Pozole (also known as Pozolé, or Pozolli, in Spanish and commonly Posole in English) is a pre-Columbian stew or soup from Mexico that was eaten on special occasions. That rings true since our introduction came from people who made it as their traditional Christmas Eve dish. The ingredients for the stew consists of maize, usually hominy kernels, pork, chili peppers and a variety of seasonings. It is served with a selection of garnishes so each diner is able to customize their own bowl. We have made this recipe for many years but not as a holiday dinner just as a good hardy stew for a fall or winter supper.
I investigated the history of this dish and discovered that those bloody Aztecs had a different white meat in mind. Since maize was a sacred plant for the Aztecs and other inhabitants of Mesoamerica, pozole was very special. According to Wikipedia; “The conjunction of maize and meat in a single dish is of particular interest to scholars because the ancient Mesoamericans believed the gods made humans out of masa (cornmeal dough). According to research by the National Institute of Anthropology and History and the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, on these “special occasions,” the meat used in the pozole was human. After the prisoners were killed by having their hearts torn out in a ritual sacrifice, the rest of the body was chopped and cooked with maize. The meal was shared among the whole community as an act of religious communion. After the Conquest, when cannibalism was banned, pork became the staple meat as it ‘tasted very similar’, according to a Spanish priest.”
Of course that suggests the priest was having dinner with the Aztecs before the Conquest.
I hope you haven’t lost your appetite after that wonderful history of this dish because it really is very good. Just stick to pork as your main ingredient.
(Original recipe from my mother-in-law’s friend Claudia)
2 medium onions, chopped
1-1/2 # pork shoulder, cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbs oregano
1 Tbs chili powder
2 cans hominy, drained
1 can chopped green chilis
Combine onions, pork and garlic in a large skillet. Once the meat is browned, add the hominy, oregano, chili powder and enough water to cover. Simmer for about 2 hours, then add the can of chilis. Simmer for another 1/2 hour. Serve with warm flour tortillas.
The version pictured below is my take on the recipe above, using some slightly different ingredients.
Posole à la Curt
2-1/2# Country-style Pork Ribs, on the bone
3 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs oil
3 cans white hominy, drained and rinsed
3 Tbs oregano, Mexican preferred
1 Tbs paprika
1/2 Tbs cumin, ground
1 Tbs. Ancho chili, ground
2 Poblano chiles
2 tsp salt
sliced radishes chopped
white onions, rinsed under cold water
dry Mexican oregano
bottled hot sauce, like Frank’s
coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Cut the meat from the rib bones; reserve the bones. Trim any large areas of fat off the meat and cut the meat into 3/4″ chunks. Heat the oil in a large deeper pan (like a chef’s pan or braising pan) and brown the rib bones on all sides. Remove and reserve. Add the onions, garlic and meat chunks and cook over high heat until the meat is lightly browned. Add the herbs and spices (except the Poblano and salt) and stir to evenly distribute the seasonings. Return the bones to the pot, add 8 C. water, and bring to a steady simmer. Cover lightly and cook 2 hours, stirring periodically adding extra water if it seems like it’s getting too thick.
While the posole is cooking, roast the Poblanos under a broiler or over an open stove-top burner until they are blistered and blackened. Put the Poblanos into a paper bag and set aside to steam and cool (or alternately, put into a heat-proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap). Once cool enough to handle, rub the Poblano skin off with an paper towel. Open the peppers and clean out the seeds. Slice the pepper flesh into matchstick pieces about 1/4″ wide by 1″ long.
After the posole cooks for 2 hours, remove and discard the rib bones. Add the roasted Poblanos and salt, cook an additional 1/2 hour. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with warm flour tortillas.
Put the garnishes in small bowls on the table for your guests to add to their taste.
My friend Terra has a blog, Life as a Field Trip, where she likes to do a Throwback Thursday. This week when I popped in to see what she was resurrecting I could not believe my eyes, it was from 2002 but it was all too familiar. Mainly because I had written it. Well the part she posted she had written, I just did the editing. Her throwback was the front page of a newsletter called BOOKMARKS that I wrote, designed, edited and compiled when I worked for the Brown County Library.
I did a lot of things like this. As a reader advisory librarian my job was mostly about marketing, that is, getting books into the hands of the customers. This was one of those ideas. I started it in 1999. It was a two-sided page that came out monthly. Front page featured my editor’s short column and a wider Staff Picks column (that’s what Terra posted). Back page had three columns that might be anything from a featured author to topics that corresponded with the month to a fiction category. The one below was for March/April so the Academy Awards and the IRS guided my choices. Add some appropriate clip-art and send it off to the County printer.
I did roughly the same format through 2006, but by then it was getting harder and harder to get staff to give me a list with annotations. So for the next two years I changed the front page to a Featured Author. Ten years….120 issues and then I burned out. Administration didn’t want to see it go but they couldn’t convince another staff member to take it on. Frankly, it was time to end it. When I started this, everyone and their second cousin didn’t have a tablet or a smartphone, so it worked. There wasn’t a Goodreads or a Slice Bookshelf or a zillion Book Blogs. Who knows how I’d be pushing books if I was still there?
It was a lot of fun. Terra’s Throwback Thursday brought back some great memories. (She even got a comment from a librarian I hadn’t heard from in years who still remembered when she herself was featured in Staff Picks.) And if you are looking for some new titles to add to your reading list Terra still stands by every title she recommended back then. Visit her blog if you also might enjoy the adventures of a busy creative Mom and fulltime Librarian.
While I am on the subject of books let me tell you about making them. I took a class this past summer where I learned to make four different types of books and now I am crazy for bookmaking.
The class was one of those adult summer mini-classes that are offered by most universities or tech schools to fulfill their outreach requirement to the local community. They are reasonably priced, the teachers have good credentials and they usually aren’t a long-term committment. No grades just pure learning. The class I took was Book-making, part of the Art Enrichment for Adults program at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay. It met on five Tuesdays from 6:00 – 8:30pm and I loved it. I made a Star book, a Coptic Stitch book, a folded book and a tied-binding book.
Once the class was over I couldn’t leave it behind. I wanted to make more books. I did make more books. Then one day on Facebook a friend who is a teacher at a small parochial school was talking about her third and fourth graders. They were getting excited about writing and some of them wanted to start a story club. I popped in and asked if she thought they might want to learn how to make books to go around their stories? Three emails and one meeting later, I was scheduled to meet with eighteen 8 -10 year olds once a week for 6 weeks and teach them to make a tied-binding book (that’s the 4th one in the above picture). This was the first time I would be teaching anyone how to make a book but not my first time in a classroom. My first ever real job was art teacher in a Jr/Sr high school. And even though that was 40 years ago, I went in unafraid, completely forgetting about the high energy generated at this age. The kids were enthusiastic, had a million questions and were excited to get started. After contacting my teacher from the summer book class for some tips, she volunteered to do a guest appearance to teach them how to paint their cover paper. Great! She had paint and paper I didn’t have to find or buy. A local frame shop donated matte board, a parent donated paper for the book pages and I found enough yarn and ribbon in my leftovers for ties. Schools have little or no money for extras and little private schools are really pinched for funds.
By my third meeting with the class, I could already identify the shy ones, the overachievers, the perfectionists and the goofballs. I learned those kid’s names first, the others were just faces. To be fair to me and the kids, I only saw them once a week for about 4o minutes and those were busy minutes and names got lost. At the end I think I knew most of them.
So how did it turn out? Not everyone paid attention to directions (some things never change). Their glue sticks varied in stickiness so attaching the covers to the boards went from perfectly stuck to “Mrs. Heuer, help!” I rode to the rescue but in some cases I patched holes and restuck corners after everyone went to their next class. I learned that this age group doesn’t know how to tie knots (huh?) so having five parent volunteers available when we got to tieing in the pages was a life-saver. We started with 18 kids and finished with 17 books. Only because a playground accident (a head-on collision, a knocked out tooth) sent one of my students to emergency dental care. Her classmates were quick to inform me that it was a “permanent” tooth.
Our last class was on Nov 12. This past Friday I went back to pick up some papers and was greeted with this:
Aw guys, you made me smile, made me so happy to teach again and pay it forward.
The pumpkin refers to the paper pumpkins I made them for Halloween, the teacher sacrificed hers for the thank you note.
Side note: I’m still making books and now I have some for sale on ETSY, just click on the link in the right column.
“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird.
Our November meeting was a high from beginning to end. Either the books were just all great or we were just overally enthusiastic. Whatever it was everyone agreed it was the best session we’d had in a long time. Everyone was making notes, listing books they wanted to read.
It was my turn to present an author and I chose Julia Spencer-Fleming and her excellent mystery series set in Miller’s Kill, New York. It is important you read the series from the beginning (In the Bleak Midwinter) because the main characters, Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne and the Reverend Clare Fergusson, experience a lot of life changes. Now on to the books. Because I find it hard to express some of the enthusiasm over some of these titles I’ve put stars next to some of the ones that got the best reviews. * Really Really Liked, ** Wow! Hope you find some here to add to your list.
*Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld (2013) 416 pages. The story of twin sisters, each born with a mild form of ESP. An emotional study of the two women as they choose different directions in their lives and use their “gift” in very different situations.
*Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie (1984) 291 pages. Pulitzer winner for fiction in 1985 and National Book Award in 1984. While working on her book in Great Britian, Virginia, a fifty something English professor is drawn into an affair with an Oklahoma tourist.
**The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell (2013) 368 pages. “Take a dollop of Alfred Hitchcock, a dollop of Patricia Highsmith, throw in some Great Gatsby flourishes, and the result is a pitch-black comedy about a police stenographer accused of murder in 1920s Manhattan.” Nancy, the reviewer loved it and wouldn’t drop any spoilers.
*The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett (2013) 353 pages. Nine months after the death of his wife, Peter Byerly is drawn to an antiquarian bookshop. While browsing through an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, he is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. It is clearly Victorian and so the mystery begins.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Waiter (2012) 368 pages. The “beautiful ruins” of this story include not only its physical setting, in a tiny coastal village destined for extinction but also the larger than life characters.
*House at Riverton by Kate Morton (2009) 473 pages. “Set in England this is the story of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death and a way of life that has vanished forever, told in flashback by a woman who witnessed it all and kept a secret for decades.”
**The Color of Water by James McBride (1996) 301 pages. A black man’s tribute to his white mother, the autobiography of James McBride.
Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian (2008) 400 pages. A tale of three young Jews—Anna, Callum and Uri—who must trek from Warsaw to reach the Allied lines in the waning days of WW II.
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (2010) 384 pages. When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family.
*Deadly Heat by Richard Castle (2013) 304 pages. Those of you who read this series are addicted already. This one continues the plot from book 4 and carries it further. Nothing deep here folks, just a great plot and a thrilling story. Kick back and have fun.
The Lois Wilson Story by William Borchert (2005) 400 pages. Until this book was written, little was known about Lois Wilson, the wife of the famously anonymous Bill W. and the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. She also created Al-Anon, the support group for family and friends.
**Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (2013) 544 pages. The sequel to The Shining and it was worth he wait. King’s horror sense is in fine form. “Doc” Dan (Danny) Torrence is now a middle-aged alcoholic who needs to get his act together in order to fight those who “feed” off children who possess the “shining.”
A while ago we started watching series shows with some friends. I think it started with Justified. We had watched the first season on Netflix streaming but we don’t have DISH or Direct TV so when the 2nd season started we were out of luck for probably six months before we could view it. But then we got talking with some close friends who were also hooked on Justified and they had DISH, woo hoo! They were recording season 2 and already had about four on their DVR. They invited us over for dinner and TV. We brought dessert and we all had a great time. A couple of weeks later we went back for two more episodes but this time we brought dinner and they did dessert.
A regular get-together was born.
Rules: One, no overly crazy cleaning, except maybe the bathroom. Two, no gourmet cooking, keep it simple. We alternate dinner and desserts. We’ve gotten through three seasons of Justified and the fourth starts this January. In between seasons we watched Longmire and started The Borgias. Since neither of us has Showtime we got The Borgias on disk from Netflix. Last night was the first episode of Season 3 and Pat and Dick were coming to our house with dinner in tow. We were on for dessert. With a persimmon sitting on the shelf just ready to burst Curt knew it was destined to become our sweet treat for the evening.
You may remember that we posted a short piece about persimmons several years ago. If not, you can refer to it here. Mostly, I like to eat persimmons as a fresh fruit – the Fuyu variety that is. The Hachiya variety is a whole different matter. If you try to eat them before they’re fully ripe you’ll be met with an astringent mouthful you won’t be able to swallow. Hachiya need to sit and slowly ripen to the point that they’re like a squishy orange/red water balloon. The skin turns almost translucent and the flesh is more like a soft jelly that a fruit. That’s what we had. I’m led to believe that some people let their Hachiya get to this stage and then cut or bite a small hole in the skin and suck the flesh out like a Slurpee, but not frozen.
In casting about for some recipe to use with this beautifully ripe but somewhat intractable fruit, I came upon a reference in a bread book by James Beard that had a Persimmon Bread recipe. It looked good and so, off I went.
Persimmon Bread (adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard)
1-3/4 C. all-Purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. mace, ground
a few gratings of nutmeg
1 C. sugar
1/2 C. butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 C. bourbon
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 very large, very ripe Hachiya persimmon, cored but not peeled, pureed, about 1 C.
1 C. coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 C. currants, plumped with 1/2 Tbs. bourbon
1 Tbs. coarse sugar (raw sugar, rock candy, or the like), broken into edible-sized pieces if necessary.
Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make a depression in the center and add the melted butter, eggs, bourbon, pureed persimmon, nuts and currants. Mix the batter well, until there are no dry bits left. Butter and flour a 1 pound and a mini loaf pan. Fill them about 3/4 full with the batter. It’s pretty stiff, so use a spatula to make sure it gets into the corners. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake for 1 hour at 350˚ or until a skewer comes out clean. Let the loaves cool in the pans and then turn out onto a rack. Serve with fresh butter. Keeps wrapped for 1 to 2 weeks.
And for your viewing pleasure, we all recommend Justified, Longmire and The Borgias.
The Mao family’s Red-braised Pork is famous in Chinese cuisine. So popular, that it’s often just called Mao’s Meat. It is supposed to have been Chairman Mao’s favorite food – to the extent that it is reported he ate two bowls of this rich braise every day to maintain his sharp intellect. Chinese gastronomes seem to make a medical virtue out of every sort of food and Mao’s Meat is no exception. It is said to have healthful benefits beyond common sense. The people of Mao’s home village in Hunan province recommend red-braised pork as a health food; men eat it to build their brains and ladies to make themselves more beautiful. This dish is so integral to the myth and memory of Chairman Mao that the Chinese government has designated official guidelines to restaurants instructing them on how to properly cook Mao’s favorite food if they are claiming to serve authentic Hunan cuisine.
We ate it once on our recent trip to China and I thought it was great. It was not a hit with everyone, however. For some the luxuriousness of the dish was just plain fatty. I, however, agree with the Chairman; I could eat a bowl of this richly flavored, unctuous dish everyday. I’d probably weigh 300 pounds and die of a heart attack but I’d die happy. Eating it once a year or once in a lifetime is probably safer. Although I was able to get close to the flavor of what I tasted in China, I failed to achieve the burnished clinging sauciness that I remember. Maybe next time.
With Mao’s Meat we also had the standard range of dishes; lots of rice, soup, several types of braised or stir-fried vegetables (some with chicken, pork, shrimp or tofu) – all more than a home cook could muster for a simple dinner for two. However, one of the dishes that, in my mind, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Mao’s Meat was Vinegared Potato Slivers (essentially Stir-fried Shoestring Potatoes). First blanched and then quickly stir-fried with chilies and green onions and sauced with a shot of vinegar, these potatoes were difficult to identify on first taste. They’re lightly cooked to the point of being slightly crunchy and come off as undercooked by most Western standards. But unlike the ubiquitous potato as a main starch in Western cuisine, the Chinese treat them as a side vegetable.
Mao’s Meat (Mao Family’s Red-braised Pork)
hong shao rou
1# Pork Belly (skin optional – mine didn’t have skin)
2 Tbs. peanut or grape seed oil
2 Tbs. white sugar
1 Tbs. Shaoxing wine or Japanese sake
3/4″ slice of fresh ginger, skin on
1 Star Anise
2 dried red chilies
small piece (about 1″ long) cinnamon stick or cassia bark
Light Soy sauce
A few pieces of scallion greens
Put the pork belly into a pot of boiling water and simmer 3 – 4 minutes. Remove, cool and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1″ x 1″)
Heat oil and sugar in a wok over low flame until the sugar melts. Once melted, turn up the heat and stir until the sugar has a caramel brown color. Add the pork pieces and wine (or sake). Add enough water to cover the pork. Add the ginger, star anise, chilies and cinnamon stick. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
Towards the end of the cooking time, turn up the heat to reduce the sauce. Season with Soy sauce to taste. Add a little more sugar if desired. Add the scallions just before serving.
A note on Pork Belly. This is an ingredient that is supposed to be peasant food, meaning cheap but lately it’s become a hot item in the food world. If you live in New York or L.A. you can probably find it in your local market. In Wisconsin, where we happen to grow pigs, it’s hard to find. Pork belly is essentially the cut of pork that it is turned into bacon by curing and smoking it. I was able to get mine from a pork producer at my local farmers market by ordering it well in advance of their butchering date. If you wait to ask for pork belly after the pigs have been butchered, it will be too late as all of the belly will already have been turned into bacon. If you can’t find pork belly, don’t use bacon – the smokiness will radically change the dish. A nice fatty shoulder might work but the texture of the fatty parts will be different.
Potato Slivers with Vinegar
cu liu to dou si
2 large Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 or 2 Fresh Red Chilies, seeded, thinly sliced
3 scallions, green parts only, cut lengthwise into thin shreds
3 Tbs. Rice vinegar or white vinegar
3 Tbs. Peanut or Grape seed oil
Cut or shred the potatoes into matchstick shapes. Soak in cold salted water until ready to start cooking.
Drain the potatoes and blanch in boiling water just until the water returns to the boil. Drain and set aside.
Add the oil to a very hot wok and swirl around to coat the pan. Add the potatoes and chili slivers and stir-fry for a few minutes. Do not overcook. Add the vinegar and continue to stir-fry a few minutes more, until the potatoes are cooked but still slightly crunchy. Add the scallion shreds and mix until you can smell their aroma. Serve hot or lukewarm.
Both of the above recipes come from the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchshia Dunlop via any number of foodie websites.
“If you want to get laid, go to college.
If you want to get an education, go to the library.” -Frank Zappa
Our quote this month is from Frank Zappa and unless you are a baby boomer or music historian you probably don’t know who he is. Well he was an American rock musician and composer who had a band called The Mothers of Invention known for musical experimentation and interesting album covers. For me he was the last person I expected to find when I went looking for library and reading quotes.
Here’s our November list of recommended reading. All fiction this time which is really unusual for this group. We almost always have at least one non-fiction book. Our author, presented by Ellie, was Nora Ephron who was an essayist, playwright, blogger and novelist so I guess we had a non-fiction addition after all. So I give you our titles: some old, some new. All reviewed well except for Ape House which Ricky liked but didn’t love.
Behold a Pale Horse by Peter Tremayne (2011) 384 pages. A mystery of ancient Ireland (664 A.D.) featuring Sister Fidela of Cashel.
If You Were Here by Alafair Burke (2013) 384 pages. While investigating the video of a boy being saved in a subway from a racing train, journalist McKenna Jordan sees in the background a friend who has been missing for ten years.
Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987) 324 pages. Set after the American Civil War, this book concerns the story of Sethe and her daughter Denver after their escape from slavery. This won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988.
The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason (2003) 336 pages. In 1886 a shy, middle-aged piano tuner named Edgar Drake receives an unusual commission from the British War Office: to travel to the remote jungles of northeast Burma and there repair a rare piano belonging to an eccentric army surgeon who has proven mysteriously indispensable to the imperial design.
Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013) 464 pages. A crime fiction novel by J.K. Rowling writing under a pseudonym. The mystery is okay but the characters are very interesting and I hope there will be future crimes for Comoran Strike to solve.
Ape House by Sara Gruen (2010) 320 pages. A quirky book about bonobos by the author of Like Water for Elephants.
Peace like a River by Leif Enger (2001) 311 pages. Through the voice of eleven-year-old Reuben, an asthmatic boy obsessed with cowboy stories, this novel tells of the family’s cross-country search for Reuben’s outlaw older brother, who has been controversially charged with murder.
The Turtle Catcher by Nicole Lea Helget (2009) 256 pages. Set in Minnesota, this fiction debut is about a love story with a heinous crime at its core.