Hearty Chicken Posole
A traditional Mexican flavored dish from the pacific coast region of Jalisco.

Makes 6 large servings

• 9 cups water
• 1 small dried bay leaf
• 1 large sweet onion, and thinly sliced and chopped
• 6 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
• 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
• 1/2 cup hulled (green - not roasted) pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
• 1 pound tomatillos, husked
• 2 fresh jalapeño chiles, quartered (including seeds)
• 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
• ½ to 1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican - amount depends on the pungency of the herb), crumbled
• 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 (15-oz) cans white hominy, rinsed and drained

Garnishes: cubed avocado tossed with lime juice; shredded romaine; chopped sweet onion; lime wedges; dried oregano, thinly sliced jalapeno peppers and diced radishes.

Bring 8 cups water, bay leaf, half of onion, half of garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil, covered, in a 6-quart heavy pot, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add chicken breasts and thighs and poach at a bare simmer, uncovered, skimming off any foam, until just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board to cool. Pour broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; discard solids; reserve broth. When chicken is cool enough to handle, coarsely shred with your fingers.

While chicken cools, cook pumpkin seeds in a dry small skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until puffed but not browned (seeds will pop as they puff), 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool completely, then finely grind in coffee or spice grinder. If you don't have either, you can use a stone mortar and pestle, but it is a little harder work.

Simmer tomatillos and remaining onion in remaining cup water in a 3-quart saucepan, covered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain vegetables and purée in a blender with jalapeños, 1/4 cup cilantro, oregano, remaining garlic, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

Heat oil in a 4 to 5 quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add purée (use caution as it will splatter and steam). Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in pumpkin seeds and 1 cup reserved broth and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in shredded chicken, hominy, and 3 more cups reserved broth and simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes.

Stir in remaining 1/2 cup cilantro and serve pozole in bowls and serve with selected garnish accompaniments.

COOKS NOTE: Try not to leave out the pumpkin seeds (pepitas) - it is a subtle but an integral part of the traditional flavor. When not in season, you can usually find at large health food stores or supermarkets that are frequented by Hispanic Americans, if not you can buy online at: www.nutsonline.com

Per Serving: 323 Calories; 8g Fat (23.4% calories from fat); 2g Saturated Fat; 36g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 92mg Cholesterol; 931mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain (Starch); 4 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat.

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