Sunday, 17 February 2013


Kelly celebrated her 25th birthday this weekend and I wanted to make her and her friends a fabulous dinner. But before we get to that, I have to digress for a minute to tell you where I got the inspiration for this meal. I've mentioned my friend Sandra Jayne and her Four Kings restaurant in San Antonio before. Oh but I didn't tell you the half of it! To really understand what I'm talking about, you have to look at the Four Kings facebook page. Every Monday morning, they post the menu for the upcoming week. A soup of the day and a sandwich of the day. And if that isn't sexy enough, they tell you what's in the dessert case! And that's not all - they also post an inspirational message every day that encourages you to be the best person you can be on each and every day. I live for these posts. I'm not kidding you. One day the post was later than usual coming and I had the selfish audacity to go on their wall and ask for it! Oh sure I know they had to prepare for 300 lunches and get ready to open, but I really can't settle in to my day until I get my Four Kings fix! Hahah and sometimes Mario calls me at work to see what I want for supper and I always say "I want Four Kings for supper." He knows that means I'm coming home to make dinner and it's going to be something I saw on their page and decided to try to copy it the best I could from the description. Here is an example of a daily special (hope you don't mind I'm quoting you here Sandra) "Medium rare black angus sirloin roast on a pretzel roll dressed with horseradish cream and roasted red pepper, thinly sliced red onion, garden fresh tomato sliced, chopped cornichons, baby spinach and colby jack cheese." Whoa! I don't have to tell you they make all of their own bread. Where do you get the talent to think up all of these marvellous creations, and then describe them in salacious detail like that? And just to tantalize your taste buds and raise the bar another notch, they post PHOTOS of their decadent desserts! Food porn is what it is. Sexy doesn't begin to describe it.

But what really inspires me the most is their daily soups. Just one example - white bean, tomato and basil. And I've learned they must have their best sellers because the one that caught my eye was the pozole verde which comes up every week or so. I didn't know what that was so I decided to do a thorough investigation on the internet. I decided to try the pozole rojo or the red version for my first attempt at this. I learned this is a celebration dish in Mexico. And having made it, I can see why. It took hours and hours. Next time I make it, I'll find something meaningful to do with the 3 1/2 hours it takes to make the broth instead of pacing the floors and worrying about how it will taste! And it doesn't come together until the very end, so don't be discouraged. I nearly threw it in the garbage several times before I got to that stage. Now to make the authentic version of this, they boil a whole pig's head. Well that's just the kind of thing that Mario gets in trouble for all the time around here, so no way I was going to make the authentic version! And also my LadyGirls are not pork lovers at the best of times, so I had to walk a fine line here. Bailey once said to me "I just don't dig on the swine mummy." So pork isn't usually on the menu when they come home. I decided to meet this recipe halfway. I got some pork neck bones and a 2 pound shoulder roast. It turned out to taste just wonderful and everybody loved it. So do the head if you like. But it isn't necessary either.

Also this soup has toppings your guests add themselves. Like the Vietnamese Pho. Awesome. And it begs the question - which came first, the Pozole or the Pho? Who cares? They're both amazing.

You'll need:
7 or 8 dried chilies de arbol
4 or 5 dried ancho chilies
4 or 5 dried guajillo chilies
1 head of garlic
Salt to taste
2 pound pork shoulder roast cut into 4 or 5 smaller chunks
2 pound of pork neck bones
1 tablespoons of cumin
vegetable oil
1 chopped onion
1 box of chicken broth (I had to use beef broth because I thought I had chicken, but no. I'm old and can't read soup boxes anymore apparently)
1 tablespoon of dried Mexican oregano
1 bay leaf
2 large cans of hominy

And for the toppings:
1 thinly sliced sweet onion
2 limes (cut into wedges to squirt into the soup)
Chopped cilantro
Thinly sliced radishes
Thinly sliced cabbage
Hot sauce
Sliced avocado
More oregano to sprinkle

We'll start with the broth and it takes about 3-4 hours. Use your big soup pot.
Saute the chopped onion in the vegetable oil for about 5 minutes and add 7 or 8 cloves of finely chopped garlic. Add the neck bones and the meat and the cumin and let it brown up for a few minutes.
Add the box of soup broth and about 12 cups of water. I just filled up my Kool Aid jug and poured that in. You need a lot of broth for this soup because it tastes so amazing that people will ask for seconds.
Add the oregano and the bay leaf. Bring it up to the boil and then turn down the heat and let it simmer away with the lid on for about 3 hours. When the meat is fork tender and starts to shred, strain it all into another big pot so you just have the liquid broth. I used a fine strainer to make sure all the bits were out so my girls didn't freak out on me.
When the meat has cooled enough to pick through it, pull out all the good stuff and it should shred between your fingers and add it back to the broth and throw away all the other stuff that looks too ugly and gross to put in the pot. Be sure to throw away your bay leaf too. They are not edible as far as I know because every single recipe in the world tells you to throw away the bay leaf. Now that's your broth done so far and we're going to come back to it in a minute.

While your broth is simmering happily away during that 3 hour window, do your chilies. You need to cut the tops off them all and slice them open and scrape out all the seeds. Boil some water in a pot and take it off the heat once it boils. Add the chilies and put the lid on the pot and let them sit for half an hour to rehydrate. Then put them all in the blender or food processor with 3 cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of salt and about 1/2 - 3/4 of a cup of the liquid and puree them until smooth. (this is the rojo or red part of your soup). Strain this mixture through a fine sieve and discard the solids keeping only the smooth puree.

Now back to the soup. Add the 2 cans of drained and rinsed hominy to the broth with the meat and add 3/4 cup of the chili puree. More if you want more heat or less if you don't. I found it to be too mild with 3/4 of a cup so I'll add more next time. Bring this back up to the boil and reduce the heat and simmer it uncovered for about half an hour. Now I need to give you a warning here. If you have never smelled hominy simmering in a broth before (such as me), you are going to experience a sort of blissful state where you feel at one with God. I never wanted that aroma to end and I will never forget it. It was more amazing than orange blossoms in bloom which was my previous favourite scent. That will be your first clue of what's to come because when I tasted it, I nearly fell on the floor for the flavour. That's all I will say. You have to make your own to see what I'm talking about!

I refrigerated my soup overnight to let the flavours develop and served it the next day. I like to do that with meaty soups so I can scrape off the solidified fat that rises to the top of the pot. Just reheat it slowly and let it simmer for half an hour.  Prepare all of your toppings just before you serve it and let your guests add their own condiments. I think I did Kelly justice with her birthday dinner and she deserves the very best since she is my baby LadyGirl! Enjoy friends!

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