Inspired by Fine Cooking Make It Tonight

Ingredients
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 white onion, peel and chop
1-2 cloves garlic, peel mince
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seed and chop
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups chicken stock, or more
1 cup canned hominy, drain
1 large chicken breast roasted or poached; skin, debone, and cut into large chop.  Shred into slightly smaller portions
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper or to taste
1 lime

Accompaniments:  Cotija or queso fresca 1/2″ cheese cubes, cilantro leaves, lime slices, avocado slices, tortilla chips

Directions

  1. Add oil to soup pot over medium heat; when hot add onion and sauté for 1 minute to soften.  Add the garlic and toss until aromatic; add the green pepper, oregano, and cook an additional minute.
  2. Add the chicken stock and the hominy and bring to a simmer.  Add the chicken meat to the soup, season lightly with salt and pepper, cover and simmer about 10 minutes.
  3. When ready to serve, season with about 1 tablespoon lime juice and add more to taste; it should be tangy.  Serve in bowls with cheese cubes, cilantro, more lime, and additional accompaniments. Serves 2-4.