One of my great pleasures in life is collecting cookbooks. And I readily admit that there are many cookbooks within our growing collection of well over 300 we don’t even touch. While many are preserved because they have been passed down through the generations and have sentimental value, others remain with us because they contain a single or several recipes that are “keepers.” And then there are those books that we reference and get inspiration from frequently. But every cookbook we buy does not fall into the latter category. That is a rare find.
In honor of David’s recent birthday, one of the things he wanted was the new Big Ranch, Big City cookbook by Lou Lambert. We go way back with Lou, having fallen in love with his down-home, authentic Texas cooking style in the early 2000’s when he had Lambert’s in Austin. I fondly remember driving devotedly to Austin on frequent occasions so we could stock up on “real food” at the original Central Market and then satiate our palates with his magical culinary creations. Since then, we have closely followed his career path, supported him when we can and are thrilled that he has finally come out with a cookbook.
We ordered the cookbook online and when it arrived, we were mesmerized. After we each went through the cookbook, the consensus was that this was a winner! The stories, pictures and recipes are all that we hoped the book would be. The problem, however, was that we really loved every recipe and struggled to figure out where to start.
Lambert’s chopped salad. Warm German potato salad. Roasted beet salad with shaved fennel and candied shallot vinaigrette. New Mexico pork and green chili stew. Maple and fennel breakfast sausage. Spicy oak smoked chorizo. Slow-cooked pork butt with vinegar barbeque sauce. Seafood frito misto. Panfried trout with crab and shrimp stuffing. Roasted halibut in saffron tomato broth with corn fritter dumplings. And the list goes on. And on.
Not having the patience to take on Julie & Julia’s concept of working our way through the entire cookbook recipe by recipe, we agreed that we would start with the seafood pozole verde. This was one of our favorite dishes when we lived in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. It’s a tradition in the state of Guerrero to eat pozole on Thursdays, and naturally, we had no problem eating up this cultural practice. But finding a good pozole in San Antonio is another story. Especially a green pozole, which was the custom in Zihua. So this recipe really spoke to me and David was happy to oblige.
The simplicity and uniqueness of the recipe struck me. Rather than the typical pork or chicken pozole, Lambert uses shrimp and fish. In Mexico, the chefs use ground pumpkin seeds to give the broth a green color, while Lambert uses roasted poblanos and cilantro, which really give the soup a nice depth of flavor. You can use a fish or shrimp stock, but I had some homemade seafood stock in the freezer that I used*.
This contemporary spin on pozole won me over and I can’t wait to try another recipe from the cookbook. I think I hear the chocolate mocha ice cream calling my name.
Shrimp Pozole Verde
For the green sauce:
- 2 poblanos roasted, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 2-3 tablespoons water or more, if needed, to make it like a sauce
For the soup:
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 white onion diced
- 1 medium zucchini diced
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 jalapeno seeded and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 cups homemade seafood/shrimp stock* or chicken stock
- 1 150-ounce can white hominy, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup cilantro chopped
- 1 1/2 lbs. shrimp peeled and deveined
- Juice of 1 lime
- Salt up to 1 teaspoon and pepper, to taste
For the garnish:
- 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
- 2 limes quartered
- 6 radishes chopped
- 1/2 cup white onion finely diced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeno
To make the green sauce:
Over a gas burner or under the broiler, place the poblano allowing it to char and turn when needed so the entire pepper gets charred. When it is fully charred, place it in a plastic bag and close so it sweats.
After 10 minutes, remove the peppers from the bag and using a paper towel, carefully rub the charred skin off of the pepper. Remove the core and seeds. If needed, you can quickly rinse the pepper under water to remove any seeds. Chop the peppers coarsely and place them in the blender with 1/4 cup cilantro and 2-3 tablespoons of water, or more if needed to create enough liquid. Blend until pureed. Set aside.
To make the soup:
In a soup pot, add 1 tablespoon oil and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the diced onion, zucchini and jalapeno and stir to coat cooking until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the oregano and then add the stock, poblano-cilantro puree and hominy. Bring to a simmer and add 1/4 cup cilantro.
With the soup at a strong simmer, stir in the shrimp and allow the shrimp to cook through for 5 minutes. Do not let the soup cook higher than a simmer to keep the shrimp from overcooking and becoming tough. Add the juice of 1 lime to the pot and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.
Ladle the soup into warm bowls, making sure everyone gets an equal amount of seafood and hominy.
To add the garnishes:
Place the garnishes on a large plate and pass the garnishes around so everyone can dress their own soup.
Serve with a bowl of chicharrones (fried pork skins) and/or crispy tostadas as these are the traditional side for pozole. Adding the garnishes to pozole is what takes this dish from delicious to spectacular. Shrimp pozole verde, lots of garnishes, chicharrones along with mezcal and tequila.
Never and I do mean never throw away your shrimp shells. These things that you think belong in the trash are loaded with flavor and can easily be turned into shrimp stock. Just start reserving your shrimp shells. Toss them in a bag and store in the freezer until you have a full ziploc bag. Put the shells in a pot with onions, carrots, celery and maybe a few whole peppercorns, cover with water and simmer slowly for a 2-3 hours. Strain and you've got a flavorful shrimp stock that will make any recipe over-the-top.