By Alec Harding –
It is spring, when a young man’s thoughts might turn to fancy …. while the rest of us, in sharp contrast, drag our sorry selves off the couch and head up to what I am always happy to call “The Tundra”, (Michigan) where I will engage myself with opening up the family vacation cottage and getting any repairs arranged. This is a tedious process, and it is usually better that I do it alone.
Cooking for one is tiresome and too often prone to disaster so some inspiration needs to be sought after. Being male makes the first meal in any location relatively effortless. A good steak isn’t hard to find, leaving only the side dishes to consider. But once that initial bout of foraging is over, it becomes important to consider food for the rest of the week.
I had been giving this dilemma all the attention it deserved, in the end weighing the choice between New Mexican posole, or a large baked spaghetti bowl with minced lamb, mushrooms, scallions and cheese, all layered and baked for a half hour then broiled with even more cheese on top. The dish is simple and would last possibly for the entire trip.
I do not understand what went wrong, but it did to the extreme. It was inedible and beyond resurrection. The garbage can was happy to receive it, while I to returned to foraging, my confidence sorely shaken. At such times it is often best to re-embrace the basics, in this case lamb chops done on the grill and accompanied by a rice blend cooked with homemade chicken broth for liquid and a goodly portion of peas tossed on top about five minutes before it’s allotted cook time. There is nothing like good lamb!
I had obviously made enough rice, seeing as I ate portions thereof, refried with onions, ground sirloin, and a drizzle of Tamari, for the next three days, all by itself in a plain earthen bowl using a small wooden spoon ….. so floundering was I was in a morass of deflated self-confidence.
In the end, I should have prepared that large pot of posole!
New Mexican Posole
1 pound boneless pork spareribs
29 ounces hominy (yellow or white)
4 small yellow onions
6 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon Italian herbs
1 cup chopped poblano chile *
4 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
Cube the pork into 1 inch lumps then brown in chicken or bacon fat, then cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes. Add the onion and garlic (chopped) and sauté for 5 minutes, then dust with flour and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer meat and onions to a large pot, add the chicken broth, hominy, herbs, and chile. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then lower to simmer for 2 hours. For additional heat add ground red chile to taste.
I prefer to roast and peel my own chiles. It’s much simpler than it sounds and can be a lot of fun, depending on your wine or beer intake at the time. Roast about six fresh Poblano chiles on the grill (heat set to low) until the skin is browned and blistering. Remove and place in a plastic shopping bag with the neck closed allowing them to steam while you fill a bowl with ice and water.
Individually plunge the peppers into the water and peel off the skin, leaving only the meat. Remove seeds and stems, discarding them with the skins. I tend to indulge in several marathon roasting sessions when the peppers are in season (late winter) dividing them into usable portions and store in the freezer for future reference. There is little to rival green chile!