While the weather has been far from warm the past couple of days, spring is approaching. I feel it in my perpetually scratchy throat and I see it in the buds that are blooming early after several weeks of above average temperatures. In my kitchen, I’m rushing to cook my favorite cold weather dishes before warmer temperatures banish my cravings for hearty, comfort foods in favor of the sun-kissed fruits and vegetables and grill-marked meats of spring and summer. That’s where this hearty stew comes in to the picture.
Posole (or pozole) is one of my favorite Mexican dishes. It’s traditionally made with pork and hominy and hails from the Jalisco province in Mexico although it is popular all over Mexico. The stew itself has several regional variations that are differentiated by their ingredients and named based on their color: rojo (red), verde (green), and blanco (white). This stew gets its rusty-red color from the addition of dried chilies (ancho, guajillo, and pasilla) and consequently is a posole rojo.
Cut the dried chilies into pieces and remove the seeds and membranes before rehydrating or roasting the chilies. I prefer to roast chilies in a dry skillet before rehydrating them as it gives the stew a more robust and complex flavor. I’ve included instructions for dry roasting chilies in the recipe below.
Pork tenderloin or pork loin make good substitutes for the pork shoulder, although I encourage you to use the shoulder as it has more marbling and flavor. Don’t omit the initial step of browning the meat as it adds great flavor to your stew. And remember to not crowd the pan when browning meat. If your meat isn’t browning and it seems to be simmering in its own juices you’ve overcrowded your pan and should not brown as many pieces in the next batch. You’ll want to cook the posole until the meat is tender (primarily because it will make your house smell wonderful) and you should skim off and discard any fat that floats to the top during the cooking process.
If you have the time, hominy can be purchased dry and reconstituted although I find that purchasing canned hominy saves time and works just as well. What is hominy? Hominy is dried corn kernels from which the hull and germ have been removed. Down here in the South, finely ground hominy is known as grits.
Serve the stew with a variety of toppings. I like to garnish my posole with lime wedges, shredded green cabbage, thinly sliced radishes, and cilantro. However, chopped lettuce, sour cream, fried tortilla strips, and cheese all make wonderful garnishes. Whatever toppings you choose, be sure to use at least some fresh vegetables (i.e. radishes and cabbage) as the smoky flavor of the stew and the crisp freshness of the vegetables work in perfect harmony.
And with that I give you the recipe for pork posole and the instructions to pull together a crowd for this casual yet immensely satisfying dinner. Buen provecho!
Pork Posole – Printer Friendly Recipe
2 dried guajillo chilies
2 dried pasilla chilies
1 dried ancho chile
3 cups water, divided
1 medium tomato, cut into quarters
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ tablespoon Mexican oregano
2 (15-ounce) cans white hominy, drained
1 ½ cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
2 radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro leaves
Additional garnishes: grated cheddar cheese or queso fresco, chopped lettuce, fried tortilla strips, sour cream
Remove the stems and the seeds from the dried chilies. Cut the chilies in half lengthwise using scissors. In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, roast the dried chilies in batches. For best results, add the dried chili pieces to the hot skillet and then gently press the chilies into the pan using a metal spatula until they are aromatic. When all of the chilies have been roasted, put them in a medium bowl and carefully pour in the boiling water. Place a plate over the chilies to keep them submerged and let soak for at least 15 minutes or until soft.
Add the chilies and their soaking liquid to a blender. Add the quartered tomato to the blender and process to a smooth purée. Set the chili purée aside.
In a large Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Pat the pork dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Brown the pork in batches. Set the browned pork aside.
After browning the pork, add the onion to the pot and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ground cumin, and Mexican oregano. Stir until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return the pork to the pot and carefully add the chili purée and the remaining 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 45 minutes or until the pork is tender. Stir in the white hominy and return the stew to a simmer.
Serve the posole garnished with the sliced green cabbage, a lime wedge, radish slices, and cilantro leaves.