Strolling the grocery store aisle, I spy a large red can, ginormous really, on a bottom shelf. What could be in it and who needs that much of it?
Turns out, it was La Preferida hominy. You know, what results when corn kernels are soaked in an alkaline solution causing them to puff up to twice their normal size. Not quite “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” huge, but I guess size is the reason for the giant can.
Nixtamalization is the hominy making process and has been fundamental to Mesoamerican cuisine since ancient times. Among the Lacandon Maya who inhabited the tropical lowland regions of eastern Chiapas, the caustic lime powder was obtained by toasting freshwater shells over a fire for several hours. In the highland areas of Chiapas and throughout much of the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize Valley and Petén Basin, limestone was used to make slaked lime for steeping the shelled kernels. The Maya used nixtamal to produce beers and when bacteria were introduced to nixtamal, a type of sourdough was created.
Alkalinity helps dissolve hemicellulose, the major adhesive component of the cell walls, loosening hulls from the kernels and softening them. Soaking kills the seed’s germ, keeping it from sprouting while in storage. In addition to providing a source of dietary calcium, the lye or lime reacts with the corn so the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive tract.
A pantry staple for many cultures, we eat hominy in intact kernels, coarsely ground for grits or ground into a fine mash dough to make masa. Cherokees made hominy grits by soaking corn in a weak lye solution produced by leaching hardwood ash with water, then beating it with a kanona or corn beater. They used grits to make a traditional fermented hominy soup, gvnohenv amagii, cornbread, dumplings (digunvi), and in post-contact times, fried with bacon and green onions.
Many islands in the West Indies, notably Jamaica, use hominy, known as cornmeal or polenta, though different from Italian polenta, to make a sort of porridge with condensed milk, vanilla and nutmeg and corn starch or flour to thicken the mixture.
News & Notes
Congratulations to Chef Kenneth Foy, owner of Dante’s Fire, for winning the 2022 Iron Chef Tucson competition Saturday night.
Cheers to Casino Del Sol Executive Chef Ryan Clark for bringing home the Western Conference Title and a silver medal at the American Culinary Foundation’s (ACF) 2022 Chef of the Year at last week’s national Las Vegas convention, the largest gathering of chefs, students and foodservice professionals in the U.S. ACF is the premier professional organizations for culinarians.
On August 26, from 6 p.m.-9 p.m., the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance and Tucson Originals Restaurants are bringing back the World Margarita Challenge. Enjoy food sampling and margarita tasting from Tucson Originals restaurants. Participating chefs include: Mat Cable (Fresco and Zio Peppe), Ryan Clark (Casino Del Sol), Brother Johns, Mary Steiger and Susan Fulton (Gourmet Girls), Wendy Gauthier (Chef Chic), Coralie Sata (Ghini’s French Caffe) and more being added daily. Tickets are $80.
The fourth annual Sonoran Restaurant Week takes place September 9-18. Sponsored by Visit Tucson and produced by Tucson Foodie, enjoy incredible prix fixe meals at special $25, $35 and $45 pricing. To date, participating restaurant include: Agave Pantry, Agustin Kitchen, Arte Bella on 4th Ave, ATL Wings, Barrio Brewing Co., Bellissimo Ristorante Italiano at Casino Del Sol, Beyond Bread, Blanco Cocina + Cantina, Blue Finch Bakery, Blue Willow, BOCA Tacos Y Tequila, Borderlands Brewing with Pinches, Caffe Torino and Caffe Torino in the Foothills, Charred Pie, CRUDA Mariscoa & Oyster Bar, Culinary Dropout, Cup Café, Dedicated, Dominick’s Real Italian, El Charro Café, El Minuto Café, Finnegan’s, Good Oak Bar, Harvest Restaurant, HighWire Tucson, HUB Restaurant & Creamery, Inca’s Peruvian Cuisine, Ken’s Hardwood Barbecue, Kon Tiki Restaurant & Lounge, Lindy’s on 4th, Little Love Burger, Maynards, Micha’s Restaurant, Monterey Court Café, Noble Hops, OBON Sushi Bar Ramen, Proof Artisanal Pizza & Pasta, PY Steakhouse at Casino Del Sol, Reforma Modern Mexican Mezcal + Tequila, Rollies Mexican Patio, The Barnyard Crafthouse & Eatery, The Coronet, The Dutch Eatery & Refuge, The Red Light Lounge at the Downtown Clifton, Tito & Pep, Tuxson – The Pool Bar at The Tuxon, Vero Amore Swan and Dove Mountain, Wildflower and Zinburger.
Wishing you joy in the kitchen,
New England Bacon and Hominy
3 cups cooked hominy
2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for greasing baking dish
1 small onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cups cooked tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ lb. sliced bacon
1. Heat oven to 325°F.
2. Place hominy in a well-buttered shallow baking dish.
3. Melt butter and sauté onion and pepper until light brown. Add tomatoes, sugar and salt and simmer 10 minutes. Pour mixture over hominy and cover with bacon, arranged in a basketweave pattern.
4. Bake about 30 minutes until bacon is brown and crisp.