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The Food Issue: Rock & Roll Chef

A soundtrack for your chicken posole
Abby Johnston, 3:10pm, Fri. Jun. 14, 2013
photo by Courtesy of Abby Johnston
The author and her inspiration, both in younger days.

Music always accompanied cooking in our family. Alongside clanking pots and the sizzle of the stovetop, there was always singing in my grandmother’s kitchen.

The bouffant-haired preacher’s wife operated on the schedule of all great Southern matriarchs: As soon as the last lunch dish dried, it was time to start dinner. That meant her wavering soprano was in constant sync with the trusty egg timer.

My grandmother’s homestyle cooking kept my grandfather pleasantly plump and the Baptist women in town begging for tips. But despite her constant song birding as she crafted meals, she couldn’t hit a pitch if she had Jesus himself as a vocal coach. Hymns and her favorite Blues Brothers songs (she even tried emulating Erykah Badu around Blues Brothers 2000, occasionally) were continually butchered in an endearing, albeit unnerving way. But man, that cornbread could sure make up for it.

As I’ve built a kitchen of my own, I’ve inherited my grandmother’s affinity for cooking to a melody, but I prefer to let other people do the singing. Here’s a quick combo: an old Tex-Mex favorite, and a playlist of Austin singers whose voices accompany cooking much better than my dear old Mimi’s.

Chicken Posole

(adapted from allrecipes.com)

* 2.5 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

* 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

* 1 onion

* 4 cloves garlic, minced

* 2.5 quarts chicken broth

* 3 cups water

* 1 teaspoon Mexican dried oregano

* 2 teaspoons salt

* 5 tablespoons chili powder

* 3 cups white hominy, drained

Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken breasts and cook until the juices run clear, around 20 minutes. Remove from skillet to drain. When cool enough to handle, shred or cube chicken. I prefer to shred it with a fork.

Heat two more tablespoons of vegetable oil using the same skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onion and garlic until soft and transparent, but not too brown. Return the chicken to the skillet. Stir in chicken broth, water, oregano, salt and chili powder.

Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 80 - 90 minutes. Stir in the hominy and cook for about 15 additional minutes, until tender. Correct seasonings with salt and chili powder, if desired.

Optional: Serve garnished with a tostada shell, avocado, cilantro and cheese. Actually, the cheese isn’t optional.

The playlist isn’t as spicy as the posole, but by personal preference, I don’t like to get too amped when I’m cooking. Making food is one of my favorite and most relaxing parts of the day; this playlist matches that aesthetic. 

“Big Dreams,” the Sour Notes

“Loving Man,” Burgess Meredith

“Don't Owe You a Thang,” Gary Clark, Jr.

“I’m on Fire,” Shakey Graves

“Chocolate,” Erin Ivey

Santa Rosa,” The Eastern Sea

“Darlin,” Whiskey Shivers

“Marigold,” Mother Falcon

"Lake Charlevoix," Dana Falconberry

“Fall Asleep in Your Arms,” Bobby Jealousy


Read more Food stories at austinchronicle.com/blogs. The Austin Chronicle’s Food Issue hit stands Thursday, June 13.

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