I want to talk for a minute here about comfort food.
My comfort foods I hold very near and dear to my heart. For them, I have taken on an increasingly greater appreciation as my time away from home and family continues. These foods, I find, fill not only a hungry tummy but also that unexplainable void, much like chicken soup for the teenage soul except not teenage, just wounded really. More so than any prescription meds or that absolutely unnecessary trip to the doctors office (cue that annoying moment when you realize upon waiting two and a half hours that you’re now leaving with a prescription that’s no more effective than an over the counter one, as well as a $350 medical bill), comfort food is the best cure for any common illness. Plain and simple.
Now, when my culinary revival initially began to take form a few months back, it was of utter importance to me to document the recipes of my family’s greatest comfort foods. These were the foods that I grew up on and also the ones that I plan to instill in my children’s culinary upbringing, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I digress. The great thing about comfort food, too, is that it can tell a lot about a person’s background. Many of my most comforting dishes are Jewish in tradition, such as Matzo Ball Soup (both my Grandma Ruthie and Mom’s recipes) and Latkes. This makes sense because, wouldn’t you know it: I’m Jewish. However there’s also this other significant side of my heritage that is distinctly Californian, which culinarily speaking may refer to traditional American cuisine with a latin flare. When I think about my Dad’s cooking, I think of spicy ingredients such as chilies and other bold flavors and spices and I think that in many ways his cooking is a reflection of our “just north of the border” roots.
One of my most cherished recipes, the one that perfectly encapsulates “soul soothing comfort food” for me is my dad’s chicken pozole, a traditional Mexican soup with his recipe adapted for a more American palate. My memories of this soup include my dad, mom, sister and I sitting around our old wood burning fireplace, or in the kitchen helping my dad prepare one of my most favorite meals, chicken pozole accompanied by Grandma Steinbeck’s cornbread, a recipe that has been in our family for generations.
I’m getting somewhere here: Two days ago I was awoken by intense stomach cramping accompanied by intense fatigue, complete loss of appetite and an extremely achey body. Within twenty four hours most of the symptoms of my mysterious illness had subsided except for the achey part and loss of appetite. By today I was feeling almost back to normal except, of course, for that unexplainable void in my wounded soul. I knew something had to be done. Knowing that I was behind on my blog posts and also in need of comfort food, I turned to Dad’s trusty pozole recipe in an attempt to kill two birds with one stone.
Disclaimer: I realize I’ve been on a soup kick lately, but if you people had to endure the cold Aspen winter on a daily basis, you too would be craving the same. Sue me.
To my utter dismay, I came to learn today that my tiny Village Market doesn’t carry hominy, a key ingredient in traditional pozole. As if any consolation were possible, I made the last minute decision to swap black beans for the hominy which wasn’t by any means bad. If you do attempt this delicious recipe, however, it is essential to use hominy, which can be found in most major super markets in either the canned foods or the Mexican ingredient aisles.
Daddy Bubba’s Chicken Pozole
- Meat of one chicken, shredded. It is easier (and only a little bit cheating) if you buy the precooked rotisserie chickens from the supermarket, although an uncooked organic chicken breast is best obviously.
- One yellow or white onion, chopped
- A few large garlic cloves, minced
- A few carrots, sliced
- A few white mushrooms, sliced
- Two Pasilla or Anaheim chiles, chopped (seeds removed)
- One bunch of cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped
- One large can of hominy
- Juice of 3 or 4 limes
- Chicken broth
- Olive oil
- Pinch of dried oregano
- Salt and Pepper
- Optional: Half a sliced avocado for garnish. Because everything’s better with avocado. AND THAT IS A SCIENTIFIC FACT.
Cook onions and garlic in olive oil in large pot over medium heat until tender. Combine the rest of solid ingredients into the pot with increasing heat, stirring for ten or so minutes (if chicken is precooked, add now. Otherwise, add once liquid has come to a boil and cook thoroughly, remove from heat and shred then add back to soup). Add equal parts chicken broth to water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat. let simmer for 45 to an hour. Add lime juice fifteen minutes before serving. Season to taste.
So, was the unexplainable void in my wounded soul, the last remnants of a short lived albeit nasty illness, finally healed?! I can tell the suspense is killing you I won’t leave you waiting….the answer is yes. Yes, tonight I lay in bed feeling satisfied both in tummy and in soul. Now, whether this feeling can be attributed to the pozole itself, or the fact that I’ve finally quelled this nagging need to publish this long overdue entry onto my blog, that’s a different story.
(insert adorable bonus photo here)
Finally, a question I pose to you. Honestly, what are your most beloved comfort foods?