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Oh boy that's good soup... Easy Posole, or Chicken and Hominy Soup

 

 

Easy Posole, or Chicken and Hominy Soup
Easy Posole, or Chicken and Hominy Soup

 

We have a cold spell coming through our area. The weather is perfect for this easier version of a classic Mexican dish. This soup is quick, easy, and good for you.

I try to keep hominy in my pantry and ham hocks in my freezer for this favorite soup.  If the mood strikes me for Posole, and I am out of ham hacks I let nothing stand in my way, I substitute sliced ham.  I cook the soup about 30 minutes less time if I am not using bone-in chicken and ham hacks.

Prep Time

30 minutes

Cook Time

1 1/2  to 2 hrs

Total Time

2 to 2 1/2 hrs

 

Recipe adapted from: Ortega Authentic Family-Style Mexican Cooking

 

Ingredients

  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 Tablespoons chicken bullion
  • 2 1/2 - 3 pounds chicken parts with bone, or 3 - 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 pounds ham hocks, or 12 ounces sliced sandwich ham (diced)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 1/4 cups (2 -15 oz. cans) white hominy, drained
  • 1/2 cup to 1 3/4 cups (16 ounce jar) salsa
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Shredded cabbage (optional)
  • Tortillas strips (optional)

 

Directions

  1. PLACE water, bullion, chicken, pork and diced onion in large stockpot; cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cook, covered, for about 1 hour for boneless chicken, or 1 1/2 hours for bone-in chicken and ham hacks.
  2. ADD hominy, 1/2 cup salsa, oregano and cumin to broth; stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until flavors are blended. Taste and adjust the spicy heat level, if needed, by adding more salsa.
  3. If using bone-in chicken and ham hacks cook until meat begins to come off bones. Remove any meat from bones. Discard skin, bones and fat. Return chicken and ham to pot.
  4. If using boneless chicken and sliced ham, remove chicken from broth; shred or chop meat. Remove any skin and discard. Return chicken to pot.
  5. SERVE in soup bowls topped with shredded cabbage, and tortilla strips. May top with an extra dollop of salsa.

 

The Professor's Rating

The Professor gave it 4 stars, saying "that's got some good heat to it.". This is one of his favorites recipes. He likes it hot with the upper level of salsa added.

 

For information about why hominy is so good for you, follow link to  the Jam Jam scientist's notebook coloredScientist's Notebook about Corn and Cornmeal Demystified

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The Jam Scientist

Healthy Whole Grain Southern Style Skillet Cornbread

Whole Grain Skillet Cornbread
Whole Grain Skillet Cornbread - Cornbread this good does not last long

Now is the time for a nice pot of soup with a piece of warm cornbread. I used to avoid cornbread, but now I allow myself to have a portion. My assumptions about what makes a healthy diet have been challenged lately. First I read about the need to eat beans daily (Blue Zone Diet). I just read an older research article in American Society for Nutrition that describes the healthiest Mexican adults as the ones that eat a traditional diet with ~47% of their energy intake from maize and maize foods, and 4% from Beans.  Did they say 47% Maize?  That's a lot of corn! How can that much corn be good for you? Then I remembered that cornmeal can be a whole grain food (if it has the germ included), and in fact my favorite cornbread recipe from Ruth Reichl's The Gourmet Cookbook uses 100% whole grain stone ground cornmeal, and a hot skillet. I thought I would share my favorite delectably healthy recipe that goes so well with a pot of beans or soup. I will also share some variations, and recipes for different sized skillets.

 

Skillet Cornbread Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

 

Best Little Jam House logo

 

If you would like to download the Whole Grain Skillet Cornbread recipe without pictures click Download Cornbread Recipe

 

Special Equipment needed: a well-seasoned 9 to 9 1/2-inch cast-iron skillet, or 10 to 10 3/4-inch cast-iron skillet.

 

Ingredients for 9- to 9 1/2-inch cast-iron skillet (serves 8):

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground, medium-grind

2 tablespoons sugar (optional)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 3/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk

1/2 stick to 3/4 (4 to 6 tablespoons) butter, softened



Ingredients for 10 to 10 3/4-inch skillet (serves 12):

2 cups yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground, medium-grind

3 tablespoons sugar (optional)

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

2 cups well-shaken buttermilk

3/4  to 1 stick (6 to 8 tablespoons) butter, softened

 

Variations:

  • For Southern White Cornbread (the way my Grandmother Low made it) substitute white cornmeal. In the heat of summer my grandmother would cook her cornbread on a griddle (like pancakes) and this way would not heat the kitchen so much.

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Heat with the skillet on the oven's center rack for 30 minutes (If you are pressed for time you can heat skillet in the oven for 10 minutes and finish by heating the pan on the top of the range until the added butter is browned).
  1. Stir together dry ingredients: cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
  1. Whisk together eggs and buttermilk in a medium bowl until blended.
  1. Add the butter to the hot skillet in oven. You want the butter to sizzle and brown around the edges and begin to foam (brown butter). If you used less butter, try to leave a slight coating of butter on the bottom and sides of the skillet so that the cornbread won't stick. If you used more butter, try to leave about 1/4 cup butter in bottom of skillet.
  1. Pour the brown butter into a heat safe measuring cup or small bowl, and return the skillet to the oven (alternately keep it hot on the range). Whisk the warm butter into the egg and buttermilk mixture.
  1. Stir cornmeal into the buttermilk mixture, combining until just evenly moistened.
  1. Remove hot skillet from oven and scrape batter into hot skillet and bake until golden - 17 to 25 minutes. Serve in skillet for a more rustic presentation and to keep bread warm, or alternately cool bread slightly and turn cornbread onto a serving plate.

 

I like the cornbread you make
"I like the cornbread you make."

 

The Professor's Rating

The Professor gave this 4 stars, saying "I like the cornbread you make. It tastes sweet." (I did not add any sugar) Fresh cornmeal with fresh butter naturally tastes sweet without added sugar.

 

 Corn and Cornmeal Demystified

 

Jam scientist's notebook What is the difference between maize and corn? Maize and corn are one in the same.

Is Cornmeal good for you? In whole grain form (with the germ), corn is healthy and full of nutrients. Corn is high in fiber and is good for digestion, has B vitamins, and has 10 times more Vitamin A than other grains. Corn contains antioxidants. Corn flour is a naturally gluten-free food.

What are the different types of corn?

Dent Corn - field corn is also called dent corn can be yellow or white (Zea mays indentata). Tortilla chips, snack foods, and masa can come from yellow dent corn or white dent corn. This corn is dry-milled for human consumption when dry and has a dent on the end of each kernel. Dent corn has higher starch content and lower sugar content than sweet corn, so is not good to eat fresh. Yellow cornmeal generally had a sweeter and more pronounced flavor, whereas white cornmeal is generally smother textured and subtler in flavor.

Flint Corn - Indian corn or calico corn, with multi-colored kernels. Flint corn (Zea mays indurata) is named after its hardness (like flint rock). It has less soft starch, more protean, and a lower glycemic index than yellow or white dent corn varieties. Recently heirloom varieties are starting to be grown and milled for use in cornmeal, hominy, tortillas, chips, masa, and so on. Different heirloom corns have distinct flavor profiles. Blue corn is part of this group and is said to have a nuttier taste than dent corn.

Sweet Corn - Sweet Corn grouped into three categories: standard corn (normal sugary), sugary enhanced, and supersweet corn. Standard corn has an especially short shelf life. My grandmother would say to pick it and run to cook it in boiling water to save its sweetness. Sugary enhanced corn is known for having a sweet flavor and somewhat longer shelf life. Supersweet corn is the sweetest of the sweet corns, and also has an extended shelf life.

Popcorn - To pop corn one needs a special kind of flint corn with extra hard hull (Zea mays everta), which has been dried to around 14% moisture. There are many varieties of popcorn, but there are two main shapes. One type looks more like a Mushroom, and is used for caramel corn, and other type looks like a snowflake shape is what the general used with buttery popcorn. Popcorn comes in a different sizes, and colors.

Nixtamalized corn -Long ago cooks in Guatemala found that boiling dried corn in alkali water removed the kernels' skins and produced softer and stickier dough that will hold together better when cooked. Food scientists now call this process nixtamalization. Whole corn that has been nixtamalized is called hominy or posole. Nixtamalized, ground, and dried corn is called masa or corn flour. Masa is sold at most Latin American groceries.

This nixtamalization process increases the availability of natural protein and niacin found in the corn, and so helps prevent pellagra.  The process also drastically reduces the toxins that can be found on moldy corn. Mesa is used to make corn tortillas, chips, tamales and other specialty and ethnic corn foods. Likewise, Southern corn grits are made from ground hominy

Regular cornmeal vs. Stone ground

Regular cornmeal, is ground rather finely between metal rollers and is

Regular degerminated cornmeal
Regular Degerminated Cornmeal

degerminated, so is not a whole grain. Regular cornmeal will be all one color without flecks of lighter germ. Regular cornmeal will last about a year if tightly sealed.

Stone-ground Cornmeal
Stone-ground Cornmeal

Stone-ground cornmeal, often has a coarser texture and normally has its germ intact, so it is whole grain, and usually retains more nutrients. Stone ground cornmeal can be identified by its lighter colored germ flecks interspersed throughout the meal. Stone-ground cornmeal will last about three months. For longer storage one can tightly seal and freeze the meal to last about a year.

What kind of corn would healthiest Hispanics eat with a traditional diet?

A traditional diet would include nixtamalized corn, in the form of posole or mesa made from flint or dent type corn. Of course, originally it would be made from flint (Indian) corn.

Northern vs. Southern Cornbread

Southern Cornbread - Southern cornbread is what we have made today. It is thinner, crustier, and more savory than northern cornbread. It is traditionally made with white cornmeal with no flour or sugar. Yellow cornmeal may be used for more "corn-like" flavor if desired. Baking the cornbread in a greased, preheated cast-iron skillet produces a crunchy, golden crust. It may also be cooked like a pancake if preferred. If sugar is added it is added in spoonfuls, not cups. If flour is added, very little is used. This cornbread normally accompanies soup, beans, stew, or greens.

 White Cornmeal
White Cornmeal

Northern CornbreadNorthern cornbread is sweeter, and tends to add comparatively large amounts of sugar using cup measurements. Northern cornbread rises higher and is more cake-like, and generally uses yellow cornmeal. White all-purpose flour is often added in equal amounts to the cornmeal. It is normally baked in a baking pan, or in muffins tins. It is sweet enough to be eaten alone, or to double as a dessert. Most cornbread boxed mixes are of northern type.

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The Jam Scientist

My advice: Put a rub on it (for turkey or that pork loan), but skip all those expensive store bought concoctions - fresh and easy is best!

My advice: Put a rub on it (that is... turkey or that pork loan), but skip all those expensive store bought concoctions - fresh and easy is best!
My advice: Put a rub on it (for turkey or that pork loan), but skip all those expensive store bought concoctions - fresh and easy is best!

Super easy 15 minute tactic to remarkably increase flavor and appearance of your fowl or pork! Rubs are easy, easy, easy, so don't stress about this.  Feel free to add or subtract spices and herbs as you like, and make this your own.

Part of the reason I don't bother with spices when brining is because herbs and spices are much more effective as a rub. This rub will work with any poultry, or pork, whether smoked, barbecued, or roasted. I will use all, or almost all, of this rub recipe with one large turkey. However, I would generally use more rub when barbecuing and use some restraint with roasting.

I would also freeze any leftover rub I might have in a baggy for future use. Feel free to increase or decrease ingredient amounts to suit your tastes. Fresh herbs are best, but you can use dry herbs if that is what you have, but if at all possible use fresh rosemary (it makes a huge difference).

Ingredients

2 tablespoons paprika (smoked paprika is also very nice)

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoons ground sage, rubbed

2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

Freshly chopped sage, thyme, and rosemary
Freshly chopped sage, thyme, and rosemary

 

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves

1 tablespoons dried basil leaves

1 tablespoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

2 teaspoons salt (use only if you did not brine the meat)

Directions

Use ends that bend easy
Use ends that bend easily
  1. Pick you fresh herbs. You are looking for ends that bend easily, not stiff sticks. Wash herbs and dry with paper towel.
  2. Separate leaves from stems. It is okay to include very supple stem parts, but remove any stiff stems.
    Remove any stiff stems
    Remove any stiff stems
  3. Finally chop leaves. You may use a food processor if that is easier for you, but use the pulse option so you don't over chop and turn everything mushy.  Personally, I find hand chopping easiest.
Finally chop leaves
Finally chop leaves

4. Mix dry ingredients with freshly chopped leaves.

5. Coat your poultry, or pork with melted butter.

6. Spread your rub evenly over outside and inside of bird, or evenly coat pork.

Spread your rub evenly
Spread your rub evenly

7. Roast or barbecue as you prefer.

Remarkably flavorful golden brown turkey
Remarkably flavorful golden brown juicy turkey

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The Jam Scientist

My advice: brine your turkey (or that pork loan), but skip all those complicated recipes - easy is best!

My advice: brine your turkey, but skip all those complicated recipes - easy is best!
My advice: brine your turkey, but skip all those complicated recipes - easy is best!

Brining makes an enormous difference in succulence - no exaggeration!

Disclaimer - I have an opinion!

This does not need to be a big production or a big expense. You know me, I will write 1500 words about all the ways you can get apple sauce just the way you want it. I am not afraid of extra steps if it delivers a better product, but all things being equal, simple is best. Some people would consider it heresy to say this, but I do not recommend brining with anything but a salt solution. All the additives and spices I see recommended on the web just add cost, time, and stress with little benefit. Spices add little in a quick brining. Spices are best added later as a rub. Also, a salt solution discourages growth or microorganisms, so I don't want to dilute my solution with things like apple juice. I want the protection of the salt solution working for me without interference.  Also, I am not afraid to use sugar, but I don't want sugar where it is not needed. I want succulence not sweetness in my turkey, so I add no sugar.

Did I mention I don't bother with anything but salt in my brine?

Where are you going to brine that turkey?

One problem in brining a turkey is that it takes up a lot of fridge space. I use my canning pot to hold my turkey upright (breast first facing down), but I line the pot with a large food safe heavy duty plastic bag (such as turkey oven roasting bag) that I pull tight around the bird to cover as much of the bird as possible with brine.  You could use just a brine bag, but I would double the bag it for your protection. As long as the breast portion is covered in brine you will be in good shape, because the dark meat has more fat to protect it during cooking.

If you don't have room in your fridge you can brine your turkey in a cooler generously filled with ice so the bird is covered top and bottom. If you live in a cold location (think Denver), and you have a cold garage (40°F or below), you could just brine the turkey in the garage.

 

Golden acorn logo!!! copy

 

Ingredients for brine:

  • 2 gallons water
  • 2 cups course salt without additives (kosher or sea), or 1 cup fine salt.  I use 1 cup fine canning salt. It has no additives and is more economical than kosher, but use what you have. One may also use regular table salt if needed.
  • If you feel you want to use sugar, one can add 1 cup sugar

 

Instructions:

  1. Plan ahead thaw your turkey, or buy a fresh bird.
  2. Before brining, remove the giblets and turkey neck etc. Your parts to be used for gravy need to be removed now so they don't get too salty. You can make gravy ahead of time if you like.
  3. Mix the brine solution: Heat 1 quart of water with half your salt (and sugar if using) in the microwave until warmed enough to dissolve the salt. Stir warm solution until the salt has dissolved. Then repeat with a second quart of warm water and the other half of the salt.
  4. Add 6 quarts (1 1/2 gallons) ice water (or water with ice cubes) to the warm brine solution in a large container to dilute it to the proper strength and chill it. I don't want warm brine encouraging microbiological growth. Also, brine should be cold before adding the turkey, or the meat will absorb too much salt.
  5. Pour the cold brine over the turkey and make especially sure the breast of the turkey is completely submerged. 
  6. Pull the food-grade plastic bag, or brining bag, around the bird to envelop it in brine and refrigerate or chill for 6 to 24 hours. As a rule of thumb, you should brine your turkey 30 to 60 minutes per pound. If you don't overdue the brining time you can brine a Butterball type of bird (self basting type). Notes about self basting type turkeys: Butterball type birds have been injected with a salt solution already. Less time is best with this type so you don't get them too salty. Stick with 30 - 45 minutes per pound. I will add that one of my best turkeys ever was a brined self basting type bird.
  7. When time is up rinse your bird and towel dry. To get a crunchy skin you need to start with dry skin. America's Test Kitchen suggests drying the skin further by leaving the uncovered bird in the fridge overnight to air dry.

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The Jam Scientist

Kitchen Hack: Super easy five minute tactic to take your ham up a notch

Kitchen Hack: Super easy three minute tactic to take your ham up a notch
Kitchen Hack: Super easy five minute tactic to take your ham up a notch.

 

Why settle for ordinary? Use this simple and quick tactic that works on any ham, be it spiral, canned, or bone-in to intensify flavor, add moisture, and presence to any ham.

  Golden acorn logo!

 

Ingredients:

Ham

Whole cloves (around 30)

(2) 8 ounce cans sliced pineapple

Toothpicks

 

Instructions:

  1. Open your cans of pineapple and reserve syrup. Arrange the pineapple over the ham somewhat evenly and secure them with toothpicks (leave them poking out so you can easily remove them).
    Arrange the pineapple and cloves over the ham somewhat evenly
    Arrange the pineapple and cloves over the ham somewhat evenly
  2. Poke the whole cloves into the ham even intervals (resist the temptation to over think this - no one will notice in the end).
    Poke the whole cloves into the ham somewhat even intervals
    Poke the whole cloves into the ham somewhat even intervals
  3. Bake ham per your package instructions.
  4. Make your glaze subsisting reserved pineapple syrup for liquid, add glaze and finish baking.
    Add glaze and finish baking.
    Add glaze and finish baking.

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The Jam Scientist

Easy three-step, gloriously rich and thick, do-ahead turkey gravy recipe that makes everything easier...

Easy three-step, gloriously rich and thick, do-ahead turkey gravy recipe makes everything easer...
Easy three-step, gloriously rich and thick, do-ahead turkey gravy recipe makes everything easier...

This gravy makes Thanksgiving day a breeze by making gloriously rich and thick gravy ahead of time by using turkey parts. This recipe is adapted from The Best of America's Test Kitchen, so you know its good! One may also add drippings from the roasted turkey on Thanksgiving Day if desired. It can be refrigerated up to three days, or frozen up to 3 months.

It all starts with a plan. When will you make the gravy? Here is my bare-bones Thanksgiving plan:

  • Up to a week before (if it is a large bird), or the weekend before Thanksgiving - defrost the turkey. If I am making fresh cranberry relish I do it now.
  • Tuesday - Make Gravy, remove the turkey giblets, neck, and wings and make stock. I often also add the backbone if I am butterflying the turkey. Many side dishes may be made now or Wednesday. 
  • Wednesday - Brine the turkey. I brine in a heave duty trash bag, pulled tight. If I don't have room in my fridge I use a cooler fill it with ice. Make pies.
  • Thursday - Roast or smoke turkey

For more timeline strategies see Cooks Illustrated Thanksgiving Cooking Timeline.

 

Okay we have our plan - now it's gravy making day!

  Golden acorn logo!!! copy

 

MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS

Author: Adapted from The best of America's Test Kitchen a production of A La Carte Communications

Ingredients:

Reserved giblets, neck, tailpiece, wings, trimmed fat from turkey, and backbone (if butterflying turkey)

3 medium carrots cut into 1-inch pieces

2 rib celery, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 medium onions, chopped coarse

6 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons light oil (such as canola)

8 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth (Did I mention it needs to be low sodium?)

2 cups dry white wine or sherry (if you object to the wine replace with an equal amount of chicken broth with the addition of white wine vinegar at the rate of 1 tablespoon per cup of broth).

6 sprigs fresh thyme

1 small bunch fresh parley

1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and ground black pepper

 

Instructions in Three Easy Steps

First let's make the stock.

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place turkey trimmings, trimmed fat from turkey, and giblets, carrot, celery, onions, and garlic in plastic bag and add 2 tablespoons oil. Close bag and shake contents to coat.
  3. Turn out bag contents onto a large heavy roasting pan or broiler pan bottom.
  4. Roast, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until browned and crispy, 40 to 50 minutes.
    Browned and crispy
    Browned and crispy
  5. Remove pan from oven, and place over burners on high heat; add chicken stock and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits on bottom of pan with wooden spoon or spatula. 
    Simmer until reduced
    Simmer until reduced
  6. Transfer contents of pan to large saucepan. Remove liver, and discard (Spot, my Editorial and Procurement Assistant,  insists this need to be edited to read "cool and give to the home's loyal companion"). Add wine, 3 cups water, parley, and thyme; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced by half, about 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Strain stock with colander into large heat safe container. Cool to room temperature; cover, and refrigerate until fat congeals on surface, about 2 hours.

Next make the roux and gravy (this could be done the next day if you are busy)

  1.  Skim fat from stock; reserve fat for making the roux. Pour stock through fine-mesh strainer to remove remaining bits and discard. Bring stock to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. In second medium saucepan, heat reserved approximately 1/2 to 2/3 cup turkey fat over medium-high heat until bubbling; whisk in flour and cook, stirring continually, until combined and dark caramel-colored, about 2 minutes.
  3. Continuing to whisk constantly, gradually add hot stock; bring to boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring intermittently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Gravy can be refrigerated up to 3 days, or frozen up to 3 months).
    Gravy can be refrigerated up to 3 days
    Gravy can be refrigerated up to 3 days

On the Celebration Day

After turkey comes out of oven, rejoice that most of your work is already done! Heat gravy over medium heat until hot and assess its thickness. If gravy is thick one may add some pan drippings to thin out.

 

 

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The Jam Scientist