Blog Archive

Saturday, March 11, 2017



                                         Green Posole with Garlic-Lime Shrimp

Note:  Please forgive.  My "centering" button isn't functioning for some reason and when I do it by hand, it seems not to translate, coming out crooked and weird.

    Green Posole (Pozole) with Garlic-Lime                                    Shrimp
                                                    by Victoria Challancin

The delights of Mexican cooking are seemingly endless to me, but one dish that holds a firm hold in my heart is posole (also pozole).  The word posole simply means "hominy," which is dried corn that has been soaked in an alkaline mineral lime solution, which softens the kernels and loosens the hulls.   But posole also refers to a rich stew made from the hominy that is served throughout Mexico, varying in style and color from region to region, home to home.


Small restaurants, called posolerias (yes, also pozolerias) can be found all over Mexico. (One of my favorites is in the city of Oaxaca, which when I first discovered it, changed my eating life forever--I have also sought out similar places whenever possible and have never been disappointed, but I digress).  The only dish served in these specialty restaurants is, of course, posole--usually in all three flavors: red, green, and white.  

Before I give you this startlingly delicious recipe, let me give you a little background, because, Dear Readers, you know that is what I do!


                          What is Hominy, Anyway?
Simply put, hominy is simply dried corn that has been soaked in an alkaline solution, which, as I said above, loosens the hulls from the kernels and also softens the kernels themselves. In Mexico, this process is called nixtamalization, or nixtamal  (a process that has been around for thousands of years), and is usually accomplished by using a solutions of calcium hydroxide, or cal.  My own grandmother slaked her own corn using an alkaline mix of water and wood ash.  However it is done, it produces an ingredient that is indispensable in the cooking of Mexico; without it, we wouldn't have corn tortillas or any of the other delicious dishes made with corn masa, the dough made from the treated corn which is mixed with water.

Why is hominy so healthy?  The process of nixtamalizing the corn makes the nutrient niacin more easily assimilated by the digestive tract, rendering it more nutritious.

                             How is Hominy Used?

  • To make corn tortillas
  • To make tamales
  • To make atole, a thick drink made from ground nixtamalized corn with milk or water and the addition of chocolate, vanilla, pilloncillo (unrefined sugar) and other flavors
  • To make posole, a rich stew made of pork, chicken, or seafood
  • To make grits, that Southern dish dear to my heart
  • To make a variety of Mexican antojitos, or little cravings, most of which are made from corn
  • Corn tortilla tacos
  • Tostadas
  • Quesadillas
  • Chalupas, sopes, gorditas, and on and on--so many delicious corn-based dishes to choose from here in Mexico

                              What is Posole, the dish?
Basically, posole is a stew made from hominy, which can be based on chicken, pork, or seafood--or a combination.  It is often served at celebrations in Mexico.

There are three main types:

  • Posole verde--this green version could contain tomatillos, epazote, cilantro, green chiles, and green pumpkin seeds
  • Posole rojo--the type of posole most popular here in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, where I live, is made from one or several dried red chiles, such as guajillo, piquin, or ancho.
  • Posole verde--(my favorite) is made without any additional red or green sauce



                                               The marinating Garlic-Lime Shrimp

                         The Garnishes
One of the joys of eating this stew is the plate of garnishes that accompanies it.  There are regional variations, but a common selection of ingredients would be:

  • Avocado
  • Limes
  • Cilantro
  • Onion (white only, please)
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce or cabbage
  • Radishes
  • Tostadas or pork rind
  • Sour cream (occasionally served to spread on the tostada)
  • Dried oregano, a must
  • Finely diced serrano or jalapeño chile  (not in the picture, but we did use it)





My garnishes from l to r: tostadas, cilantro, onion, iceberg lettuce, dried oregano, radishes, lime, and avocado

                               About this Recipe
What caught my eye with this recipe is marinating and cooking of the shrimp apart from the basic soup/stew.  It is so easy to overcook shrimp, I knew I would love this technique, and I did.  The result of the separate cooking of the shrimp and the addition of some of the uncooked chile/tomatillo mixture yielded a bright, fresh flavor.  Utterly delicious.





                                                     A bowl of the finished dish

                                  Another bowl of yum, using local Mexican ceramics

Recipe:  Green Posole with Garlic-Lime Shrimp
(Recipe inspired by and adapted from ahappyfooddance.com and epicurious.com)
Serves 4 to 6
Cooks notes:  I played with both of the versions mentioned here and came up with this.  Canned hominy is probably already soft and may just need heating (I have never used it and don't really know).  In class we used a plastic pouch of pre-cooked hominy that still needed to be cooked for at least a half an hour.  Regardless of the type you use, the result will be chewy with a slightly nutty flavor.

Green posole:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, chopped  (white onion would be more authentic)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced, divided
8-10 medium tomatillos (a little over a pound), husks removed and rinsed
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for serving
1 15-ounce can white hominy, rinsed (or a prepared pouch of pre-cooked hominy)
4 cups chicken broth
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice (optional, as I can't find it here; instead, I tossed a few of the shrimp shells in the chicken broth and simmered it for 5 to 10 minutes)

Garlic-lime shrimp:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, whole
½ teaspoons crushed red pepper
16-20 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (500g)
1 lime, zested and juiced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste

Garnishes:
Tostados
Radishes, trimmed and sliced thin
Cilantro, chopped
1/2 avocado per serving, or a bowl of cubed or sliced avocado
Dried oregano
Iceberg lettuce, sliced thin
Chopped red or white onion
lime wedges, for serving

To prepare green posole:  In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add shallot, garlic, and half of the serrano chiles, stirring occasionally until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes.

While the garlic, shallot and chilies are cooking, puree the tomatillos in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Add half of the tomatillo puree to the garlic mixture and cook, stirring often, until the mixture has started to thicken, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add 1 cup cilantro to food processor or blender and puree until smooth, set aside.
Add the hominy, chicken broth and/or clam juice to the pot and bring to a simmer. Gently cook over medium-low heat for about 8-10 minutes (this will depend on the type of hominy used).
Remove from heat and stir in the remaining tomatillo-cilantro puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To prepare garlic lime shrimp:  While the soup is simmering, in a large skillet over medium heat, add oil, garlic and crushed red pepper. As soon as the garlic starts to sizzle, add shrimp.

Let shrimp cool about 90 seconds and then flip, add lime juice and cilantro. Cook just until shrimp are cooked throughout, about 90 more seconds. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble:  Divide soup among bowls and top with radishes, cilantro, remaining chile and garlic lime shrimp. Serve with desired garnishes.










Parting Shot:  A Purple, Feathery Catrina










         ©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.


Flavors of the Sun Cooking School
San Miguel de Allende, México


Monday, February 20, 2017

Mango Tiramisu





Mango Tiramisu

Mango Tiramisu and a Better Life
by Victoria Challancin

At the risk of sounding trite, I confess that I have long thought that life is just a little better once mango season begins.  A bit brighter, a little more healthy, substantially more poetic.  In addition to admitting that I love to eat flowers, I can also say that I like to eat mangoes for similar reasons:  They taste like perfume, they evoke poetry, they give me an excuse to wax philosophical, if a bit silly.

Nowadays, we can get mangoes all year long.  Before our own glorious season begins here in Mexico, they happily sneak their way up from South America even during the winter.  No more waiting anxiously for the Mexican season to start.  No more guessing will it be Manilas or Ataulfos that make their first appearance.  No more biting fingernails dreading the end of the season.  I buy more kilos than I care to say each week...eating them with abandon, putting them in everything, relishing the juice running down my chin...and just generally being a hedonist.









Building the tiramisu:  a layer of soaked savoiardi 


So when I saw a similar recipe to this one online last week, I knew I would have to make this mango tiramisu for the stunning conclusion to an Italian Cooking Class I was teaching to Mexican cooks.  No, you probably won't find it in Italy.  Yes, it was divine.  Cream, mascarpone, orange liqueur, and mangoes? Seriously, what is there in this inspired combination that won't inspire weeping?

Tiramisù

I looked at a number of recipes, and cringed a bit when I saw it called "Mangomisu."  Really, why do we do that?  Tiramisù is an Italian word that actually refers to  "pick me up," "cheer me up" or "lift me up."  So what then would a "mangomisu" do, though I can't deny that mangoes in general lift and cheer me to no end.  The dessert in Italy, loved throughout the world, consists of layers of sponge cake or savoiardi (ladies" fingers) soaked in coffee and brandy or liqueur with powdered chocolate and mascarpone cheese.

And for those of you who love words as I do, tiramisù in Italian can be used in non-food related ways to express sincerity in any given situation, especially when trying to convey a true level of genuineness.  And wait, there is more:  the word can also be used to indicate a feeling of being misunderstood, particularly when feeling that genuineness and honesty is being impugned.  How great is that?



A layer of mango filling


A Few Facts about Mangoes:
(Some of this is from mango.org, but other bits are from around the web)
  • Mangoes originated in India over 5000 years ago
  • Mangoes seeds started their journey around the world via humans from Asia to the Middle East, East Africa, and South America beginning around 300 to 400 A.D.
  • Mangoes are related to cashews and pistachios--is it any wonder they are so tasty?
  • A mango tree can grow as tall as 100 feet
  • The bark, leaves, skin and pit of the mango have been used in folk remedies for centuries
  • Mangoes are often considered to be a sacred fruit in India because it is believed that Buddha meditated under a mango tree
  • There are over 1000 (yes, one thousand) cultivars of mangoes
  • Mangoes can cause contact dermatitis to the lips, gums, or tongue of susceptible people (I remember fondly how my father would peel mangoes for my mother--we had our own tree--just for that reason; she could eat them, but would break out if she touched the outside part)
  • Mangoes are the national fruit of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines and the national tree of Bangladesh
  • The paisley pattern, which developed in India, is based on the shape of a mango
  • In Hinduism, the perfectly ripe mango is often held by Lord Ganesha as a symbol of attainment (i.e. of perfection)


Nutrition:
  • Mangoes provide 100% of the daily vitamin C, 35% of vitamin A and 12% of daily fiber
  • A one-cup serving is 100 calories
  • Mangoes are fat-, sodium-, and cholesterol-free.  Whoopee!
  • Mangoes are antioxidant rich --think carotenoids such as alpha-carotene and beta-carotene and phenolic compounds as well
  • Mangoes contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals, which makes them a superfood
  • Mangoes contain a variety of nutrients, such as copper, vitamin B6, folate, and more
  • Mangoes are diet-friendly--they are naturally sweet, so eating them can help quash cravings for sugary sweets
  • Mangoes consist of about 83% water, which helps you feel full
  • Like pineapples and papayas, mangoes have a natural tenderizing properties, making them a popular ingredient in marinades for meats and poultry

    Selection and Ripening:
    • Gently squeeze a mango to judge its ripeness; it will give slightly when ripe and will ripen further at room temperature over a few days
    • Ripe mangoes smell like heaven (my words, not the Mango Board's)
    • Color is not a determinate of ripeness--red does not mean ripe.
    • Like peaches or avocados, mangoes become softer as they ripen

    Eating Mangoes and Mango Cuisine:
    • Mangoes are often sold in Latin American countries on a stick with the skin peeled back (often with chile; often cut into a beautiful design)
    • Mangoes are used unripe or green in chutneys, pickles, and even salads
    • Mangoes make a great addition to smoothies
    • Mangoes are used in curries and dahls
    • In Mexico, mangoes are often eaten with chile, salt, and lime juice
    • Mangoes are used in sweet preparations such as drinks, ice cream, pies, cakes, and more
    • For Mexican cuisine aficionados, mangoes make a great salsa and also are wonderful when added to guacamole
    Spelling:  
    • Both "mangos" and "mangoes" are acceptable spellings for the plural form of mango, and thought I prefer the former, for inexplicable reasons I have forced myself to include the "e" in this post.  Go figure.


    The beginnings of some mango "roses"




    The finished masterpiece--of which the students were justifiably proud

    Cook's Notes:  This recipe, as written, didn't provide enough soaking syrup for our dish.
    We had to make extra.  I think using two mangoes and two pits and doubling the other syrup ingredients would take care of that.  The extra mango pulp in the filling would not detract.  The flavor is heavenly with only one mango, but delicate.  A bit more pulp would simply give it some "punch." 
    The original recipe does not include liqueur, but of course I had to add it, and it worked beautifully.  We also shaved the mango with a vegetable peeler go get the strips to make the "roses."  If you don't have a round glass dish like this or a bowl for trifle, simply make it in any ceramic mold.  I love the look of the mango roses atop the dish, but cubes ore plain slivers would work if you don't feel "fiddly."

    Mango Tiramisu

    (Recipe adapted from floursandfrostings.com)

    Serves 8

    40 lady fingers (savoiardi) 
    For the filling:
    240 grams or 1 cup mascarpone chees , at room temperature
    1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream, chilled
    52 grams or 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
    1 mango, pureed
    For the syrup:
    pit of the mango
    2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    360 ml or 1 1/2 cups water
    2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur such as Controy
    For decoration (optional):
    1 mango, sliced thin

    Prepare the syrup by boiling the pit with the water and sugar , and then simmering it until it reduces to about one cup. Strain into a wide bowl, add Grand Marnier, and cool to room temperature.

    For the filling: whip one cup of the chilled cream to stiff peaks. Keep aside. Whisk together the mango puree, icing sugar and mascarpone cheese until smooth. Fold this mixture into the heavy cream. Keep chilled until required.

    For the assembly : dip the lady fingers one by one in the syrup, tap out excess and line in your serving dish or plate. Spread a layer of the filling (about 1/2 cup). Lay down another layer of soaked lady fingers , topped by the filling. Continue with as many layers of lady fingers as you want. Spread the remaining filling on top.  Chill 4 to 6 hours.  Top with mango slices if desired.


    Not just a pretty face...this dessert was just a delicate taste sensation


    Parting Shot:  Simple Mexican Beauty

    In Mexico it seems that I can always find understated beauty in the nicest of ways...

    ©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.



    Flavors of the Sun Cooking School
    San Miguel de Allende, México