Pseudo Posole

red chillis on brown wooden tray
Photo by Artem Bali on

Tough times call for tough food.

Times are tough here in the soybean field, even though we know they will pass. We continue the process of unravelling the knots of grief around Hubby’s recently departed sister. His oldest brother in law waits in the celestial departure lounge for his flight to the great beyond to be called.

And while on his last visit to Michigan to see Eldest BIL,  Hubby found out that his second oldest sister has developed cancer as well. I’m not sure what her status is, but we will find out.

In the meantime, we get on with it as best we can, taking breaks to massage our faces so they don’t permanently freeze in the OMG position. We walk. We write. We do homework. We just go about our days trying to ignore the stalker ten steps behind us.

Times like these call for tough food. Preferably something laden with carbs and fat to boost the mood and give energy for daily activities. After a mid-September to mid-October like this one, we needed something that would stand up to the sorrow.

I tried making posole, a cross between a stew and a soup. Its roots run deep in Mexican history. The recipes I read called for the chicken (or pork) to be simmered in one pot, the beans in another, and the broth in a third. Everything would be combined in one pot at the end.

Truth be told, I’ve never had luck cooking beans. I also need to store up my patience for other things these days. I took a look in the freezer and pantry. Box o’chicken broth? Check. Red salsa? Check. Canned beans and hominy? Check. Great. Is there chicken in the freezer? Check.

Sometimes, I, too, can be organized.

I thawed four chicken quarters, then peeled off the skin. Into the slow cooker with them. Next came a jar of red roasted pepper salsa and half a box of chicken broth. If you want something closer to a soup, use the whole box. I wanted something more stew-like. I set the cooker on slow and let ‘er rip for about three hours until the chicken started parting company with the bones.  I removed it from the pot and shredded it before returning to the pot. Then I drained the beans (a 15-ounce can of cannellinis) and the hominy (I think it was 15 ounces as well–it was the smaller of the two cans offered) and let everything coexist peacefully until dinner.

Hubby ate two bowls and dozed off in his chair.

Maybe it wasn’t authentic, but it sure did its job.


Uhh….Not So Much….

So last week I did something I hadn’t done before: I ate at a hip-and-trendy celebrity-owned restaurant.

Usually, I don’t eat at places like that. While I am relatively demanding and don’t mind paying for quality, I do arrive with high expectations. I have been delighted with many not-so-hip-and-trendy places, such as a couple of very memorable dinners in a 500-year-old inn in Montreal’s old town that didn’t get the press a couple of other places had in the guidebooks.

I went with a friend who returns to teaching in too-few weeks. We did a walking tour of the Loop’s landmarks, and we went to the Merchandise Mart to look at some of the displays. Then we went to the celebrity-owned Mexican restaurant that was the  the end point of our quest a few blocks north of the train station.

For me, the wheels came off when we stepped inside the small, dark, crowded dining area. The intense purple walls and dramatic Mexican artwork shrank it further. And loud. Very loud. Every other word being “WHAT?” “SORRY, COULDN’T HEAR YOU!” loud.

The waiter, though, was pleasant. He walked us through the menu after the usual “would you like some chips and guacamole” routine. (At those prices for chips and guac, the  celebrity owner had better bring his yoga-toned tush out to the table and mix it up himself for us.) 

My friend chose tacos; I chose some tostadas. She was happy. Me? I liked the salad with the pumpkin seed vinaigrette, but the tostadas, not so much. Perhaps it’s a lack of sophistication about Mexican cuisine on my part, but it came across as very bland and too cute. Three tiny corn tortillas topped with refried black beans, chicken, avocado slices and crumbled cojita. It wasn’t bad, but just really bland.

I realize that authentic Mexican cuisine is not about adding enough chili to make flames shoot from the diner’s bodily orifices. I also realize that I have a higher than average tolerance for heat because of the seasoning adjustments Dad made due to his salt-free diet. But this was just really bland. And the presentation was too cute for me. I tried spiking it with the bottle of hot sauce on the table, but that didn’t work very well.

But the salad was fantastic. The company and conversation couldn’t be beat. The iced tea was very refreshing.  

I can say that I ate there.

And I never have to do it again.