Friday, April 3, 2015

Red Pozole with Chicken Meatballs

Many of you were clamoring for this recipe after a cooking demo the other day. If you can make soup, you can make this Red Pozole, it is quite simple. The rich flavors of dried chilies which make up the velvety broth are both earthy and seductive. 

In my cooking demo set up you can see red chilies soaking in the top left corner. The dried chilies are soaked for about 30 minutes in warm water, then blended to a puree, which I can most closely associate with canned tomato sauce. It is used for the same reasons you would add tomato puree into a soup or stew, adding sweetness, body, color and character. The chilies are not too spicy, there is a warmth to the whole dish, but seems to be palatable even for children.  

The garnishes are an essential part of this dish, radish, shredded green cabbage, cilantro, and lime. The sour, herbal, and fresh crunchy elements provide a totally needed balance for the warm meat stew. 

Pozole tradition goes back a long time! It is from southern Mexico, a traditional dish of the Aztec people. Usually it is made with shredded meat, meatballs are a novelty. But I think they fit perfectly here. The hominy is puffy and round and the meatballs just a little larger.

A word about hominy, or pozole as some call it. It is a very cool, ancient way of treating corn kernels to 1) make more nutrients available to the body, 2) make the corn shelf stable, 3) make the corn able to turn into a dough.

Corn is treated with something alkaline, like ash or lyme, which breaks down the cellulose walls of the kernel, changes some of the oils, and links the proteins. Called nixtimalization, it basically transforms into a way healthier form of itself. Ground cornmeal and water does not form a dough on its own, but ground hominy corn and water will form a dough, called masa, used to make white corn tortillas for example.  Hominy grits are also made from this treated corn.

Dont quote me, but I have heard that you could survive healthily for a good while on just hominy corn, because of how the proteins changed. But if you tried to survive on plain old yellow corn, you would quickly become malnourished. Cool, right. This is hominy corn, bright white, fluffy and soft.

For the Meatballs (about 6 pounds of 1" chicken meatballs, shot in black and white)

Red Pozole with Chicken Meatballs

For the meatballs:
2 slices stale bread, no crusts (gluten free works!)
1 pound ground chicken or turkey
1 teaspoon garlic powder
teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
teaspoon salt

For the Pozole:
5 dried New Mexico chilies. no seeds/stems (see: Tip)
3 tablespoons sunflower oil, or canola oil
1 entire head of garlic, cloves peeled
2 yellow onions 
4 cups hominy corn, 2 cans
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water, or more

For soup toppings:
lime wedges
sliced radish 
shredded green cabbage  

Break stems off of dried chilies and dump out as many seeds as possible. Place chilies in a bowl, cover with warm water, use a plate or a cup to keep them submerged. Soak for 30 min to rehydrate. Use caution when handling the chilies to wash your hands with soap and cold water after touching them.

Soak the crustless bread in tap water. Place in a second mixing bowl and allow it to break down. To the same bowl, add ground chicken, garlic powder, oregano, and salt. Knead well, until nearly uniform.

Form 1-inch small balls of the chicken mixture. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a soup pot, saute chicken balls on high heat, in batches if necessary, until golden brown on most sides. About 5 minutes, they will not yet be cooked through. Remove to a plate.

Add onion and garlic to the oil. Stir frequently, scraping the bottom, for about 2 minutes. When the onion releases its juices, add the chicken broth and water and scrape any garlic and onion off the bottom. Stir in the hominy. Bring the soup just to a boil, before lowering it to a simmer.

While waiting for the soup to boil, puree the chili skins and the soaking water in a blender or food processor. Puree throughly. Strain the thick red liquid through a sieve into the soup. Straining is essential, this removes all the tough bits of chili, and seeds. All the chili flavor is extracted into the liquid, but not too much of the heat. It makes a velvety broth.

 Add all the meatballs into the simmering soup. Add more water to cover everything, if necessary. Simmer 1 hour for the best flavor. While the soup simmers, slice the radish, lime, and cabbage. When serving the soup, allow everyone to add their own toppings. 

Note: This soup comes together easily, and is impressive to serve to a crowd or party. It can be made ahead, and is even better the next day. 

Chilie Tip: Don't be put off by the large amount of dried chilies in this soup. The sweet flavor of the chili is in the soup, but the heat is mild. Ancho or Guajilo chilies can be substituted for New Mexico. A blend of all or any is good too.

Slow Cookers: Follow the recipe up to where the meatballs are added into the soup, instead of 1 hour on the stove, several hours in the slow cooker works! if that is your style.) 

For more meatball recipes, check out Global Meatballs!

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