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.

 

Saved by Chicken Tostadas

I’m sitting in my tiny summer quarters greeting the new day.  Outside, it looks to be another beauty:  mid-80’s, sunny and warm.  But inside, it’s a slightly different story.  There is no kitchen to speak of here; I rented this space, sight unseen, with that understanding.

marionberry quilter.com
Courtesy Marionberryquilter.com

I’ve decided that this is definitely worth the challenge though, because 1) it is small and 2) I am surrounded by some of the richest agricultural land imaginable. Just an inkling of the season ahead, it is now a rolling checkerboard of overwinter grasses and grains, fields of flowers, early lettuces, trained berry bushes, orchards, groves, vineyards, and much, much more.

For some time now I have been following the Tiny House movement and am deeply intrigued by the idea of ‘living small’. For a person who lives to cook, the idea of constantly eating out is not even a remote option. I know I need a kitchen, so I need to figure this out: What are my most essential needs? Will this make me utterly crazy?

I regard my tiny space as a 10’x12’ living laboratory.  Although I rented it furnished, over the past month it has evolved from a mundane bedroom into a creative, writerly kitchen.  A piece at a time, I have replaced an old over- stuffed recliner with a desk and chair.  In the corner near the bed, a low sprawling cabinet has been swapped out for a bookcase with my most treasured cookbooks and research material.

The small fridge has been moved out of the closet to the opposite corner, between a tall cart housing a convection/toaster oven and a rolling cart with microwave and Nu-Wave burner.  A storage unit previously holding clothes now contains all my food supplies:  grains, flours, herbs spices, some dry goods and a few canned items.  In the center of it all, 2-1/2 foot folding table is now my work/prep combo dining area. It works.

Yesterday, it was only in the mid 80’s outside and quite warm in here―air circulation is not great, the sporadic air conditioning, unreliable.  For the past two days I had been planning to re-test a kale, mushroom, prosciutto, egg dish―you could say a cross between a baked Dutch Baby and a Toad in a Hole.  Tempting, but it would have to wait another day: by 7PM it was still too hot for any serious cooking.

Instead, I settled on an old standby:  Chicken Tostadas.TostadaOn my last trip to Mexico I realized I must be the last living person not using pre-baked tostada shells.  Granted, you can make your own, but as a handy back-up, they replace baked/fried tortillas quite nicely.  Simply re-heat in the microwave, layer on favorite toppings and you are done.

And I was done, too―mercifully saved by Chicken Tostadas.

Chicken Tostadas

For a quick meal or a snack, this hardly requires a recipe: use what you love!

Ingredients

For one  serving
1 packaged or homemade Tostada shell
2-3 Tbsp seasoned refried beans
2 Tbsp melting cheese:  queso asadero, Muenster, jack, or cheddar cheese, grated
Lettuce or Cilantro Slaw (cabbage/vinaigrette seasoned with lime juice, oregano, cumin, and cilantro)
½ cup roast chicken, shredded
Garnishes:   slivered avocado, cilantro, radishes, shredded cheese, salsa or taco sauce

Directions

  1. Heat the beans, shred or crumble the cheese, shred the lettuce or prepare the Cabbage Slaw
  2. Shred the chicken
  3. On microwaveable plate, spread the tostada with refried beans and top with cheese. Microwave 45 seconds, until cheese is melted
  4. Top with the slaw or lettuce, chicken and garnish as desired.