Indeed, today brings Chicken Posole, as well as the limes that make it so delectable a soup. There’s the citrus, of course, which contributes a vibrant zing, a sweetly tangy melody that boosts the other flavors. The fruit’s qualities are familiar and require little additional elaboration.
However, another sort of lime is significant too. It is the agent, the alkaline, that transforms humble corn into something wonderful. Hominy is one word for it:
Of course, in Mexico and elsewhere it’s called pozole, or “posole,” as today’s recipe spells it, and it makes one of the country’s most beloved soups. This inspires enough enthusiasm, in fact, to draw respect from an “Anglo” (and New England, at that) publication, Cook’s Country, which celebrates the preparation in its February/March 2016 issue.
Traditionally, corn was soaked in water mixed with wood ash (the alkaline, or “lime” mentioned earlier). This softens the kernels and dissolves the corn’s outer layer, which makes the corn swell, and also greatly increases its nutritional value to humans. It’s the same process used to make masa, the “dough” of which tortillas – and tortilla chips! – is made.
More relevant to today’s story is the pozole which simmers in chicken stock and joins cilantro, shredded chicken, Mexican oregano and other seasonings to create a flavorful, satisfying meal. The cilantro and oregano bring fresh herbal notes to the pot and help to lighten the broth’s richness. letting it work splendidly as a smooth soup.
Then, of course, there are the limes whose juices are squeezed into the broth. This makes the bowl sparkle and gives it an intriguingly tropical lilt. Lime makes the pozole, and limes make the soup. They’re well-represented in this recipe and they elevate it to culinary legend.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped (*1)
- salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano (*2)
- 6 cup chicken broth
- 2 (15-ounce) cans hominy, rinsed
- 1 (4-ounce) diced green chiles, drained, and brine reserved
- 1 (2 and 1/2-pound) rotisserie chicken, bones and skin removed, then shredded (*3)
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Heat oil in a stockpot set over medium heat, until the oil shimmers. Add the onion and salt lightly. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic and the oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the broth, the hominy and the chiles and cook until the hominy softens, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the chicken and cook until heated through, about a minute. Turn off heat and stir in the cilantro and reserved chile brine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, dish out individual portions, and serve.
1 – Three shallots would be just dandy, too. Of course, you were aware of my bias going into this recipe.
2 – If you have Mexican oregano, use it. Naturally. Mexican oregano is more aromatic, more flavorful, than is “regular” oregano. If you use standard oregano, that’s fine. Don’t let pretentious cooks like me discourage you.
3 – Rotisserie chicken is more than adequate; it’s what the recipe mandates, after all. Still (there’s always a “still” with me, isn’t there?), it’s too “prepared,” too “processed” for my taste. OK, for my pride.
To preserve my self-esteem, I marinated two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a cup of tomatillo salsa verde. After letting the chicken refrigerate for two hours, I then let it warm to room temperature before putting it beneath the broiler for fifteen minutes, flipping it halfway through.
It’s more homemade this way, and the mild herbal spiciness better matches the Chicken Posole than does rotisserie chicken. That’s what I think, at least.