Every Mexican nana anywhere in the US or Mexico has a special, probably complicated, and delicious posole recipe. But you shouldn’t feel intimidated. You can make a delicious posole, basically a pork and hominy stew, for a family dinner or a dinner with friends without much fuss. You can have the basic stew or fancy it up with condiment add ins.
The thing that differentiates posole from ordinary beef stew is the hominy. My friend Michele Schulz wrote about hominy in a recent blog:
“Nixtamalization is the hominy making process and has been fundamental to Mesoamerican cuisine since ancient times. Among the Lacandon Maya who inhabited the tropical lowland regions of eastern Chiapas, the caustic lime powder was obtained by toasting freshwater shells over a fire for several hours. In the highland areas of Chiapas and throughout much of the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize Valley and Petén Basin, limestone was used to make slaked lime for steeping the shelled kernels. The Maya used nixtamal to produce beers and when bacteria were introduced to nixtamal, a type of sourdough was created.
“Alkalinity helps dissolve hemicellulose, the major adhesive component of the cell walls, loosening hulls from the kernels and softening them. Soaking kills the seed’s germ, keeping it from sprouting while in storage. In addition to providing a source of dietary calcium, the lye or lime reacts with the corn so the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive tract.”
Unlike the ancient Mayans, you won’t have to grind seashells to make your posole. This simple recipe today uses canned hominy which is widely available in grocery stores in the West. Or if you are ready for some culinary fun, you can do what Savor Sister Amy did and make your own hominy from corn. Or maybe you just want to read about it!
To make our easy version of posole, start with some pork roast (not the loin , too lean) cut in chunks and some chopped onion. If you have a slow cooker, this makes things easy because you don’t have to keep an eye on it. Or you can use a heavy pot on your stove. You’ll cook it until the pork is tender, about 2 hours.
Once the pork is tender, add the hominy and the chile sauce. The bouillion adds a little umami and savoriness and lifts the flavor. Don’t forget the salt. The dish will taste flat without it. How much chile sauce you add depends on the spiciness of the sauce and your taste. It should have a little kick but not burn your tongue.
While the posole is cooking, assemble the condiments which can include green onions, radishes, cilantro, avocado and lime wedges.
2-2 1/2 pounds pork stew meat
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 cup water
1 teaspoon Better than Bouillon or a bouillon cube
1 25-ounce can posole
1/4-1/2 cup chile sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Finely shredded cabbage
Combine the pork chunks, the onion, garlic, and water in a slow cooker or heavy pan (like a Dutch oven), and simmer until the pork is very tender, about two hours. Flavor with salt and pepper. Add the hominy and the red chile sauce and heat. It should be a little soupy. Ladle into bowls and pass the condiments.
Carolyn Niethammer has been writing about Southwest food for decades and had published five cookbooks. You can find recipes from renown Southwest chefs in the New Southwest Cookbook, recipes for edible wild plants in Cooking the Wild Southwest, and the history of food in the Santa Cruz basin and the arrival of agriculture in what is now the United States in her latest book A Desert Feast.
Her website is www.cniethammer.com.