Best Freakin’ Posole Ever!

I usually make this hearty Mexican stew after Thanksgiving when I can use the turkey carcass for meat and stock. But since the nice folks at Cholula sent me some of their new Chili Garlic Hot Sauce to try out, I couldn’t think of a dish I’d rather put it in.

Since this recipe takes a little while to make, I doubled it up to make a great Sunday dinner plus leftovers for my lunches the rest of the week. It also freezes up really well.

2 pounds boneless/skinless chicken thighs
8 ounces Mexican chorizo
4 cups chicken stock
2 (20-ounce) cans hominy (Juanita’s if you can get it), drained
2 (4-ounce) cans green chilies
1-2  jalapeños, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 red or green bell peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tablespoon medium chili powder
1 tablespoon Ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried cilantro
1 -2 tablespoons Cholula Chili Garlic Hot Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven, crumble the chorizo and brown it over medium-high heat. Drain off as much of the fat as your conscience tells you to. Add the bell peppers, chilies, jalapeños, garlic, and onions and cook until the onions are soft, about five minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Add the chicken stock, chili powder, cumin, and cilantro and bring to a simmer on the stove top for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the chicken thighs, nestling them into the sauce so they are mostly covered.

Put the lid on the Dutch oven and move it to the middle rack in the oven. Let cook for 2 hours, checking at the 1 hour make to make sure the stew isn’t drying out. Add more stock or water if needed.

Remove the Dutch oven to the stove top. Give the dish a stir – the thighs should just fall apart. Turn the stove burner up to medium-high and add the hominy. Let it come to a simmer and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

Serve with corn chips, a squeeze of lime, and a sprinkling of cojita cheese

Nutrition
Makes 6 (1 1/2 cup) servings. 446 calories. 11 Weight Watcher points, so not exactly a low-calorie dish, but you could easily bump up the veggies and the amount of broth.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
The title says it all – the chorizo, the fall-apart thighs, and the heat and complexity of the sauce made this a delicious stew. I may very well make this with turkey again, but I’ll never make it again without chorizo.

The Cholula Chili Garlic Hot Sauce was made for recipes like this. It added a lot of clean, rich garlic taste with some nice warmth. I don’t think it’s quite as hot as their original sauce, but I liked the combination of peppers and garlic.

Scallop Gumbo

Food & Fire has been a little shy on posts lately because our household has recently adopted the Weight Watcher’s PointsPlus® program and it’s taking some time to get used to it.  Never fear – this grillmeister will still be churning out some dishes that Jennifer Hudson would definitely not approve of, but I will also be working to adapt some of my recipes to be a little more “points friendly.”

You wouldn’t usually think of gumbo as a dish that could be lightened up without losing a lot of flavor, but this version from Mark Bittman is hearty without being too heavy.

1 pound scallops
1 link andouille chicken sausage (Amylu’s), chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour (Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix)
1 onion, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 -2 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves

Heat the oil and butter in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Make a roux by whisking in the flour and cooking, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture darkens to a blond color and becomes fragrant (it should smell like popcorn or toast), about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the sausage, onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and bump the heat up to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened – about 10 minutes.

Add the stock, tomatoes, thyme, oregano, bay leaves and Cajun seasoning. Slowly raise the heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom to remove any browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover.  Cook for about 20 minutes to let all the flavors get to know each other. Add scallops and cook just until they are no longer translucent, about 2 minutes.

Add salt, black pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Serve in bowls as a stew, or poured over rice.

Nutrition
Makes 6 (1 1/2 cup) servings. 275 calories. 7 Weight Watcher points.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
W0w – sweet and buttery scallops in a rich sauce. The roux makes a big difference – it not only thickens the dish but helps to pull all the flavors together. It’s well worth the calories.

Ceviche de Camaron con Cholula

The fine folks over at Cholula Hot Sauce were nice enough to send me a 4-pack of their sauces to try out. I’ve been a big fan of their original sauce for years. It doesn’t have much heat or vinegar, but it’s got a solid chili taste that works great on almost any Mexican dish.

There are now 3 new flavors of Cholula – Chili Garlic, Chili Lime, and Chipotle. Of the three, the Chili Lime caught my attention first. I thought it would be a great addition to my Shimp Ceviche recipe.

1 pound cooked medium (41-50) shrimp, shelled and deveined (get the freshest you can find)
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup cocktail sauce (Trader Joe’s in this case, but any sauce with some horseradish in it will work fine)
2 tablespoons pickled jalapeños, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2-3 tablespoons Cholula chili Lime hot sauce
16 – 24 pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 avocado, sliced the long way

In a large, non-reactive bowl, combine the shrimp, salt, and lime juice. Let this sit for about 5 minutes. Add the onion, cilantro, cocktail sauce, jalapeños, oil, Worcestershire, horseradish, hot sauce, and olives. Mix well and let sit in the fridge for about an hour so the flavors all get to know each other.

Arrange the avocado strips into a little nest on a small plate or bowl. Mound the ceviche in the center of the strips.  Serve with lime wedges, more hot sauce, and tortilla chips or (strangely, but traditional) saltine crackers.

The Verdict: ★★★★½
This dish just screams sand and surf. I really liked the addition of the last little tomatoes from our garden. They are so perfectly ripe and intense that they are just little flavor bombs.

The Cholula Chili Lime Hot Sauce really shines here – the base chili flavor isn’t too hot (more flavor than fire) and the zip of the lime brings out the freshness and sweetness of the shrimp. I think it’d be great with almost any seafood.

Next time I’d use a different size shrimp. I’d either go large/jumbo so you could pluck the shrimp out with a fork and scoop the remaining sauce up with a chip, or use little cocktail shrimp so you could just scoop the the whole works up.

Cottage Bacon

This is my take on old-timey country bacon that’s made from the meatier pork shoulder roast (aka pork butt). It’s like a cross between country ham and traditional bacon – smoky, salty, and just a little sweet. I like to make up a big batch of this and freeze it off in breakfast-sized portions.

2 pork butts (pork shoulder roast), boned and trimmed
1 tablespoon Morton’s Sugar Cure per pound of meat
1 teaspoon white sugar per pound of meat
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons ground black pepper

The meat needs to cure before it gets smoked. This takes at least a week and preferably 10 days. These particular butts were both just under 8 pounds, so I cured them separately because I didn’t have a container big enough for both of them.

Place each butt in a large zip-top bag. Combine the black pepper with 1 tablespoon Morton’s Sugar Cure and 1 teaspoon white sugar per pound of meat (so each butt got 1 tablespoon pepper, 1/2 cup Morton’s cure, and 8 teaspoons sugar). Rub the cure all over the butt, making sure to cover all sides. Pour 1/4 cup of maple syrup over each butt, and turn to coat.

Seal the bags and store the butts in the fridge. Liquid will begin to collect to collect in the bags, indicating  that the cure is working. Cure for 7-10 days, flipping the meat over once a day.

After the butts are cured, remove them from the bag and soak in cold water for 3 hours to remove some of the salt. Let them drip dry on a rack while you fire up the grill.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook at 300°F. On the Big Green Egg this meant filling the firebox with lump charcoal and using a plate setter and drip pan to diffuse the heat. When the cooker is up to temp, add some chucks of wood for smoke. Apple or hickory work great here.

Smoke the butts until the internal temperature hits 140°F. That took about 5 hours for these butts. At this point the meat is cured, but not fully cooked. Stash the meat in the fridge to cool, and then slice to your desired thickness.

I ran the butts through my Chef’s Choice 610 Electric Food Slicer at about a 1/4 inch thick setting.  This is thin enough that the meat will fry up quickly but not so thin that it starts to fall apart.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
This batch of cottage bacon had some great flavor. I like the addition of maple syrup and how the sweetness plays off the saltiness and bits of pepper. Pork shoulder has a good amount of fat in it, but not nearly as much as the belly meat that bacon is usually made with, so it fried up nicely on the chewy side of crispy versus chewy.

These butts had had the bone removed when I bought them. That makes slicing them a lot easier, but the meat wasn’t as compact as I would have liked and some of the little bits that stuck out got overcooked during smoking. I would tie up the butts (oh, that sounds wrong) with butcher’s twine next time.

Chicken & Veggies

This is the time of year when zucchini start mysteriously appearing everywhere. Seems like we’ve had a glut of them at home, and we didn’t even plant any. If the neighbors aren’t unloading theirs on our doorstep, it’s my folks passing on their surplus.

Since we’ve been graced with a couple of extra weeks of grilling weather, I decided to make up a big batch of my Chicken & Veggies recipe featuring as many of the zucchini as I could squeeze into a 9×13 pan.

The Chicken
8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons herbes de provence
1-2 tablespoons kosher salt

Lay the thighs out in a baking pan. Season both sides with the herbs and salt. Set in the fridge uncovered while you prep the veggies.

The Veggies
2 large zucchini, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground back pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a disposable foil pan. Mix well.

The Cook
Set up your grill for an indirect cook over medium-high (400°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg I use about half a fire box full of lump charcoal, an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat, and a trivet for the roasting pan.

Set the pan full of veggies on the trivet. Place a small wire rack or grill grate on top of the pan. Lay the chicken thighs skin side down on the grate above the veggies.

Close the lid and let cook for 20 minutes. Lift the grate with the chicken on it off of the pan and give the veggies a stir. Add more oil or a little chicken stock if they are starting to stick. Put the grate back on the pan and flip the chicken. Close the lid and cook for another 20 minutes. Check the veggies again. If they are done, take them off the grill and set them someplace warm while the chicken finishes.

I usually leave the rig set up for an indirect cook and let the thighs finish cooking, but I was running short on daylight and the thighs were looking a little anemic, so I pulled plate setter out and finished the thighs directly over high heat.

It only took about another 3 minutes a side to put some char on the thighs and finish them up.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
I think this is one of the best ways to cook chicken. Cooking the chicken above the veggies means the veggies soak up all those lovely chicken drippings and the moisture from the veggies keeps the chicken nice and juicy. Win-win.

My only issue with this recipe was using boneless, skinless thighs. They tasted great, but just don’t cook up as crispy and juicy as chicken with the skin still on it.

Rub note: I liked the herbs on this and might need to work up a rub like John Henry’s Chicken Tickler.

Simple Steaks

No recipe here – just some quick and easy steaks on the grill as a treat after a day of cleaning out the garage.

I set the Big Green Egg up for a direct cook at high (500°F+) temp, seasoned the ribeyes on both sides with some Dizzy Pig Raising The Steaks seasoning, and slapped them on the grill for about 2 minutes a side.

I almost never order steak when we eat out anymore. Even with minimal prep and seasoning like this, I can consistently turn out better steaks in the Egg than I can get in most restaurants.