Friday, July 2, 2010

Hominy Casserole

I had been intending to make this for a couple of months. Cans of hominy were stacking up in the pantry, along with unopened packages of seaweed, jams from the early oughties and overlooked containers of shortening. Once again, faced with a week of what sailors used to call short commons, I started rummaging around in there to see what could be unearthed and eaten. Hence hominy casserole.
Now, hominy is sort of interesting stuff. According to Laura Ingalls Wilder, my source of information for much of 19th century frontier food, it was made by treating corn with lye. It then puffs up into white softish balls. Wikkipedia, my source for checking things that appeared in Laura Ingalls Wilder, says, yup, she was right. Hominy was treated with lye, and was invented by the indigenous people of Guatamala around 1,500 (or earlier, according to some sage on the Wikkipedia discussion board.) It's also called nixtamal, which is an Aztec word.
I learned all about nixtamal and about 14 other words pertaining to corn when I went to Mexico. But, right now, it being ten years later, I can't quite remember what nixtamal is. However, hominy is this kind of frontiery stuff that people eat in Mexico, El Salvador and the Southwest. When hominy is dried, it is ground up into hominy grits, and southerners eat it for breakfast.
My father, the farmer, and my mother, the former New York debutant, who were every bit as sarcastic and dismissive as I am about other cultures (In fact they were worse, but we won't get into that.) used to drive down to Mexico in their later years to get away from Berkshire winters. Unfortunately, from their point of view, the only way to get from New England to Mexico was through the American South. Let us say the culinary offerings did not appeal. Their description of a southern continental breakfast was danish and grits.
Hominy, despite its rich ethnic and historical roots, tastes kind of tinny, like the can. At least it does to me. But hominy casserole is cheap, quick and easy. And it's in the cookbook. So here it is.

Hominy Casserole

3 twenty-ounce cans whole hominy
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (I think more's better)
1 tablespoon chili powder.
2 cups shredded sharp cheese
toasted tortillas

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Drain the hominy. Blend together the tomato sauce and chili powder. Make layers of hominy, tomato sauce and cheese in a buttered casserole, ending with the cheese. Sprinkle with crumbled tortillas and bake fifteen to twenty minutes. Serves six.

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