This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Classic Pozole!

Time for a short break in the Thailand action. I'll get back to it tomorrow but I really wanted to share this Pozole recipe before Spring sprouts and the thought of warm, tummy satisfying soups has been replaced by sunnier thoughts of the beach and the family BBQ.

I blogged about another Pozole recipe I liked a while back and it is great. The best thing about that recipe was that it was quick and what with our busy schedules, quick is a good thing.

This recipe will take more time, but I assure you it is well worth that time. It is deeply satisfying. I served this at two separate dinner parties recently and as my wife put it, everyone thought

it was "lay your head on the table" good. It comes from the Cafe at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona as reprinted in the January 2012 issue of Bon Appetit magazine except I have made one important change which is the cooking method for the pork. I cut it up ahead of time and saute it. Instead of it being pulled-style pork it is in chunks. It cuts down on the cooking time by several hours and the pork is caramelized all over the little pieces instead of just the outside of the shoulder. Quicker and I like it better.

We served it with our "best cornbread you'll ever eat" recipe also written about in this blog, a green salad with lots of nummies including homemade croutons, nuts, blue cheese, sliced apple and, of course, a homemade dressing. I NEVER use store bought salad dressings. They are
an abomination to any salad. So easy and quick to make and no odd after taste from any of the myriad unnatural ingredients--xantam gum, Polysorbate 60, Potasium Sorbate, EDTA (whatever the hell that is and you probably don't want to know), Caramel Color (sounds innocuous enough except that it contains 4-methylimidazole, a known cancer causing agent).

I'll write a future blog and show you just how easy it really is and then you can judge for yourself.

So, back to our Pozole!

The recipe makes enough for 8-10 servings. I serve it with bowls of sour cream, sliced limes, minced shallot or red onion and chopped, fresh cilantro. Diners can doctor it up to their own liking.

The Ingredients:

For the pork--

1 T ground cumin
1 t garlic powder
1 t smoked paprika
1 2-pound boneless pork shoulder, with much of the fat removed and cut into 1-inch chunks
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 T vegetable oil

For the Pozole--

1/4 c vegetable oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 plum tomatoes, diced
6 cups of chicken broth

1 28 oz. can undrained pinto beans
1 28 oz. can white hominy, drained
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juices pureed in blender until smooth
1 T oregano
2 t ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pork--

In a medium enameled Dutch oven, add oil and heat up pan. Add pork chunks, stirring until browned all over. As he pork is browning add cumin, garlic powder and smoked paprika into dutch oven. Continue to stir the pork is well coated. Continue cooking until the pork is caramelized.

Set aside the pork and in the same dutch oven, add oil and over medium heat add onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic and stir often until fragrant. Add the diced fresh tomatoes and cook until softened. Stir in broth and next 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes. Add pork and any juices that may have collected. Continue to simmer until the pork is tender.

Now, I let it cool and refrigerate it over night. The next day, when you are about ready for dinner, take out the Pozole and reheat it on the stove top. Overnight the flavors have m
arried and done some really naughty things in that darkened fridge! The Pozole is richer and more flavorful.

Serve it up in bowls toped with any one of the ingredients I spoke about earlier. It looks fabulous and tastes even better. This recipe easily doubles. Just cook it up in a larger Dutch oven and you've a got a fiesta for a real crowd!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thailand Adventure--Day 7

Another long day was in store for us on the next leg of our journey through Thailand. We left at 7:30 after the usual hotel buffet breakfast. We'd lost three members of our entourage who had signed up for a shorter tour. Now we were only about 13 making our full-sized tour bus kind of ridiculous but certainly even roomier. Today, we mostly drove. With still a great distance to travel to get to the northern most parts of the country, we had a long way to go.

The country-side was very rural, mostly rice fields, some tended by farmers, all a lush, newly planted green. The flood that recently inundated the country washed away the crop that should be ripening about now so the farmers had replanted in hopes of a March/April harvest. Sadly, the forecast was for the El Niño effect influencing so much of the world weather right now, to drop more rain potentially ruining a second crop in a row. We experienced rain on and off throughout our trip. Nothing that caused us any trouble but enough to cause local concern since this was supposed to be the dry season.

Anil, our courier, spent a lot of time explaining Thai religious traditions, day to day life, etc. He was a fount of information and had ways to make comparisons with our own culture so that, whatever he was trying to explain, it was much easy to understand. He had statistics and facts at his fingertips. Amazing.

The Thai language is based on the languages of Sanskrit, Mon and Khamir. Anil helped the time fly by giving us lessons on the bus to help us better understand this complex language. Perhaps the most interesting and difficult part to understand was that a particular word's meaning is changed by the way you subtly pronounce it, a lift at the end or a dip can completely change the meaning. That could get you in a world of trouble! And the lettering of their alphabet looks nothing at all like our own english alphabet. Add to that the accent marks placed above and or below the writing and, well, I don't understand how anyone could possibly master the Thai language.

We did make occasional stops at roadside gas stations which also hadconvenience shops, bathrooms and a few street food vendors. We tried various local concoctions like Pomelo candies, mochi, snacks in little chip type bags that would surprise you with extruded spirals or chip-shaped dried and salted fruit, seaweeds, and various local foods. Mostly delicious and exotic, we all had fun sharing our little discoveries with each other. Anil also bought things he would share with us then, when we said we'd like to buy some to take back home, he invariably said that it was only available in that little locale so we couldn't get anymore. Agriculture is king in much of Thailand. The tropical climate allows multiple seasons for growing rice, bananas, mango, coconut, tamarind, coffee, corn, oranges, pomelo, mangosteens, papaya, tomatoes, chilies of all sorts, tapioca, which is made from the root of that plant, and many things for which I have no word to name or describe. The list goes on and on.

In front of nearly every house or business is a raised platform usually with two shrines placed on it.

One with a single pedestal, that is the taller of the two, is for the spirit of the house. The other with four legs is for the family's ancestors. Offerings of food are placed there. Inside will be little statues of animals and people. The spirit house usually looks like the real house. Where it is specifically placed on your land is very important. A Brahmin priest must be brought in to tell you where to put it.

Our destination today was Sukhothai (soo-koh-TIE) another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the first capital of Thailand. The name is translated First Dawn of Happiness. This is where the tribes of Thailand first came together to create this lovely country.

We stopped at a Big C for lunch.

It is a local chain which apparently bought out the French Carrefour chain a few years ago. They had a food court inside where you bought a pre-paid card and then walked from stall to stall picking out what you wanted. We bought 6 chicken satays, our favoritepapaya salad plate, a bowl of duck soup with won ton and an iced chocolate drink and only spent $3.It was a feast for a king. Unbelievable! The store itself sold
anything you could want, from cameras to toothpicks, cosmetics to cucumbers. Quite a place.

We arrived in Sukhothai and spent an hour and a half on a walking tour of the ancient 10th century temples now in ruins but still stunningly beautiful. Water was also everywhere in the form of canals, lakes and ponds. Lilies of all varieties flourish in these waters.

At one point we spotted a group of school children out on a fieldtrip. They happily posed for our cameras while their teachers stood close by watching.

The temple ruins expose the inner construction of these sites.

Made primarily of red bricks, the buildings
originally would have then been covered with plaster and decorated.

Our hotel was a welcome final stop for our day. The Legendha Sukhothai, Thai Village Hotel, was set amid lush tropically landscaped grounds. Our rooms were lovely. Polished hardwood floors and thatched roofs. Right outside our door was a beautiful infinity pool where I headed as soon as I could and enjoyed the cooling, pristine water.

We had spent so much time grazing along our travels today that I didn't feel hungry at all. So, we spent time in the pool, read and relaxed before heading off to bed. Tomorrow, we head further north toward the Thai border with Mayanmar (Burma).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thailand Adventure--Day 6

Up early today. Our baggage had to be out by 7 and we needed to finish packing before a quick breakfast. Then down to the boat landing where the long tails took us back down the River Kwai to the bus. It was difficult to say goodbye to this resort. Stunningly beautiful place.

We have a couple of long days driving towards the northern part of Thailand. Our first stop is Ayutthaya (pronounced ah-you-tee-uh with the emphasis on the second syllable), the first capital of Thailand. Along the way we stopped at the Bang Pa-In to visit the Royal Summer Palace. The weather is much cooler here. Still warm, but with a nice breeze and perhaps 10 degrees cooler, it is much more tolerable. The current Bang Pa-In Palace was constructed in the late

1800's though a palace of some form has stood here since

the 1600's. The current palace sits in a vast, beautifully landscaped setting surrounded by lots of water. Several stunning buildings dot the landscape with both European and Asian inspired architecture. We were able to visit several of the buildings while others were off limits to all but the royal family and their guests.

Back on the road, our guide, Anil, had the driver stop along the way at a couple road-side stands.

The first one sold Bamboo Rice. Lengths of bamboo about 2 inches in diameterwere filled with sticky rice mixed, each flavored with a different local ingredient. We loved the pumpkin and the coconut ones. They split them open with a machete and then we scooped out the cooked mixture inside. It is cooked over coals for a couple of hours and the result is just delicious. The inner layer of the bamboo adheres to the sticky rice inside binding it together. It looks a bit like a tamale when you see it opened up.

The second stop was far less appealing to us but still fascinating. It was a stand that sold rat! Yes, that is what I said. These are field, wild rats trapped

in the rice fields. They used to have a natural predator but the predator has become endangered and so the rat population has gotten out of control. How do you solve the problem? Well, the Thai solution seems to be to eat the rats. They call it star meat (rats spelled backward), to make it more appealing, I guess. They still looked like rats. They are quite a local delicacy. No one in our group, however, was enticed to do more than take photographs. Even I, usually willing to try just about anything, was unable to bring myself to give it a go.

We arrived at our hotel for the night, the Krungsri River Hotel in Ayutthaya, one of the old capitals of Thailand. After checking into our rooms, the group met in the lobby at 4:30 to bus over to a couple of the famous temple ruins burned

down in a war with Burma in the 1760s. The recent floods rendered one of the sites off limits to visitors right now but even from a distance it was a stunning view. We also walked along the river which was adjacent to the temple giving us another view of the temple and a great look at the river traffic going by.

As we re-boarded our bus to return to the hotel, a half dozen elephants walking by attracted our attention and cameras. These were the first elephants we had seen since arriving in Thailand and the fact that they were just walking down a major street in a fairly large city was, as you might imagine, an attention getter.

They had handlers riding them and as they walked up the street they collected money from locals and tourists alike. For most of us, having seen elephants only in a zoo, this was quite an opportunity.

Back at the hotel for dinner, we ate, of course, Thai food. We were safely back in our room for the night by 7:30. Very long day, indeed.