It was a tough morning to regain my thoughts. Riggins Idaho always is that way, the town and the people that live in it like to have a good time. I find that infectious and tend to have a good time with them, especially at the 7 Devils Saloon. My mouth tasted like a cigarette, I don’t smoke, and my head felt like a sparkler was burning in the background. Add to that the pounding in my temples and all I wanted was my traditional hang over cure. I wanted spicy Mexican pozole or even menudo. The heat, the liquid, the protein and the “magic” all make the dish special in Hispanic cultures. It is the “go too” Sunday morning cure.
Alas, I was without it as we climbed the grade toward Pittsburgh Landing on the Snake River, with a suburban full of Texans. One side of Hells Canyon is Idaho and the other is Oregon in this section. The views were stunning. Whitetail deer and mule deer mingled on the hillsides. Bucks were hard horned in early September and stood confident in there safety in the middle of the farmers’ fields.
It was my job at this point to show these Texans a good time. Customer first mentality. They had won a promotion from my work, an Idaho Cast and Blast. Since I like to hunt, and am from Idaho, I was chosen as the guy to entertain them.
As we drove I kept seeing turkeys’ in full strut on the private land that surrounds the road. I had my “extra” turkey tag in my pocket, allowing me to shoot any turkey, even a hen, in this unit during the fall of 2019. I was growing antsy, soon the private would end. Soon the birds would dry up, I assumed. But I needed to be ready, just in case the opportunity presented itself.
Idaho is blessed to be lousy with public land. When you reach the top of the grade headed toward Pittsburgh Landing, starting the decent toward the Snake River, you are surrounded on all sides by public property. So I stopped the vehicle and loaded my gun. I was not going to miss a shot at a fat fall turkey.
Amazingly we spotted a small flock a few hundred yards off the road. I grabbed a Texan and had him follow me for a little spot and stalk turkey hunting. We used lone pine trees for cover. Ducked below blackberry bushes to stay out of sight. Then we popped up in unison and I shot a nice fat hen at about 40 yards. Then we heard it, a giant “yeah!” and “wo-hoo!” coming from the suburban. The Texans were entertained.
Bird in hand and headache still intact I dreamt of pozole.
Pozoles – A History
Ok, so sometimes you dig into things and find out more than you wanted to know. Like that you and your second cousin are more closely related that you should be. Or that your mom rode with the Hells Angels for a while. Things that don’t really matter now, but sure as hell make for an interesting dinner conversation.
Food is laced with this tradition and only exists to serve the culture that created it. In that respect certain food and certain dishes are said to hold magical properties. Poppy seeds are used for premonitions. Dill is used for witchcraft. Chocolate to increase a warrior’s nature. So when I found out that two of my Mexican restaurant staples are supposed to be magic when I was younger – I was all in. Pozoles and menudo for the hangover cure! (Since this is a wild game column I will stick to the pozoles for the recipe, I will not ask the readers to clean a venison stomach, or any stomach for that matter)
Recently I found some dark history concerning my Sunday morning headache and dehydration remedy. I can hear some of you asking – just what is pozole?
Pozoles is a dish distinct from Mexico. Traditionally a combination of hominy (corn that has been lye soaked), chili peppers and meat. The dish can be white, red or green with regional colors in between. Some are made with pork or some with chicken. Menudo is actually a form of pozoles and is made from the stomach lining of a cow. Historically it is a significant dish as well.
In an episode of PBS’s The Migrant Kitchen the dish is discussed by an unnamed Spanish historian he added “pozoles predates the existence of the Mexican Nation.” He then said “for certain festivals, especially those of a religious nature, after sacrificing men to honor their deities, the priests would offer the hearts of those men to the deities. They would then butcher the bodies of these men and this meat was cooked in the same cauldron with corn and some herbs.” That’s right folks, pozoles first recipe called for humans! (Cue Charlton Hesston ‘you don’t understand, its people. Pozole green is made out of people!’)
This makes the Irish gun running my family may or may not have participated in back in Boston seem light…When the Spanish arrived they banned the eating of human flesh in “New Spain”…so the natives made some substitutions to the recipe. The meat that they found that most closely resembled human was pork. “With time, and with fire, a braise, you know you are going to end up with something glorious” added the historian. A little people in the dish won’t hurt either, apparently.
This dish will not involve cannibalism, clearly, I like to remain a free and voting member in my society. For this dish I am substituting in wild turkey thighs.
Pozoles Rojo Recipe
2 turkey legs
½ onion, peeled
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
Leave the turkey on the bone, wash the meat. Add it to a stock pot and cover with 1 inch of water. Add the half an onion, bay leaves, garlic powder and salt.
Simmer for two hours or until the meat is falling off the bone tender. Remove pot from heat. Remove the meat from the liquid and let cool on a plate. Then pick the meat clean off the bone and tendons in a turkey leg. Set aside meat. Reserve the cooking liquid, now turkey stock, for the soup.
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ Anaheim pepper, diced
½ serrano pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
½ onion, diced
4oz can diced green chilies
15.5oz can of Hominy
8oz can tomato sauce
10oz can tomatoes and green chilies
Chipotle in Adobo – one chili and one tablespoon of the sauce it is packed in
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ tablespoon oregano
½ tablespoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper
Turkey Thigh Stock from above
Heat oil in thick bottomed stock pot. When almost smoking add the diced peppers and onions. Let cook for 3 minutes, stir one or two times. You are looking for some good color on the peppers. Next add the canned ingredients and the spices. Heat on stove for 5 minutes. Then add the picked turkey leg meat from above. Stir. Then add enough turkey stock to cover the contents of the pot by 1-2 inches of broth. (if you don’t have enough stock left over chicken broth or stock from the store will be just fine).
Heat it all together until boiling. Turn down to a simmer and taste. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Classic pozole is garnished with a pile of things. Feel free to add any or all of the above items to the top of your soup! It’s like a soup salad combo, honestly.