Posole, if you haven't heard of it, is a spicy pork-and-hominy stew that is popular in Mexico and the Spanish-speaking parts of the southwest. We've been given posole by some of the Spanish-speaking moms with kids in L's class, and we had some wonderful posole on Christmas Eve in Santa Fe last month. This recipe isn't particularly authentic--in fact, I've never actually seen a posole recipe--but it tastes close to what I've had elsewhere. (On the other hand, the posole we had in Santa Fe was a two-part dish. There was the posole proper, which was just pork and hominy--very bland and white; and the chili, which was deep orange, and very spicy, and also had big hunks of pork in it.)
The key ingredients for posole are:
4-5 pounds pork shoulder or boston buttThat's all it takes to make a big, steaming pot of posole.
4-6 tablespoons flour--enough to coat the pork
A little vegetable or peanut oil
4-6 ancho chiles
2 quarts chicken stock
1 big can crushed tomatoes (I forget what size, and I threw out the can already. It's the really big fat can, something like 24 ounces)
2-15 ounce cans of hominy
Start by heating the oven to 250 degrees. I know most folks don't bake soup, but trust me.
Chop the pork into bite-sized cubes. I prefer shoulder cuts (shoulder, boston butt, or picnic shoulder) for posole, because they are cheap and stand up well to the extended cooking. Here is my roast:
Roll the pieces in the flour, then brown them with a little oil in your stewpot over medium-high heat. Browning the meat this way gives you nice browned bits on the meat, and the crusty stuff on the bottom of the pan (that's called fond if you're snooty and french), and incorporates the flour into the fat so it won't make lumps. The browning and fond are important for developing flavor, and the flour is good for texture. Also, brown the meat in batches, so it fries instead of steaming. I tried to get a good picture of this, but the photo didn't stick in the camera for some reason. Maybe it was a vampire pig or something.
While the meat is browning, work over the peppers. Anchos are the dried form of poblano peppers. They are not super-hot, and have wonderful flavor. This is what they look like:
Tear the peppers open; discard the seeds and stems. Chop the peppers into thumbnail-sized pieces, and cook them in a dry skillet for three to five minutes. This really enhances the flavor of the peppers, but don't put your face over the skillet; the steam coming off it bears a strong resemblance to pepper spray. Once the peppers have roasted, put them in a blender and grind them to coarse powder. Set them aside for now.
Once the meat is all browned, put a little of the stock in the pot (by the way, it's much cheaper if you freeze chicken bones and use them to make stock, and using bones from grilled or smoked birds gives a wonderful depth of flavor to the stock. My favorite is smoked turkey bones--that's what I used today). Anyway, put in a little of the stock, and use a spoon to scrape the fond loose from the bottom of the pot.
Now put in the meat, the hominy, the tomatoes, and the ground-up peppers. It will look like this:
Bring it to a boil, cover the pot, and put it in the oven. The flour thickens best at temperatures that aren't too high; cooking the pot in the oven directs a more gentle heat into the pot from every direction. If you were to boil the stew on the stove, the direct heat from the burner denatures some of the protein in the flour and inhibits the thickening reaction.
Bake the pot for an hour and a half or two hours. You don't have to be really precise with stew, it's not rocket science (I'll leave that stuff to the pastry makers). The finished product looks like this:
This bowl is garnished with corn tortillas. Luckily, we had a cold front roll through today, and by suppertime it was 40 degrees--much better for eating such a hearty stew.