"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."
Celebrating culinarily the holiday of Christmas, these are some of my culinary traditions. I am from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and have memories and recipes that made Christmas special to me and I pray for you also. It's all about Jesus -- and food-wise it's all about Posole! (pronounced poh-soh-leh with the accent on the soh)
Posole means many things. It means the corn that is the basis of a dish by the same name, a meal steeped in Native American History in that area. It was prepared to celebrate feasts and festivals. How appropriate that it be used for the major reason to celebrate. The dish has a personal meaning for me and for many in New Mexico where I am from. For me this meal and Christmas went hand-in-hand (or mouth)! --- hehe! These are my recipes and memories -- and forgive me if I go on; for such a simple dish, it has lots of love and attention that goes into it, and as you all know, it's all in the details. Our God is a God of details -- Amen!
The dish is also part of the traditions I grew up with called Noche Buena, in another Hispanic tradition known as Parrandas. Basically it is visiting, caroling and just spreading the joy; and it is the time to deliver gifts and cards and...have a bowl of Posole!
Also it is a time for enacting the Posada -- the recreation of Mary and Joseph looking for room at the inn. The enactors roam from house to house, being rejected along the way, looking for someone to say "I have room," a reminder that you never know who is bringing Jesus to your door. Open it and share the joy. So people come to your house and visit for a short time. Some of us were outside making and setting up the Luminarias (little brown paper bags top edge folded neatly -- we tore a few but we got those to take our school lunches in), filled part way with sand and lit with a votive candle, like the maids waiting for the Master, keeping their lamps filled and lit, waiting in anticipation. We also kept watch to re-light or re-candle a luminaria. I love the story that they were to light the path to your house -- that the Christ Child would find his way to your house, so keep your lamps lit!
I will scale it for 12; the 12 days of Christmas, the 12 Apostles, the time when I was 12 and received girls underwear from my forgetful aunt.
Mis en place: Cold weather, and the childlike excitement of preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord.
1 lb. (450 g) dried posole corn
It's not hominy, but you can use hominy -- dried, canned or frozen. But use the dried, prepared as you would dried beans; sorted and cleaned. Cover the posole with water and soak overnight. Bring the water and posole to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the kernels "pop." (It takes a couple of hours.) Add more water if necessary. It's a wonderful thing, really. (Part of the Posole experience is the cooking of the dish all day and reveling in the aromas and warmth; like the warmth you feel being loved by our Lord.)
3 lb. (1.4 kg) diced pork (lean cuts of shoulder or butt. Cut as you would for stew if you use a bone-in cut, leave the bone in the stew. I do have to mention the true traditional Posole has pork skin also as an ingredient. If you use a picnic or shoulder with the skin on, do not discard -- trim fat off and cut into pieces large enough to pick around and add with the meat when cooking.)
2 to 4 Tbsp (30-60 ml) lard (I know, I know -- saturated fat, but this is the traditional medium for braising the pork, onions, and garlic. Keeping the meat lean puts you in control of the fat -- and once a year? Go for it! But seriously, oil is fine (olive, veg, -- not 10-W30).
2 large sweet onions, large dice
4-5-6 cloves garlic, chopped (to taste -- I love garlic)
2 T (30 ml) dried Mexican oregano, whole preferably. Crush the spice by hand as you add it to the pot.
Red New Mexican chile pods
OK, here's the deal. Buy at least 12 oz (340 g) of Red New Mexican chile pods (there are about 16 pods per 6 oz/170 g bag). Trust me -- once you start using this product, anything else pales in comparison. Only New Mexico chiles taste like New Mexico chiles -- and you always need plenty on hand anyway! Most larger towns have a Mexican market around and most of those have New Mexican Chili pods. Be adventurous.
Here is the method of prep:
Take the dried red chile pods, remove stems. Rinse and dry chile pods. Remove seeds, if desired. Place chile pods on a cookie sheet in a 250' F (120' C) oven for approximately 10 minutes. Turn chile pods several times to avoid scorching (the chile pods will turn a deeper red). This is a good thing to be doing as the posole/hominy is cooking. The toasted chile pods will be used for preparing Chile Molido (Red Chile Powder), Chile Caribe (Chile reduction), and Chile Colorado (Basic Red Chile Sauce). You'll love and need them all! I've posted some recipes for y'all in the message boards (link at end of article).
Varied amounts and variety of chile will determine the degree of hotness. I like it mild for those folk who want the flavor but not the heat. The Chili Caribe is for them. Needless to say, all this prep makes for a very aromatic kitchen and house. OH yeah!
Back to the Posole! Hehe... Brown the LEAN meat in the oil. (Note: If you use fatty pork you may want to drain all but a couple tablespoons of oil.) Add the onions and cook until they begin to caramelize. Deglaze the pan with some of the hominy liquid. Add the hominy and liquid to all the remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer all afternoon and evening. Add more water if necessary and continue to simmer until the pork is very tender and begins to fall apart. The Posole pot is always on the stove for the duration of the serving. Usually, folks go to the pot and dish themselves up a bowl or soup plate.
Now, the table. It is a big part of it. The table has an abundance of condiments to personalize your Posole. The list is as endless as you want it. Some traditional basics are:
-1 bunch cilantro
-Lime wedges and salsa(s)
-1 bunch scallions
*NOTE These days, because of concerns about Hepatitis A in Mexican produce, you may want to eliminate or substitute leeks, or be SURE of your source of green onions.
-A little very finely shredded cabbage
-Some green chiles (Anaheim, Pasillas, or even some Jalapenos)
*Green chile prep -- These are to be toasted either in the oven or grill, or over a flame or on a cast iron pan. Place into Ziplock bag or place in a bowl and cover with PVC and let rest until cooled to handle. This will make the peeling and de-stemming easier. Be very careful to wear gloves AND avoid skin contact. The stems, when removed, take out most of the seeds. This is also your base for any good Chile Verde recipe.
-These are chopped and set out in bowls along with the Chili Colorado and Chile Caribe.
Now folks can fix up their posole in a multitude of ways. As you will find, the basic can be made to look spectacular.
Serve with Sopapillas (recipe below). They are awesome baking powder breads that are fried -- they puff up when fried and are ... well...just try them. They are as versatile as tortillas in many ways, plus you have desert options.
So when you make this, it can be as simple as the soup or as complex as a banquet for lots of visitors. Have hot drinks like cocoa (heat milk with a couple cinnamon sticks set aside and add good unsweetened cocoas and sweeten with brown sugar) or even mix it with other traditions and serve with eggnog. (The best is home made, of course!)
If it's not your tradition, just make it as we make all things -- something that glorifies God and gives honor to our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. It is a special way to celebrate His birthday (no matter what day it actually was). Let Jesus be the reason...and nothing else. Invite friends and strangers in to share the joy of Jesus and let them know this is not just a once or twice a year festival -- it's an everyday celebration of new birth, resurrection, and new creation.
I thank God for His great Gift of His Son. There is unimaginable pride and the seasonal opportunities BOUND for opening up and witnessing for Him. I pray y'all have an awesome holiday full of fruit -- and then let's take the fruits and follow up with them. We all say it every year but I pray as we grow closer to Him, we gather a larger and larger family so that when we meet, it's an unspeakably tumultuous God-extravaganza! We are a Royal Priesthood -- let's BE the celebrants God wants us to be. Let's invite some folks over to just have a blast about the Lord and party 'til you praise! Share food and the Good News!
There are a few more recipes that will be posted.