SEATTLE — Out here in Seattle, we’re just washing our hands down to nubs, Googling “can drinking alcohol kill coronavirus” (answer: sadly, no, but can help with nerves), definitely never touching our faces again and encasing all older relatives inside protective bubbles for the foreseeable future. Business at restaurants is suffering in a way that’s getting dire quickly, yet among all the talk of “social distancing,” a collective end-of-days bacchanal spirit may still be readily found. “HAVE A NICE COLD PINT AND WAIT FOR ALL THIS TO BLOW OVER” suggested the sandwich board outside my neighborhood favorite Bait Shop last Friday night, and the place was standing-room-only packed with a loud, festive, low-risk-category crowd doing exactly that.
The citizenry’s panic-grocery-shopping seems to have subsided, the ransacked shelves all restocked. Still, with parts of the city ghost-town quiet and the news just getting worse, the anxiety gnaws. At its root, it’s a real terror: Will this be the end of the world as we know it? In times of deep uncertainty, our thoughts turn to our stomachs: Food is comfort we can engulf, and instinct tells even urban types to lay in some supplies.
A project that occupies the hands and the mind, taking plenty of time and bearing the result of lots of very delicious food — enough to eat now and also freeze for whatever the hell the future might bring — seems like a bright idea for one of these awfully strange days or nights. Two excellent Seattle chefs were kind enough to provide us with recipes for constructive distraction. Keep calm — soup’s on.
CHEF MONICA DIMA’S POSOLE
Yield: about 8 quarts
A pig trotter is, yes, the foot of a pig — Dimas advises that a Mexican grocery (like her favorite, Mendoza’s Mexican Mercado on Aurora) and Uwajimaya carry them, or you can usually find them at Safeway (call ahead, and note that you don’t want them smoked). This recipe makes a ton of soup; you could halve it and likely still end up with plenty to eat now and freeze for later. “It’s a lot,” Dimas says, “but posole should be made for a crowd/the fam. It was our Sunday morning tradition growing up. It’s also excellent hangover food, and if it makes a hangover bearable, it’ll soothe all of the other anxieties.” And if you don’t want to cook, Dimas’ posole is available at her lovely First Hill restaurant, Little Neon Taco.
For the posole:
8 quarts water
1/2 pig trotter
3 pounds pork butt/shoulder
2 whole sweet yellow onions
4 bay leaves (fresh preferred, dry is fine)
1 tablespoon oregano (fresh preferred, dry is fine)
108-ounce can hominy, drained
12 whole dried guajillo chilies
4 whole dried japones or arbol chilies (add more for extra spiciness)
1 teaspoon whole cumin or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup salt plus more to taste (Diamond kosher preferred)
For garnish possibilities:
Cabbage, finely shredded
Onion, finely diced
For optional chili oil addition: Take 1 part dried japones chilies to 1/2 part vegetable or canola oil. Toast the chilies and oil (use an oil with mild to no flavor, like vegetable or canola) together in a little pot over medium-low heat until fragrant, then puree. Make as much as you want — it will keep in the fridge.
Wrap the pig trotter in a flour sack or cheesecloth if you don’t want the bones in the final soup. Put the water and the trotter in a large 12-quart pot. Simmer for 1 hour, skimming off any scum that accumulates on the surface.
Cut the pork butt/shoulder into 2-inch pieces. Peel and quarter your onions. Add the onions, bay leaves and oregano along with the pork to the broth. Simmer for 45 minutes.
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While the pork is cooking, de-seed and de-stem your guajillos chilies, and de-stem your japones chilies. Place them in the jar of a blender along with 1 cup of the hominy, the cumin and the garlic, then add enough of your hot broth to cover. Once the chilies are somewhat soft from soaking, puree the mix as coarse or as fine as you prefer.
At 45 minutes, check the pork for tenderness. You want it three-fourths of the way cooked — if unsure, cook to almost tender. Leave the onion/oregano/bay leaves alone. When the pork is three-fourths tender, add the pureed chili mix and the remaining hominy, then let everything cook together until the pork is fork-tender and the fat is nearly all rendered, up to another 2 1/2 hours. Add the salt a tablespoon at a time, stirring and tasting until it’s right (don’t be shy — this is a lot of soup!). If it seems too spicy, you can add up to a quart of water (though it should pack some heat).
To serve, generously top with finely shredded cabbage, diced onion, cilantro and a tiny pinch of dried oregano. Garnish with limes and radish, plus optional chili oil on the side to add to taste. The chili oil will lend more smokiness and also heat!
CHEF LOGAN COX’S REFRIGERATOR GREEN ‘CURRY’ WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SHIITAKE
Yield: feeds about six
Chicken soup for the soul, sure, whatever — comfort food finds many forms, and chef Logan Cox’s take on green curry lets you know you’re still alive. It can also be made vegetarian or vegan, and would certainly be nice served with some rice. Cox, of Beacon Hill’s hit restaurant Homer, says it’s called “Refrigerator” because “Basically, you can use this curry paste and broth with whatever vegetables you have lying around the pantry or refrigerator — pretty much every vegetable can work.”
For the “Curry” Paste
10 peeled garlic cloves
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground mustard seeds
2 jalapenos, de-seeded
1/2 cup oil (neutral flavored, like canola)
Zest of 3 limes (preferably microplaned)
1/4 cup peanuts (or substitute almonds)
1 large handful mustard greens (or substitute arugula or kale)
1 bunch rough-chopped cilantro (stems and all!)
2 tablespoons honey
Place all ingredients in the blender and blend on high until relatively smooth, agitating with a small ladle to ensure you get all the bits chopped up fine! If needed, add a little water to blend thoroughly.
For the soup:
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
1/4 cup of oil
1 1/2 quarts vegetable or chicken broth
2 cans coconut milk
6 squirts of fish sauce (optional)
10 squirts of soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
5 lacinato kale leaves, sliced
1 poblano pepper, sliced
For garnish possibilities:
Cilantro and mint leaves
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place diced squash on a sheet tray, season with salt and a couple tablespoons of oil, mixing to coat. Bake for 30 minutes until soft and a little crispy on the outside. Let cool to room temperature.
Place a large soup pot on the stove and turn the heat to high. Add 1/4 cup of oil and wait for two minutes. Add the curry paste and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to ensure that the curry paste doesn’t stick or burn. Cook for 4 minutes until all the oil has turned bright green. Add chicken stock and continue stirring with spatula for one minute to deglaze. Add coconut milk, fish sauce and soy sauce, and stir. Add carrot, shiitake, kale and poblano pepper. Cook for 5 more minutes. Add the cooked squash, stir and season with a little salt if it needs it!
To serve, ladle that bastardized “curry” into a bowl and top with as little or as much garnish as you’d like.