The Cousin of Sleep

Now, I'm pretty sure I'm going to step on someone's toes with this statement, but toes be damned...

Nas' 1994 debut album, Illmatic, is in a word, perfect. From the first track to the last Illmatic is a narrative of literate, fluid rhymes with enlightened, thoughtful beats rooted in some of the best and most esoteric of jazz and hip hop. It's both simple and ambitious with no extraneous elements. It's smart and it's fun as hell. Just you try not to move your body while you listen. And once the album is over, I am always left wanting more.

It's an especially great album to listen to in the car. And, of course, I'm listening to it while I write this.

But there is one line that always gives me pause. It's from the second track, N.Y. State of Mind, "I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” It could be that I'm a really big fan of sleep, or that I also have no problem, in concept or practice, with sleeping say, twelve hours straight. My head hits the pillow, I close my eyes, and I'm out. I also feel that sleep is really healthy (maybe not the twelve hour variety). It's good for the mind and body. A person can go crazy, can die, without sleep.

So why is it the cousin of death? Because your eyes are closed and you're lying down? Our minds are in superdrive with dreams during sleep, so it can't be mental. And wait, what about the ancient belief that sneezing is a near-death experience, and that a blessing will prevent your soul or sneeze from escaping your body and will deter the devil from entering? Shouldn't the line then be, “I never sneeze, cause sneeze is the cousin of death"? It surely seems more literal. And why cousin? I suppose it sounds better than nephew... the nephew of death.

The things that keep me up at night... At least they keep me further from death's cousin.

I've been thinking about sleep (and hence, that line) a lot because I'm not getting much of it. I'm pregnant and getting pregnant-er by the day. If I'm not up every hour for the bathroom, then I'm struggling to use the proper sleeping positions (my favorite body placement is apparently not recommended for pregnancy). Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night famished. And I know that this part will only get worse as time moves forward, and then there will likely be no sleep at all after our baby girl is born.

I've always been aware of, but paid little attention to, a couple of food/sleep – related old wives tales. One is that warm, liquidy stuff, like heated milk, tea or soup can be a soothing, sleep inducing aid. Another is that spicy food causes fitful sleep, or plainly put, nightmares. Well, what about spicy soup? Would that make for an extremely solid, good, long sleep with tremendously complex and mysterious dreams? Is this what the likes of David Lynch or Francis Bacon would have before bed while conceiving of their films/paintings? It most certainly would explain that which is Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel's surrealist extravaganza, Un Chien Andalou.

So I figured, not only will I get some sleep, but I'm going to get some wicked creative sleep. What do I have to lose, right? Heck, maybe just maybe my opus, my Illmatic, would result. And, upon more listening to N.Y. State of Mind - I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death. Beyond the walls of intelligence, life is defined – I have to wonder if Nas himself tried this very same tactic. I'd like to think so. Maybe he'd like to try my racy-spicy pozole rojo one late night for the fuel to put him in the state of mind to put forth something as important and noteworthy as he did back in 1994.

Pozole Rojo
(recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

Makes 4 quarts

1 head garlic
3 1/2 to 4 pounds bone-in pork shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
14 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
1 onion, sliced and 1 onion, chopped
2 ounces ancho chiles, seeded and stemmed
1 ounce guajillo chiles, seeded and stemmed
2 (30-ounce) cans white hominy plus 1 (15.5-ounce) can
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 Tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon dried oregano

Accompaniment options:
Diced avocado, for serving
Thinly sliced cabbage, for serving
Julienned radishes, for serving
Chopped scallions, for serving
Chopped cilantro, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving

Season the pork with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.

In an 8 quart Dutch oven, over medium high heat, brown the pork on all sides. Add the sliced garlic, sliced onion, 10 cups of the water and chicken stock. Bring up to a boil. Skim off any foam that may rise to the surface. Turn the heat down and gently simmer the pork, covered, until very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

While pork is simmering, toast the ancho and guajillo chiles in a pan over medium-high heat. Turn the chiles several times, cooking until they are pliable and fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add 2 cups of the remaining water; bring to a boil, turn off and let stand covered for 20 to 25 minutes.

In a blender, combine the chiles, the soaking liquid, chopped onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the remaining salt, black pepper, chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, and oregano and puree until smooth. Strain through a sieve to remove any skins or seeds. Set aside.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board, discard the bones, and shred the meat.

Rinse and drain the hominy. Return the pork to the broth; add the hominy, 1/4 cup of the chile sauce (or more to taste), remaining teaspoon of salt, and remaining water if necessary. Simmer the pozole for 30 minutes longer. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Any leftover chile sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks and may be stirred into marinades, sauces, soups, or stews, or used to flavor meats before grilling or sauteing.

The pozole should look hearty but be brothy enough to be thought of as a soup or brothy stew.

Serve the pozole buffet style with bowls of the accompaniments for guests to add to their taste.

Printable recipe.

One year ago: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Salami

Two years ago: Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Three years ago: Mercantile
Four years ago: Swiss Fondue with Truffle Essence
Six years ago: Roast Chicken with Meyer Lemons

No comments:

Post a Comment