Saturday, September 18, 2010

Vegetarian Posole

I love posole.  The thick rich spicy soup broth, the hominy (nixtamal in Spanish, or technically Nahuatl), and of course the additions.  Cilantro, shredded cabbage, radish, avocado, lime juice, baked tortilla strips, and on and on.  The beautiful thing about the stock is the introduction of ancho chiles (dried poblanos) that are reconstituted and pureed in the blender.  It makes for a complex and spicy broth.  Of course posole normally has pork or in some cases chicken and so the broths are normally a little heartier.  I honestly thought it would be impossible to make a vegetarian version but this comes so close to the real thing I can't say I missed the meat at all.  I can't say how happy I was that this worked. 

In place of chicken, I used dried shitake mushrooms.  They take a while to soften so if they only sit for a couple of hours in the soup, they'll still be a little chewy (which I was okay with because it reminded me of posole's cousin 'menudo', but for reasons I won't get into).  By the second day they were much softer and oh so good.  The broth was hearty and spicy and everything was perfectly balanced. 

This recipe is for the Souper Sunday blog hop hosted by Kahakai Kitchen.  Soup... what a great theme.  I'm relatively new to making posole so I got my help from girlichef, an excellent blogging chef for all things Mexican (and otherwise) and Bobby Flay.  See their recipes here and here.  I like girlichef's addition of tomatoes and onion to the blender with the anchos and then cooking them on the stove.  It's definitely my new method - I just added a little oregano to the mix because it's one of my favorite flavors in Mexican cooking.

For the base, start with three ancho chiles.  Put them in a small bowl (put small cuts in the chiles so they don't float) and cover them with boiling water.  After twenty minutes, remove chiles from water (saving the water) and pull the stems out.  I like to save a few seeds for the heat.  Place chiles in a blender with 1/2 cup of the reserved chile water and the following items:
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 t. fresh oregano leaves

Blend for a couple of minutes, pausing to scrape sides of the blender down with a rubber spatula.  Heat one tablespoon oil in large soup pot and add chile puree.  Cook for about 10 minutes, letting mixture thicken.  Add six cups of vegetable broth and heat through, bringing to a boil.  Add:

1 28-ounce can of hominy (don't drain, include all the liquid in the can)
2 cups (loosely packed) of dried shitake mushrooms. 

Simmer for about 20 minutes and add two tablespoons of chopped cilantro.  Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes or so.  Garnish with any (or all!) of the following.

Freshly chopped cilantro, green onions
Quartered lime wedges
Chopped or grated radishes
Shredded cabbage
Dried oregano
Avocado slices

Enjoy!  I'm going to be making this again and again!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Very Excellent Vegetable Broth

The elitist taco has taken a back seat these past few weeks as I get re-accustomed to the school year, teaching two classes and actually working on my dissertation.  While I'm still cooking (enchiladas de mole and posole this week!), not many things are that new or postable.  But the posole has been a real discovery.  I'll be posting that in a couple of days.

Officially, both the elitist taco and its author are now 100% vegetarian.  The blog was mostly vegetarian already, but now it is for sure.  It's nice to give it an identity and I'm happy to make my own vegetarianism official.  I've been headed this direction for awhile and I'm feeling great about it.  There are a variety of reasons, but none really matter much to the blog.  What matters now, is how to creatively adapt recipes and still have a great flavor.  I might miss late night hamburgers from Rally's or bacon but truthfully, it was the homemade chicken broth that I had gotten used to that I was saddest about.  A good chicken broth has so many great uses.  When I came across Bobby Flay's method of reducing a chicken broth for an hour or so after it was already done, something that intensified the flavors, I was sold.  We've been making our own vegetable broths for a while now, but for the most part they're clear and have little in the way of body.  So I set out to make a great vegetable broth that could be used in a soup like posole, which really depends on a good broth.  In an effort to give the broth some depth of flavor, I threw in a couple of potatoes and a few mushrooms.  For a final step I took a boiled potato, threw it into the blender with some of the stock and blended it until smooth.  The texture it added to the broth was awesome and it really made a difference. 
So here's the recipe.

3-4 stalks of celery, washed
2-3 carrots, scrubbed (not peeled), split down the middle
2 potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
4 garlic cloves, smashed (skins left on)
1 large onion, quartered (skins left on)
1 poblano chile, halved and seeded
white button mushrooms (small box - washed and sliced)

Of course, a vegetable broth can have pretty much anything you have on hand.  Often we'll keep the tough spine from kale and throw that in.  Some nice additions are black peppercorns, fresh thyme, fresh cilantro etc. 

Place all the vegetables into a large soup pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and turn to medium low, cooking uncovered for an hour.  Remove vegetables and let cool (save some potato for later).

When I was ready to use the stock, I heated it up on the stove, while I combined some broth with a few potato pieces in the blender.  Once that was reintroduced into the broth, I added salt to taste and... there you go.  For a little extra flavor, I added 2 cups of 'chicken broth' (Better than bouillon brand, vegetarian) that I mixed up. 

This is my new go-to broth.  Even before I introduced chile for the posole base, it had a nice, complex flavor.  I'm sure it'll be a little different every time I make it, but I think the potato will make constant appearances.  
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