We had a great trip to Mexico ( I HATE the term Mayan Riveria but that is where we were) but because it seems that everyone needed more rest than usual, we didn't leave the resort all that much - so unlike us. We usually jump in the jeep every morning after breakfast and go do stuff and that also means we look for great stuff to eat while we are out and about. Breakfast is always good at these resorts because you can load up on a huge plate of tropical fruits like papaya and mango, have some yogurt with granola, a nice cappuccino, maybe a pastry and be on your way. This time, because we hung out on the beach and read and swam and only really went on on big outing to Coba to climb the ruins, we came home tanned and happy but feeling very unsatisfied in the eating department. Even the resorts with the best food get kind of boring and repetitive after a few days if you stay on site and eat all of your meals there. This means I have lots of things I have to make to make us all happy and the first thing I chose to make is Pozole Verde. I love to make chili verde with pork and was going to just do that but I have never made pozole so I thought it the perfect dish to ring out my year of making new things.
I am happy to report that both boys loved the pozole as much as they love chili verde. I will probably make chili verde more often because it's much easier and this dish is more labour intensive but it is worth a bit more effort if you make a nice, big batch that you can freeze for enjoying at a later date. If you have never had pozole or hominy, you need to get out and find a mexican market and make this stuff because it is really very tasty and the green sauce with the pumpkin seeds gives it a very distinct flavour and texture, unlike any other stew.
You know, I understand that these resorts are catering to picky eaters from all over the world. I have watched terrified Brits wandering around the buffet looking for something that looks familiar so I get that they want sun and beach and margaritas but they don't want to eat anything "weird" and would probably just as happy in Florida, to be honest. I get all that but I find it frustrating that they would rather eat a disappointing facsimile of white people food made by people who have no real frame of reference for making this stuff than to eat really delicious regional mexican food that the cooks know inside out and could really take pride in preparing for their guests.
One funny story about the "japanese" restaurant. We don't go in expecting fabulous japanese food so we are okay with whatever comes our way. We order okay looking nigiri sushi as our apps and it comes and apart from super vinegary rice and fish sliced way too thin, we are all pleasantly surprised. It came without ginger, wasabi or soy but that was okay too. After our lovely waiter whisks our empty plates away for us, he proudly puts down a beautiful tray full of all of those condiments plus a tasty sesame seed sauce. We just laughed and laughed because how is he supposed to know that those condiments are to be served WITH the sushi? It was all done with such care and seriousness and flourish that we didn't have the heart to break it to him. We tipped him well and went on our way wishing that we could have had a nice, steaming bowl of pozole instead and I bet the staff wished that they could be cooking that instead.
It's kind of ironic that I had to come home to make this to really "feel" Mexico after spending a week there, no?
This is my last official post of this year long challenge although Dianne and I will be continue to make one brand new dish a week and share them here on the blog. I have had some really frustrating moments, there have been tears and arguments but, in the end, I am really happy that we did this. Even for the best of home cooks, we all find ourselves getting into ruts. Things I discovered during this year:
1. We eat out waaaaaaaaay more than I would have ever admitted to
2. We eat waaaaaaaay too much pasta as a fall back dinner
3. The Kid and I are creatures of habit and although we are both very adventurous eaters, we are also both happy to eat the very same thing day after day before we get bored with it - this made things particularly difficult this summer when it was just the two of us eating at home
4. I am very, very lucky to have a kid who will pretty much try anything I put in front of him and when he doesn't like something, he doesn't declare it gross or disgusting, he makes no terrible gagging noises and there is no drama. He will simply take a bite and say that he doesn't really care for this and that's that. Thank you god responsible for gracing parents with non picky eaters who are also decent about it when they don't like what they have been served.
5. That said, The Kid and Shack are still way pickier than they think they are and I, on the other hand, will clearly eat anything put in front of me, even when I don't like it all that much.
6. I am pretty resourceful
7. We used to waste way too much food and way too many leftovers that could have been fashioned into a pretty tasty second meal were thrown out.
All in all, it's been a challenging year but it's been fun and we have all found some new favourites that were born out of the desperation to make something different AGAIN. Beet risotto is now one of The Kid's favourite new things, for instance and it's something I never made before because I just thought it wouldn't be all that great, and once I was forced to make it we discovered that it IS that great.
Happy New Year and if you are not ready to commit to an entire year of no reEATS, why not join us for 2012 in choosing one day a week where you commit to making a brand new dish that you have never tried before?
See you in January! (except for the one day a week I am committing to no reEATS, I plan to make the exact same dinner every night for the entire month - Shack says it should be spaghetti bolognese, The Kid wants plain risotto with peas and pancetta, and I want green curry anything at this point. Maybe I will give everyone a week just to be nice)
2 cloves garlic
1 tbls mexican oregano
pinch cumin seed
2 lbs pork shoulder butt
1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
28 oz or approx 800g tomatillos, drained
1/2 cup chopped, canned poblano peppers
small sprig cilantro
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1 onion, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
a couple of tbls of vegetable oil
2 or 3 red potatoes, 1/2" dice
36.5 oz or 1 kg can hominy, drained
the pork cooking stock and any additional water or chicken stock to bring it to about 5 cups
thinly sliced radish, deep fried corn tortilla strips, fresh lime wedges, raw red onion sliced really thinly, mexican oregano if you can find it
Put the pork butt, onion, cumin seed, peppercorns and garlic in a heavy pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer, half covered, for about three hours or until the pork is falling apart tender.
Remove the pork from the liquid and set aside to cool a bit. You can do this the day before and let the strained stock sit in the fridge overnight so you can get rid of most of the fat (don't get rid of all of it because it's really tasty and this isn't the time to worry about your diet). If you aren't making it the next day, strain it and let it sit and then do your best to remove the thick layer of fat on the top of the stock.
Meanwhile, toast the pumpkin seeds over medium heat in a dry skillet until they swell up and start to pop and then remove and set aside. Drain the tomatillos and the peppers.
When the pumpkin seeds cool down, put them in a blender or food processor and grind to a fine powder. Then add the tomatillos, peppers, salt and pepper, onion, garlic and cilantro and process until completely smooth (you might have to add up to 1/2 cup of the pork stock if it's too thick to process)
Heat a couple of tbls of veg oil in the same heavy pot you cooked the pork in over med high heat and pour in the green pumpkin seed/tomatillo puree and cook it until the colour deepens at a nice simmer, about 15 to 25 minutes. It will thicken and the colour will become darker and richer.
Meanwhile, shred up the pork, discard the fat and set aside. Wash and chop the potatoes without peeling them and set those aside too.
After the green sauce has cooked for about 20 minutes, add the shredded pork,drained hominy and the potatoes. Add enough of the pork broth that it is a nice, soupy consistency but not a thin soup. Use your judgement - it's between a soup and a stew. I added about 5 cups of stock and the constancy was perfect.
Let that continue to simmer for another 20 minutes or more, until the potatoes are cooked. Squeeze in the juice of a lime and serve in shallow bowls.
Serve it with your additions so people can add whatever they want to the top of their pozole. You can also serve it with chopped avocado, shredded cabbage or lettuce but we didn't this time.