Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Posole adventure

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law gave us a can of hominy. She was cleaning out her pantry, didn’t want the hominy, and thought we might.

I hadn’t eaten hominy in … I don’t know how long; perhaps since trying it once or twice in elementary school and deciding it wasn’t for me.

Years later, there aren’t many vegetables I still don’t like (I’m looking at you, turnips), so I did some searching for hominy recipes. (I was hesitant to just dump it in a bowl, microwave it, and call it a side dish.) Many of the results were for posole, a Mexican chicken and hominy soup.

Coincidentally (OR IS IT?), not long after, a blogger acquaintance of mine posted all about her own posole discovery, complete with recipe.

Well, why not? I decided to give it a try, making very few changes to her recipe.

8 to 9 cups chicken stock
2 cups chopped onion
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each cut into 4-5 pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 30-oz can white hominy, drained
16-oz jar tomatillo salsa
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped cilantro if desired

My modifications/comments:
I had less onion than that on hand (oddly, for me), but used what I had
*I used about 2 pounds of chicken, not 3
I used about 5 garlic cloves, but you really couldn’t taste it in the end
I used about 1 ½ jalapenos, but would use more next time
I had a 15-ish oz can of white hominy; I bought a similar can of yellow and used both because, in the store, I couldn’t remember which color I had at home or which color I was supposed to use.
The tomatillo salsa I used was labeled “medium,” the only type I found at the store, but the soup was by no means too spicy.

*backstory: Around a year ago I started eating meat after being vegetarian for 10 years. I was surprised to see how expensive chicken was, even the non-organic kind. We decided to go with two pounds instead of three based on cost. I was glad we did when I saw the meat counter guy piling up the chicken for me! It was a lot. I could cut it down still more if I made this again. Raw chicken was just as disgusting as I remember. I feel like I ended with a trash can full of veins and fat. Yuck! And that’s the clean, skinless, boneless, pristine meat counter specimens.

Put first 6 ingredients (stock through hominy) in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 35 minutes or until chicken is done. (The original instructions allow for chicken on the bone, which is then removed, boned, and shredded at this point. I fished out some of the bigger chicken pieces and shredded them up, but I wasn’t totally sure if I should or not.) Stir in tomatillo sauce and salt; cook for 5 minutes or until hot.

The recipe said to serve with cilantro, sour cream, and lime wedges.

The good: Usually when I make soup I make “freezer soup,” which has no specific recipe and has everything in it. It was nice to make a specific kind of soup from a recipe. It seemed extremely full of chicken even with the reduced quantity. The tomatillos added a nice flavor. It was a very comforting dish; a Mexican version of chicken noodle soup? This soup was very hearty but seemed very healthy at the same time, had great if somewhat muted flavors, and provided lots of leftovers

The bad: It seemed like this soup took forever to make, mostly because I work more slowly when making a new recipe, was paranoid about working with raw chicken and had to switch knives, had to scrub after chopping the garlic and again after chopping the jalapenos, etc. The proportions seemed a little odd, but I’m not sure in what way – maybe just that the chicken kind of floated, the hominy kind of sank, and everything else seemed to get lost. It didn’t seem spicy at all aside from a nice tomatillo whang, and I would have used more garlic, more onion, and more jalapenos next time. We both felt like it needed something, perhaps beans or more veggies? Bell peppers?

We had cornbread on the side for a yummy bonus.

Even though I’d bough cilantro, we skipped it because, by the time the soup was finished, I was tired of standing around waiting for soup and didn’t want to rinse and chop anything else. We’ll probably have it with the leftovers tonight. I didn’t serve it with lime wedges or sour cream because I didn’t want to buy either one just for this. If you could purchase sour cream in two-tablespoonful-packages, I would!

Verdict: I’m not totally sure I felt like it was worth the prep work, especially dealing with chicken, which totally grosses me out. Your response to chicken may vary. When it was done, though, the chicken was nice and flavorful. I would totally eat this in a restaurant if available, or make it on a weekend instead of weeknight.

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