Sunday, February 17, 2013

Winter rages on...fight back with POSOLE!

Weekends are my time for experimentations in the kitchen, and this past weekend, I had it in my mind to fashion a posole in the crock pot. I had received an email that City Market over in Burlington was offering a cooking workskop on Mexican Slow Cooking featuring posole-making that I wanted to attend, but it was on a night when I had class myself. So I decided to teach myself to make posole! In what I've gleaned from the interwebs, posole is a Mexican pork, chile, and hominy stew (a little like chili con carne but soupier), and there seem to be both red and white(?) varieties.

Sidebar: Clearly, posole is NOT a North Country staple (though it should be as an antidote to our subzero winters). When I stopped at Wal-Mart last night to pick up ingredients, I asked an employee for assistance finding hominy. She looked confused and yelled to her co-worker, "Hey, Kim! This lady's looking for HARMONY!" At this point, I interjected, "Aren't we all? But I'm actually looking for HOMINY!" And then "Kim" said, "Oh, you mean that big corn stuff? I think it's over here." And off we toddled to find the "big corn stuff." Sheesh.

Anyhoo...I perused a bunch of different recipes and cherry-picked the parts of each that appealed to me, and then conceived how I might use my crock pot to get the richness and depth of flavor from long, slow cooking. I made it into a two-day process, but WOW, were the results worth the wait! It was smoky, spicy, and ultra-satisfying as winter lingers like an unwelcome house guest.

Crock Pot Posole

2 quarts (8 cups) water
2 large (or 3 smaller) smoked ham hocks
2 large bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
about 1 1/2 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs (pork shoulder would do well, too)
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 dried ancho chilies
1 (15 oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 packets sazon de jamon
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cans hominy (yellow or white)
salt, to taste
1 tablespoon honey, optional

shredded cabbage (or cole slaw mix)
thinly-sliced radishes
lime wedges
cojita cheese crumbles
chopped cilantro leaves
sliced avocado
Mexican crema or sour cream

Place the water, smoked ham hocks, and bay leaves in the crock pot to simmer on low overnight (=eight hours). The next day, fish out the hocks, then cool, shred and reserve the meat. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet and brown the pork ribs on all sides. Remove the meat, then add the chopped onions to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until tender. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Into the ham stock in the crock pot, place the browned pork, the sautéed onions and garlic, the four dried ancho chilies, the can of tomatoes (with juice), and the seasonings--sazon de jamon packets, oregano, cumin, and black pepper. Cook on low for six hours or until the pork is tender. Remove the ribs, and cool, shred, and reserve the meat. Also take out the ancho chilies, removing the stems and most of the seeds. Using a stick blender, blend the softened chilies with a bit of the liquid until very smooth, then add the mixture it back into the pot. Blend the soup all together with the stick blender. When the soup has a smooth, uniform texture, stir in the reserved ham and pork and the two cans of hominy to heat through, another 30 minutes or so. (Drain the water off of the hominy, but stop draining when you get to the thicker, starchy liquid. You want that in your soup!) Season with salt to taste, and sweeten with a tablespoon of honey, if you prefer it.

Serve the soup piping hot with garnishes of any or all of the following: shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, fresh lime juice, crumbled cojita, cilantro leaves, avocado slices, and Mexican crema or sour cream.

Update (5/3/13): I made this again recently for my book club's "Dos de Mayo" gathering, and because the hostess is allergic to pork, I made it with two big smoked turkey legs instead of the ham hocks and pork shoulder. Worked GREAT, and tasted FABULOUS! About 95% as delicious as the pork version. ;-)


Vicki said...

Someone needs to invent a vegetarian ham hock. This sounds deelish! *sigh*

Joy Bugaloo said...

Yeah. A smoked turkey wing works for those that don't do ham, but not for the veggie people. But what about this recipe, Vick? Although I would use a can of fire-roasted tomatoes instead of fresh to get a little of that smoky flavor. And maybe add a little smoked paprika, too?

Joy Bugaloo said...

Ah-ha! The little packets of sazon de jamon (by Goya) are artifically ham-flavored. I'm sure I don't even want to know what that means, but using that instead of salt in the recipe would also get the flavor much closer to the carnivorous version.

David Scott said...

Wow! That looks delicious! I am going to have to try this. Definitely not the way we make it in New Mexico, though...we tend to keep it simple. I do you hope you are using real New Mexico Chile? You will be amazed at the difference in quality and flavor. I have found a good online source; here is a link to their version of posole:
Thanks for the recipe and please keep 'em coming!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you couldn't just us a little liquid Smoke! It might give you the Smokey flavor you are looking for. And they make a veggie chorizo you might us sometime also.

Joy Bugaloo said...

Great tips for sourcing "real" chiles, and for converting the recipe for the vegetarians among us. Thanks, folks!