09 October 2012

Pozole for the People

by Jaret Foster, Senior Market Manager, Portland Farmers Market

A few weeks before the end of September, Jamie, one of our Market Coordinators, asked what I thought about cooking for the last Buckman Market of the season. Historically we have always marked the end of the season with a vendor appreciation of some sort, often Hot Lips or Tastebud Pizza. A few years back Jamie organized a vendor potluck at Buckman for the last day with PFM providing an entree and this season I agreed to make something special. Jamie wanted to make salsa to feed her tortilla chip habit and asked if I would follow suit with a Mexican theme: Pozole!

Pozole, a Mexican stew of hominy, chiles and, typically, pork was something of a staple in my mother’s arsenal of camp cooking when I was a kid and is one of my favorites. We decided that instead of the traditional pork that Buckman vendor Reister Farms’ lamb would make an excellent variation. Jamie bought 10 pounds of frozen lamb shoulder and leg roasts and brought them to the office for me to take home and prepare later the next week.

Chile paste, thick and spicy

On Monday I made the trip to Don Pancho Carniceria up the street from my house to procure chile ancho y california and set about making chile paste. I start out roasting a whole onion and a head of garlic (in skins) in a cast iron pan. Once they are tender and almost black I toast the chiles (no stems or seeds), soak them in water to rehydrate and whiz the whole thing in a blender. I strained the mixture so it was nice and smooth and sent a picture to Jamie to let her know that the soup was underway; three days in advance of service!

That Wednesday evening I had set aside to slow cook the lamb but already had a pot of chicken stock simmering on the stove when I left for work. I had some chicken carcasses around (in my freezer) and always like to start with something delicious when I cook; water is just so…watery. A number of things conspired to keep me from getting the meat on the stove that evening; the first of which was that I forgot to bring it home from the office, the second being that it was still frozen. Thankfully my friend and co-worker Mona was generous enough to run it over after she left work. By the time it was thawed enough to cut into it was nearly 10pm; perhaps not the best time to start cooking something that could take as long as 4 hours to tenderize.

As I was going through the motions of getting it on the heat I kept telling myself that I could start it in the morning (too risky, what if it wasn’t done by 2pm when I needed to get it to market) or slow it down and overnight it on the stove (6 or 8 hours? It’ll dry out!). I opted to stay up with it and finally took it down no sooner than 3am. The best part? I had also agreed to make a vegetarian version using squash that Jamie had cubed up for me (and also forgot in the office refrigerator—I need better calendar reminders…no Mona to save the day now!) and had intended to hit the Wednesday market for fresh corn but the day got away from me. Who can help? Who can help at 7am on a Thursday? Why, my friend and neighbor Lane of course! She works for Gathering Together Farm and always has a ridiculously well stocked fridge. “Lane! Got any corn, cilantro and onions?” “Sure. C’mon over.“ Awesome.

Pozole soup for the soul

I got to Lane’s a little after seven after stopping by the market office to pick up the squash and she sleepily loaded me up with six ears of corn, two sweet onions and a nice fat bunch of cilantro. “Need any chiles?” She asked. “Nope chile paste was made a day ago. Thanks so much L!” and home I went to make the fastest and might I say most delicious butternut squash and fresh corn pozole ever. Corn stock being the first order of business (again, water? Please.) I roasted the cubes of squash in a hot oven to put some color on them and kept the corn fresh to add last. Both soups finished and in the back of my truck I even made it to work by 9:30.

We closed four markets that week starting with Monday PCS. It’s become a tradition that for PCS’s last day we bring none other than the infamous Voodoo Dozen. I’m always impressed by how excited many of our vendors get about Voodoo Donuts; some of them have inevitably never even tried them. It’s pretty fun to bring in the pink boxes and make bad donut jokes with them.

Nicki, our Market Coordinator for the Northwest Market, made an amazing layered polenta lasagna with a luscious kale pesto sauce. She is a fantastic cook and an excellent baker; for dessert she made a huge apple galette. I had the good fortune of getting over to the NW Market before it was all gone after serving up my Pozole at Buckman. Five bowls of Pozole, two slabs of polenta and apple galette. I am so well fed!

That Friday was the last day of our newest weekday market, Kenton in north Portland. For the vendor dinner there Amber, the Market Coordinator, made her specialty: Thai coconut curry. She spent a good amount of time living and working in Thailand and has an incredible way with kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk and jasmine rice. For dessert she made some of the richest pumpkin cheesecake bars I’ve eaten. I had three to follow up my four bowls of curry.

It was one of the better eating weeks for me and our vendors and staff. September having been a gorgeous month, we had much to draw from for produce at the markets. It is one of my favorite months for cooking. The weather is a bit cooler, the sexy summer fruits are still in and the beginnings of autumn vegetables are making their first appearances. Love it.

After we served the Pozole on Thursday, Jacob Reister from Reister Farms asked what it would take for me to share my recipe. He need only ask.


Lamb Pozole
serves 6-8

2-3 pounds lamb leg or shoulder roast cut into 2 inch slabs

1 white onion quartered

6 cloves of garlic, peeled

2-3 chipotle chiles

4 quarts of chicken stock or water (if you must)

1 quart hominy (canned is fine, prepare it from scratch if you have the tenacity)

Chile Paste

1 white onion, cut in half with skin intact

1 head garlic, cloves separated with skin on

3 Ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded

3 chiles California, stemmed and seeded

In a hot cast iron pan roast the onion and garlic until tender and almost black, then peel. Toast the chiles in the pan until fragrant but not charred. Soak the chilies in hot water for 10 minutes to rehydrate. Discard soaking liquid. Place onion, garlic and chilies in a blender with enough water to just cover; you’ll want it to be a thick paste. Season with sea salt and strain through fine mesh strainer, pressing on solids.

For the Pozole:

Bring the stock or water to a low simmer and add the vegetables and chiles. Season the meat with sea salt and add to the stock. Slowly simmer until the meat is tender— ensuring that it does not boil—about 3 hours. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Strain the stock, discard the vegetables and chiles and adjust seasoning. Add the hominy to the stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Once the meat is cool enough to handle shred it into bite sized chunks and add back to the stock. Stir in the chile paste a half cup at a time until it is the color and spiciness you desire.

Serve with lime wedges, avocado, shredded cabbage, diced sweet onion and thinly sliced radishes