Multicultural Comfort Foods

From the culturally-diverse West, flavorful comfort foods to perfectly match your mood.

Photo: Annabelle BreakeyPhoto: Annabelle Breakey
Creamy Pumpkin Seed and Green Chile Posole
A puréed salsa made with roasted pumpkin seeds helps give this posole a rich flavor and chowder-like texture.
1 large yellow onion, cut into wedges
3 large poblano chiles
1 serrano chile
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
About 1 cup salted, roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), divided
2 cans (29 oz. each) white hominy, rinsed and drained
5 to 6 cups vegetable broth
About 5 tsp. dried Mexican oregano, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large zucchini, cut into large dice
Accompaniments: corn tortillas, cilantro leaves, thinly sliced green onions, and crumbled cotija cheese
Preheat broiler with oven rack 3 in. from heat. Set yellow onion, poblanos, serrano, tomatillos, and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil, turning, until vegetables are browned to blackened all over, 15 to 30 minutes, moving them to a bowl as browned. Let cool.
Toast ancho chiles in a large pot over medium heat until fragrant, pressing down with tongs and turning occasionally, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat.
Peel and seed poblanos and serrano. Peel garlic. Whirl serrano, garlic, onion, tomatillos and any juices, and 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds in a food processor until very smooth. Pour into pot with whole anchos (they'll fall apart as they cook). Coarsely chop poblanos and add to pot.
Stir in hominy, 5 cups broth, 2 tsp. oregano, and the cumin. Cover, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cumin flavor is mellow, about 45 minutes. Discard any large pieces of ancho chile.
Stir zucchini into posole and simmer just until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in more broth if you'd like a thinner soup.
Ladle posole into bowls and serve with remaining pumpkin seeds and oregano and other accompaniments to taste.

Photo: Annabelle BreakeyPhoto: Annabelle Breakey
Thai Chicken and Noodle Curry
The secret ingredient is the curry paste, a complex, medium-hot blend made with lemongrass and chiles. Originally from Malaysia, it's now popular all over northern Thailand.
10 ounce wide rice noodles
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup minced shallots
12 ounces boned, skinned chicken breast, thinly sliced crosswise
1 1/2 tablespoons panang curry paste
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk, divided
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup cilantro leaves and small sprigs
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves and small sprigs
1 lime, cut into wedges
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Heat oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add garlic and shallots and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken, curry paste, and half the coconut milk. Stir well to dissolve paste and boil until liquid is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining coconut milk, the sugar, lime juice, soy sauce, and fish sauce, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is lightly thicker, 2 to 3 minutes more.
Add noodles, toss to coat, and cook a few minutes until hot, stirring often. Pour mixture into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with green onions, cilantro, and basil. Serve with lime wedges.

Photo: Annabelle BreakeyPhoto: Annabelle Breakey
Whiskey and Triple Pork Black Bean Chili
Why make the same old thing when you can cook up a chili rich and smoky with bacon and Spanish chorizo, mellowed by whiskey, and fired up with chipotles?
1 pound pork shoulder (butt), cut into 1 to 1 1/2-in. chunks
Vegetable oil (if pork is lean)
5 slices (1/2 lb.) thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 1/2 cups dried black beans, cleaned of debris and rinsed
2 chopped canned chipotle chiles
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 qt. reduced-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup whiskey, divided
4 ounces Spanish smoked chorizo, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Crème fraîche or shredded jack cheese
Chopped chives
Brown pork in a large pot over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes, adding a little oil if pork is very lean. Transfer pork to a plate. Add bacon to pot and cook, stirring often, until browned but still soft, about 5 minutes. Spoon out fat and return 2 tbsp. to pot. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
Return pork to pot and add beans, chipotles, cumin, broth, and 1/2 cup whiskey. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until beans and pork are tender, about 1 1/4 hours.
Stir in chorizo and remaining 1/4 cup whiskey. Simmer, covered, until flavors are blended, about 10 minutes more. Stir in parsley.
Ladle into bowls and top with crème fraîche and chives.

More from Sunset:
Fast and Fresh Soups
Fast and Fresh Winter Meals
12 Delicious Chicken Soups and Stews