For some reason I can’t remember I was talking with my buddy Frost about hominy – really, I have no idea how we got on that subject. If you start talking about hominy you are going to talk about grits or posole (pozole?). Grits are okay but posole really grabbed my interest. I had some delicious posole at the Cleveland Heath in Edwardsville, Illinois on May 13, 2015. I checked; the restaurant is 2,068 miles from Beaverton – too far to drive for a bowl of stew. I’d have to make my own.
I made posole back in November 2010. It was good but not great; but that may have been because it wasn’t what I was expecting. So, I took a fresh look at the recipe and looked at a couple of others to see what I could do to add a star to the rating. The original recipe came from Cook’s Country (warning: pay wall); My main alternate source was an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. I settled on three major changes.
- Use more pork shoulder. Four+ pounds with the bone instead of 2 pounds of country style pork ribs.
- 2 ounces of chiles instead of 3/4 ounce.
- Homemade chicken stock instead of canned. And 2 quarts instead of a quart and a half.
Let’s get started. I used fresh oregano; if you can find epazote I bet that would be more authentic to this Mexican dish. I wanted to use Goya brand hominy but couldn’t find it at any of the three stores I went to. I also considered getting dried hominy – since that was what Frost and I were discussing – but I couldn’t find it either.
While I was busy cutting and chopping I prepped some dried ancho chiles for the sauce. The first step was to roast them briefly in a 350° oven until they puffed up. I also used a couple small unidentified chiles that my daughter-in-law Sarah brought back from a recent work trip to New Mexico. Here are the chiles in their puffy aromatic state. Oh, roasting the chiles filled the kitchen with an amazing smoky, chili bliss.
After the chiles cool, I took off the stems and emptied the seeds, then brought to a boil in 2 cups of chicken broth then let them steep until I was ready for them.
I was pretty confident in my ability to separate the pork shoulder into separate muscle groups and cut some large-ish chunks for browning and simmering. That confidence came from working with pork shoulders that had been smoked for 10 hours at which time the bone just comes out with a gentle tug. Connective tissue does just that – connects things. It took me more time than expected and I didn’t do a great job. But I wanted that bone for the broth! Using country style pork ribs – which are really cut from the shoulder – would work. Since the butchers at our local grocery store debones these themselves, I may go with country style ribs and get a bone that has already been removed.
Chop, measure, rinse, drain, smash and we are ready to cook.
Since this is a pork dish, I browned the pork pieces in lard rather than vegetable oil. I don’t use the Armor brand since it has preservatives and stabilizers; I get a one pint jar of pure lard to use for sautéing pork. It goes through less processing that vegetable oil.
After removing the browned pork from the pot, I tossed in the hominy for a couple of minutes just to get it lightly browned and fragrant. That comes out of the pot and is reserved for later use – like two hours later. Next into the sauté pan goes chopped onions. After they are softened we toss in the minced garlic for less than a minute. When done it goes into the blender with the steeped chiles and chicken broth.
The blended sauce smells and tastes delicious. Everybody – except the hominy and lime juice- goes into the pot: chicken broth, pork – and bone -, chili sauce, oregano and a bit of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then cover and stash in a 300° degree oven for two hours. Alternatively you can simmer in a closed pot. When done, the pork will be tender and the kitchen smells even better than before. Remove the pork to a cutting board with tongs and discard the bone; let cool and shred into bite size pieces.
While the pork is cooling and being shredded, simmer the hominy in the pot on the stove top for 30 minutes. At the end
toss gently place the shredded pork into the pot, stir, and simmer for a few minutes until the pork is heated through.
Somewhere along the line you had time to prepare the toppings; shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, and lime wedges are traditional. We also included tortilla chips, chopped avocado, and sour cream. Dish out the stew and pass the toppings.
This is a perfect winter dish; hearty and flavorful. I’m not going to lie; it takes some effort and time to prepare; but it is worth the work – if you have the time. After a full day of cooking I admit that I can’t always accurately judge the result. But we had it for leftovers the next day and I really enjoyed it. Everyone said they liked it – I don’t think they’d lie to me; would they?
You can find my adjusted recipe here.
Last winter Carla made another version of this dish which was delicious. I hope to get a chance to cook that later this winter to compare.