The first time I’d ever heard of “posole” we were in Santa Fe having dinner at the home of a friend. It was cold and snowy and she wanted us to taste this stew she had prepared. It was the perfect meal for a winter evening-warm and spicy, filled with chunks of pork and this white corn which is similar to hominy. I enjoyed it, but J. was completely won over and from then on made it a point to search for posole every time we went to a Mexican restaurant.
It turns out that outside of New Mexico, this really isn’t the easiest dish to find in a restaurant, which means I had to start making it at home. Armed with my cook book from the great Cafe Pasqual in Santa Fe, I set out to recreate this stew. The hardest part was finding the “posole” which is white field corn that has been processed to remove its hard outer husk. If you use dried posole, it takes about five hours to cook. Fresh-frozen cooks in about two to three hours. I’ve made it both ways, but in recent years I’ve resorted to using canned hominy which is the closest thing I’ve been able to find.
I must admit that I only make this dish once a year, usually around New Years. In the southwest it is considered a holiday dish to be shared with friends and family. If you eat it on New Year’s Day you will have luck all year long!
2 packages (3/4 lb. each) dried posole
10 ounces pork shoulder (I use more) trimmed of fat and cut into cubes
2 cups green chile sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 white onion, finely diced
4 dried new Mexican chiles
2 tablespoons chile powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 quart water
in a frying pan warm dried red chilies over medium heat for about 6 minutes, turning over once or twice. Remove chiles, remove the seeds and stems and place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. After the chiles are softened place in a blender with a little of the smoking liquid and puree.
If using fresh-frozen posole, rinse it well under cold water. Place all of the ingredients (including the pureed chiles) in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until the kernels have opened up and are tender, 2-1/2 to 5 hours, depending on the type of posole. Add water as needed. when the stew is ready it should have the consistency of a thick soup. Adjust seasoning and serve with traditional garnishes of slced radish, avocado chunks, lime wedges and tortilla strips.
Green Chile Sauce
About 1-1/2 pounds fresh, mild green New Mexican chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 2 cups)
About 3/4 pound fresh, hot New Mexican chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
4 cups water
1/2 white onion, cut into medium dice
2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons flour
Place all the ingredients, except the oil and flour, in a large saucepan over medium heat. Simmer uncovered, until juice has thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
In a small bow whisk together oil and flour. Place in a saucepan over medium-high heat until hot and bubbling. Reduce the heat to low and whisk constantly until the roux is slightly brown and has a nutty flavor. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 cup green chile mixture to the roux and whisk until smooth. Add the roux to the remaining chile mixture and cook over low heat until the sauce thickens and the flour taste disappears, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Makes about 3-1/2 cups.
Making the green chile sauce really is the bulk of the work in making posole. Once you’ve done that, it’s easy to throw all the ingredients in the pan and let it simmer away. If you can’t find dried or fresh-frozen posole and end up using canned hominy (which you can find in the Mexican section of the grocery store), the stew should cook for about 2-1/2 hours and add the hominy in the last 45 minutes.