A preposterous posole
I was cruising around the San Francisco Ferry Building this Sunday, walking off a delicious brunch had with friends at Boulette’s Larder, when I came across the relatively new Rancho Gordo shop. Rancho Gordo is primarily known for their awesome assortment of dried heirloom beans, but also carries other delicious products from Mexico like pilloncillo sugar, oregano and hominy. I’m a big fan of spicy, brothy posole, and Rancho Gordo never disappoints, so I grabbed a bag of their white corn hominy and hatched my plan. With Thanksgiving (and it’s imminent pig-out) days away I decided I’d see if I could make a pork-free, plant-based posole that would deliver still the goods.
I decided to take a page from my “not-so-french onion soup” recipe and lean on shiitakes to add umami to the broth. The idea of using shiitakes to add depth of flavor to broth is actually a trick I learned from the Momofuku cookbook and their delicious pork ramen broth recipe. I’m pretty sure David Chang didn’t have vegan applications in mind when he came up with that one, but it really does help create flavor when you’re not working with meat. Here, the end product doesn’t have a detectable mushroom flavor but rather a richness that is usually lent by meaty bones. I also decided to add some charred veggies as well as caramelized onions (another Chang go-to) to lend the tasty benefits of the Maillard reaction that would normally come from animal product. Last, I added chipotle, which imparts a seriously smoky goodness that did lots to advance my cause here.
This isn’t your abuelitas posole, but it is rich, spicy, and textured. Be warned, it took a bit of time from start to finish, but once I topped my posole with creamy avocado and crunchy cabbage, radishes and green onions I was one very satisfied soup slurper.
A preposterous posole recipe
16 ounces dried hominy
2 ounces dried shiitakes
4 quarts water
4 roma tomatoes halved
2 large carrots cut into sections and halved
1 or 2 jalapeños halved (depending on your heat tolerance)
4 white onions (1 quartered, 3 sliced thin length-wise)
12 springs fresh cilantro
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 chili from chipotle in adobo sauce3 smashed cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons grape seed oil (or other light oil)
1/2 tsp kosher salt for caramelized onions
Additional kosher salt to taste for posole
Thinly sliced cabbage
Thinly sliced radishes
Thinly sliced green onion
Prepare hominy according to directions, which in my case were to sort and rinse the hominy and then soak in water for 6 -10 hours. Next, in a large pot, cover the soaked hominy with 2 inches of water and simmer until cooked, but not falling apart, which took about an hour.
In another large pot, add rinsed, dried shiitakes to a pot containing 4 quarts of water. Bring to a simmer and then cover and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.
While this is happening, set your oven to broil and place halved tomatoes, carrots, japapeños and 1 quartered oven on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil on the middle rack until the veggies begin to char, around 15 – 20 minutes.
Once shiitakes are done simmering, strain them out of their cooking liquid and if you’d like, reserve them for another recipe as they will still have flavor. Add the broiled vegetables, cilantro sprigs, smashed garlic and chipotle chili to the shiitake cooking liquid and simmer, covered for 45 minutes or until the carrot is very soft. Once this happens, strain the veggies (reserving their cooking liquid) and add them to a high speed blender. Add as much cooking liquid as needed to blend them to a smooth puree and return this puree to the pot with the remaining cooking liquid.
In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons of grape seed oil in a large pot and add the three onions that have been sliced thin lengthwise. Heat the oil over medium heat and once it’s hot add the sliced onions along with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir all of the ingredients together so that the onions are coated with the oil and salt and reduce the heat to medium low. At first, stir the onions occasionally to make sure they aren’t browning too quickly. They will go through some stages. You’ll notice that they’ll lose volume in the pot as they become soft and translucent and then they’ll begin to give off a lot of liquid. Once this starts to happen you should check on them more frequently as they will start to stick to the bottom of the pan and create a flavorful fond. Using the flat edge of a blunt wooden spoon scrape the golden bits off the bottom of the pot and reincorporate it back in to the onions. Continue to do this as long as you can stand it – I usually cook the onions for about 45 minutes to an hour total time. When they are done, the onions that once barely fit into your pot should have reduced dramatically in size and they should be a light golden brown.
Once the caramelized onions are finished cooking down, add them to the vegetable puree and cooking liquid mixture along with the cooked hominy. Now you should season to taste – I added 5 additional teaspoons of kosher salt and a little extra sauce from the chipotle in adobo. Serve the posole along with the garnishes of your choice and a squeeze of lime!