looks a little like popcorn, but tastes like a corn tortilla

I’ve been a big fan of hominy ever since I came across a recipe for southwest stew in one of the Moosewood cookbooks.  Essentially puffed up corn kernels, they taste a lot like corn tortillas – which makes sense, since they’re ground down into grits and then ground down again to make masa.  It’s one of the rare “raw ingredients” that I find myself wanting to eat out of the can while I’m cooking (ok, maybe I shouldn’t say that, since I did get dangerously close to not leaving over enough kidney beans to make the chili tonight . . .) – soft and chewy, with just enough flavor that you can taste that you’ve put it in, but also the kind of thing that absorbs whatever you’re cooking it in.  But for years I would only buy it when I was going to make that one recipe which, to be fair, was never really that often since it involved roasting and peeling what seemed like several pounds of peppers . . . and now, with an electric stove, I don’t see myself attempting to roast peppers over an open flame any time soon.


But then, out of nowhere, hominy seems to have caught on like wild fire: in November, The Kitchn did a how-to post, December was vegetarian posole on 101 Cookbooks, and then, in January, chicken posole on Serious Eats.  So when February’s Food and Wine showed up with a cover recipe for vegetarian chili that included a cup of hominy, it seemed like the cans were practically calling out to me when I passed them in the store (and I back to them – “canned hominy is -not- an appropriate snack food!”  although, eh – you’d be surprised.) . . .


I was a little skeptical of pulling out a blender to make chili – it seemed a little too fussy for a quick dinner – but after licking my finger when measuring out the adobo sauce from the can of chipotles, it suddenly occurred to me that it wasn’t entirely about texture; the chipotle really needs to be broken up to flavor the entire dish instead of coming up in one bite and making for a very unpleasant mouthful.  I’m still not convinced that the tomatoes need to be pureed, though it’s no big deal once the blender’s out (I just used a hand blender), and it’s nice to have some sauce with all the veggies.  The chili comes out sweet, spicy, and smokey – the perfect combination of a bowl of hominy, beans, and sour cream balanced by enough vegetables and brown rice to convince yourself that you’re eating something healthy . . .
Chili with Hominy and Winter Vegetables

Chili with Hominy and Winter Vegetables
adapted from Food and Wine
Makes 4-6 servings. 
3 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large pepper (red, yellow, or orange), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb. carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb. parsnips, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tbsp. chile powder
1 tbsp. ground cumin
One 14 oz. can tomatoes (whole or diced are both fine)
1 chipotle from a can of chipotle in adobo, plus 1 tbsp. adobo sauce from can
1 1/2 c. water
1 c. canned hominy, drained
1 c. kidney beans, drained  

In a medium pot or dutch oven, heat the oil.  Add the onion and garlic and cook over high heat until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the vegetables and cook, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until browned.  Stir in chile powder, cumin, and a pinch of salt.  Cook for 1 minute more.  

veggies and spices

 In a blender (or in a bowl with an immersion blender) puree the tomatoes, water, chipotle, and adobo.  When smooth, add the mixture to the vegetables in the pot.  Add in the beans and the hominy and bring the chili to a boil.  Cover and simmer over medium heat until the vegetables are soft, about 20-30 minutes, depending on how true you stayed to the 1/2 inch slices.  Add more salt to taste.


Serve over brown rice (white is fine, but the nuttiness of the brown goes really well with the sweetness of the parsnips and the smokey spice of the chipotle).


Top with any or none of: sour cream or greek yogurt, shredded cheese, chopped red onion, cilantro. 


The chili will last in the refrigerator for about a week and warms up well.  One word of caution, though, from the bio center cafe employees’ least favorite patron of the week – hominy explodes in the microwave.  Who knew?