Whole Hominy: trendy??
In the past few weeks, I've found hominy on my plate at two local restaurants. Hominy you ask? Yes, but not the way you'd expect.
The first was at Michael's Genuine in Miami. (Michael was just awarded the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef of the Year, South. If you're ever down this way, don't miss his amazing food.) A group of us went for lunch and on the appetizer menu was a dish called "Crispy Hominy with Chile and Lime". Intriguing. Well, we were a table of southerners, so we ordered it along with some others goodies to share. When the dish arrived, we expected some form of grits, probably panfried patties. But no, this starter arrived in a small bowl and was whole hominy, deep dried. You just popped them in your mouth like popcorn. Deelish. Completely addicting!
Less than a week later, my son and I went to Cut 432 in Delray Beach, one of his favorite places to eat. I ordered salmon and it arrived served over....you guessed it....whole hominy! It had been browned with something like scallions and perhaps finely chopped celery and red pepper. Simple, unusual and quite tasty. I am so accustomed to hominy in grits form, or as posole in Southwest-flavored soups that I was completely surprised by these two dishes using whole hominy, one as an appetizer (for which I have since found a Mark Bittman recipe and will attempt soon) and then as a side dish. Have you had it served to you anyplace? What do you think...a new fad?
Hominy is hulled corn kernels that have been stripped of their bran and germ. It's served both whole or ground. And even ground, there are degrees of texture. Finely ground, it can be used to make tamale and tortilla dough. And slightly less finely ground, you have grits, that lovely old southern dish that most northerners don't understand. Everyone in the south has a great family recipe for grits...my personal favorite being cheese grits.
Coarsely ground hominy was called samp. Samp is of Native American origin, coming from the Narragansett word "nasàump." New Englanders since early colonial times have referred to cornmeal mush or cereal as "samp." Like hominy, samp is prepared from dehulled kernels of maize, but the two are produced by different processes. If the word "samp" dropped out of modern English, "hominy" hung in there, eventually joined with the word "grits" in the American South.
In the Southwest, big (or whole) hominy is called posole (or pozole) and is used to make hearty stews of hominy, chile peppers, and pork. (Heidi at 101 Cookbooks has a lovely recipe made with posole.) And it was "big hominy" that I was served in both restaurants.
Of course it comes canned, but don't go that route, please. Hominy seems to be gaining in popularity primarily due to the intensity of the flavor that is not available from canned hominy. So start with the dried.
I discovered you treat whole hominy like dried beans: soak them overnight and simmer with a chopped onion for about about 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until it is puffed and tender, but not broken down. You will have to keep checking on the water content throughout this process as more water may need to be added. Plan on 1/3 cup uncooked hominy for each serving. After the initial soaking and cooking, the kernels should be drained well, then cooled. They can also be refrigerated until ready for use.
And how should you use them? Aside from Heidi's recipe above, try making a hominy stir fry flavored with sesame oil and fresh crisp vegetables; or fry hominy in brown butter and herbs as a side dish; or how about The Pioneer Woman's Hominy Casserole? And here's a change of pace: hominy and coconut pudding.
And lastly, here's what I came up with:
Grilled Salmon over Fried Hominy
1 cup white corn hominy
4 scallions, sliced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
Olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter
*The hominy would be heavenly fried with some bacon too. (Naughty me!)
*Because this post is all about hominy, there's no recipe for the salmon here; use your favorite fish and your favorite way to prepare it.
Bring a pot of water to boil, add some salt, the 1/2 onion and the hominy. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. I found two hours was too long; the hominy starts to break down. Take a piece to test; it should be similar to the texture of a lima bean. Drain and remove the onion. You can cool at this point and refrigerate.
Add some olive oil and a little butter to a frying pan. Add the hominy, the green onions, the garlic and red pepper. Lower the heat and fry until everything is golden brown. Serve under fish or meat.