Pozole

Arriba! Arriba!

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Working the weekends for almost two decades made me unaware of how a real weekend felt like. Now that I just passed a major personal turning point in my life, and my short-lived marriage has been finally adjudged, it was time for me to move on and to live in peace; hopefully, so has she. After all this crazy, whirlwind romance ending in absolute separation, I believe I should deserve a much needed break from stressful living from work, and discover, at least, what a weekend had offered. During the course of this sojourn ‘living’, I was able to catch-up with friends and family living at both ends of the city.

So this is how a weekend feels like, and it is so darn relaxing! Life is so good after all. It’s a totally different enjoyment from what I was used to. My butt is now almost always stuck on the dining /office table seat never wanting to leave (I live in a small, dingy apartment). Anyway, I’m deviating from what I was supposed to write about, but the feel of a real weekend started this dish.

Another factor that helped me discover this dish was the decision to reduce my cable channels down to about 40. I had thought it over the holidays that I didn’t need 60 or so channels just to be in touch. I already had Wifi and the TV was just, generally for daily news and current affairs. I also had to be abreast just in case some beautiful, charming woman comes knocking on my doorstep and steps into my domain, the TV and the couch are there for her while I cook and set the dining/office table for a quiet, romantic dinner. You would understand where I’m getting at.

During this period of relative peace, I discovered some other better channels besides the usual Food Network. Well, the Food Network was becoming to be too boring, and I needed another shot in the arm to wake my senses and palate up. This led me to watch TLN, a Spanish language channel dedicated, of course, to the Mediterranean lifestyle, and it was just totally astonishing and refreshing!

On one of their episodes about Mexico, the traveling network Chef introduced the Pozole or Mexican Stew with Hominy. This dish is so versatile and so infused with Mexican identity and culture that I had to try it myself. I was hooked afterwards, and prepared it a couple of times when my body needed something nourishing and comforting. It is not exactly meticulous to make and ingredients are readily available in many grocery store shelves. This is Mexico’s answer to the Filipino’s‘Nilaga,’’Tinola,’ and even ‘Pochero,’I think, and a whole lot more. It’s a one pot wonder of virginal proportions.

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pozole
Author: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • Pork Fat (Pancetta, Bacon, Skin Fat)
  • ½ lb. Pork Butt or 2 Quarter Chicken Legs (or both, like Pinoys do)
  • 1 small can of White Hominy
  • 1 finely diced Spanish Onions
  • 3-4 Cloves of Garlic
  • 2-3 Pcs. Laurel (Bayleaves)
  • Mexican Dried Oregano
  • Cumin
  • Chilis (Diced Jalapenos,Haboneros,or Birds’ Eye)
  • 2-3 Cups of Chicken Stock
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Lime Wedges
  • Mexican Chili Powder
  • Chicharon Crumbs (Optional)
Instructions
  1. Pan-fry the pork fat in olive oil and set aside.
  2. Reduce the heat to low to medium, and on the same pan, saute the Spanish Onions until golden brown, add a bit of water and simmer a few until the onions caramelizes. Add in the diced chilis, the Mexican Oregano, and Cumin while the water reduces and thickens. Add the garlic as well, but don’t let it burn brown.
  3. Add the chosen meat, and sauté for a couple of more minutes until partially cooked (the chicken can be roasted too for an extra layer of taste or pre-boiled and added to the pot later with the stock).
  4. Add the Chicken Stock and the Laurel leaves, and let it boil to simmer. Skim all scum when it rises.
  5. When the meat is nearly done, pour in the hominy into the pot.
  6. (Make sure to rinse and to drain the water from the can)
  7. Let the pot simmer for a few more minutes, and add some more of the Mexican Oregano and Cumin, Squeeze some limes to wake the broth up. Season, season, season.
  8. Discard the Laurel Leaves.
  9. Add more diced onions, and simmer to reduce.
  10. Season to taste (Mexican Chili Powder).
  11. Add the garnishing and the pan-fried pork fat back to the pot.
Notes
Optional Table Sauces: Lizano,Toyo, Olive Oil MGA PAALALA: • This dish is hot! If you want to control the heat, remove the pits from the chilis before dicing. For this Pozole, I combined Jalapeno & Habonero Chilis. • I used 2 Chicken Quarter Legs instead of the usual pork butt as in classical Pozole. Unlike chicken, pork requires longer braising period. • Pull the chicken legs out when cooked and reduce the broth some more to increase intensity. I also pre-boiled the chicken and discarded some chicken skin fat for health reasons. • Diced, pitted plum tomatoes will further refresh this dish up together with Cilantro and Lime. Didn’t have any available when I made this batch, and didn’t want to buy one under extreme cold weather conditions, but it’s a perfect match as with beer. The ripe, red colour of the tomatoes will complete the Mexican flag.

 

This dish is perfect for a slow Sunday morning shared with a special someone, or as a hangover treat after a night of drinking. Many, many more substitutes can be done. I also discovered while shopping that there were yellow hominies available in the market; this slight change can alter the taste of the entire broth. Dried hominies are also available in many Mexican specialty stores, but that would require soaking overnight. Dried herbs can also be substituted with fresh ones or both can be used to increase the layers of flavourings to the broth. To make it really intensely flavourful, a blend of Olive Oil, Cilantro and roasted Tomatoes, Limes, Dried Mexican Chilis, Bell Peppers, Jalapenos as a side can make the meat stand out. This is extra though and requires more work, and an extra day of preparation is absolutely required. I will get to making Mexican Sauces (Salsa)later on.

Today is Sunday, and I opted to stay at home instead of usually visiting my friends. I needed a break from road travel, and the weather is cold and wild outside for the first time after almost a month of waiting for Old Man Winter. Might as well chill. It’s so quiet now, and I am cherishing every moment this day can offer. By March or April, I am sure I’d be killing myself again working and running like a headless chicken, frying, flipping and grilling all at the same time. Well, who said this would last longer than expected, but I’m not complaining despite some temporary financial short-fall. Life is meant to be shared.

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Erwin
When I was growing up, my parents and I used to eat out and try different restaurants after celebrating the Sunday Mass. Moreover, during the course of the summer break, I had the opportunity to see some places which, when looking back, I had never realized how lucky I was as a teen to be able to travel. My family and I went to Europe and some parts of the United States, and what I saw along that path of my life inspired me to become a 'Chef.' The 'whites' they wore for me, during those growing-up and finding 'myself' years, portrayed a sort of fascinating and powerful figure in an extremely sophisticated, higly inviting and invigorating work place; and still maintain an unblemished and clean uniform after a very busy service. That picture of a 'Chef' stuck to my head for so many years.

True enough, with meager resources left to spend for the youngest, that dream never happened. Life went on. I went to university and studied an insignificant course, Business Management, and after graduating, I ended up working as a Credit and Financial Analyst in the banking industry in Manila; slugging it out in the corporate arena in Makati. It was the first taste of being called a 'yuppie' and was almost always looking forward to an after-office eating and drinking extravaganza in the expanding and growing Makati Business District; and, of course, the weekend.

Anyway, forging ahead to my life today, that dream as 'Chef' stayed in the back of my mind all the time that when I left the Philippines for Toronto in 2003; and after finally settling down on my own in 2005, I had started studying Professional Culinary Arts Courses in the City College to get that almost long-forgotten 'dream' going again. It was a Continuing Education Course, and more or less, students who have also shifted careers or who were trying to find work (like myself) as a newly landed found ourselves working with pots, knives and fire which I believe and I felt, everyone in class have never, ever touched during their past, professional lives.

Since then, I have been working in and out of different kitchens; flipping eggs and hamburgers, grilling steaks, shoving bread and chicken in a 500'C oven, and almost anything that can be either deep-fried or toasted just to serve hungry, sometimes pesky, customers. I became a 'grease' cook; a short-order cook with no definite place of employment, and definitely not a 'Chef.'

My articles are based on the after-thoughts of my past and present day experiences in this fast-paced, starkling, and sometimes disheveling kitchen environment. I never imagined that a kitchen 'worklife' turned that way as against the 'Ideal' environment I had thought about for years. No regrets. During this journey, I've discovered food which I've never thought I'd be able to taste. I learned to appreciate wine and travel more; now that I have understood the culture of food to society. That was non-existent when I was growing up.

This journey has not ended. I'm still discovering and still learning. It's a tough industry to be in and for what's next or for where I'll finally end up in remain a sordid mystery.

11 thoughts on “Arriba! Arriba!

  1. our family loves weekend and always looking forward for that! and your pozole looks so delicious, thanks for sharing the recipe. will try to look for those ingredients and hopefully mailuto ko ng maayos! visiting super late from YS, see you around. thanks and have a great week. :)
    cheerful recently posted Some Accents…

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