04 September 2010

4 September - Los Angeles; Atole and Posole

Today in 1781, El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles was formally established on the Rio Porciuncula near Mission San Gabriel in Alta California.  Forty-four people (Los Pobladores) settled in the town named for the Queen of the Angels, and the place grew from there.  For more on the first settlers of Los Angeles, see the Los Angeles Almanac here.

From Food Timeline: "According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, the Spanish introduced many foods to California via Mexico."  The list includes several fruits: apples, grapes, cherries, peaches and the famed citrus trees of oranges, lemons, and limes; beans, chickpeas, chiles, olives and tomatoes, and the all-important maize.

Two foods that would have been known to the early settlers were Atole and Posole.  Atole is a nourishing drink made of gruel mixed with sugar and spices; posole is a stew of hominy and meat, flavored with onions, chiles, and herbs.  Both were part of the daily rations of the Indian neophytes at the California missions (although probably not as fancy as the recipes below).

(about 6 cups)

2 cups water
1/2 cup masa harina
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
4 cups milk

In a large pan, stir the water into the masa harina.  Add the vanilla and cinnamon and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened.  Remove from heat and add the sugar and milk.  Then return to heat, bringing mixture just to a simmer (don not allow to boil).  Serve hot.

There is a chocolate version (champurrado), which uses a tablet of Mexican chocolate (mine look like large chocolate drops) and a molinillo to froth it up nicely.

Another recipe on the website of San Miguel de Allende uses Mexican cone sugar and vanilla beans.
The original recipe for Posole uses posole, a specially treated corn which can be found at ethnic stores and many supermarkets.  I've substituted hominy for this recipe.

(serves 10-12)

3 large cans (29 oz each) hominy, rinsed and drained
3 pounds boneless pork, cut in 1 inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
4-6 whole, dried red chiles, rinsed, deseeded, and crumbled

Put pork, onion, garlic, and spices with 2 quarts of water in a large kettle and cook slowly until meat is tender.  Then add hominy, and simmer for 30 minutes longer to blend flavors.  When done, salt to taste and serve with garnishes such as chopped vegetables, lime and lemon wedges, sliced avocados, and cubed cheese.