The gods in charge of finding new recipes were looking down on me last week.
While at the grocery store, aka my second home, the cashier was sorting and bagging my basket of items when she stopped to admire a bunch of colossal, red cherry radishes with their greens still attached.
I was purchasing them to simply slice, salt and nibble on.
She told me one of her favorite ways to use radishes is in posole (or pozole), a chile-laced Mexican pork and hominy stew, which she generously garnishes with sliced radishes and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
That got my mouth watering and stomach growling.
So I did a bit of research before tackling the dish.
Requiring an overnight soaking and an hour or so of cooking, dried hominy (also called posole) is dried corn treated with limestone. As in the case with beans, the best posole is the one you reconstitute from dried kernels, which are sold in many Latino markets. Dare I say, an alternative is canned posole.
In Diane Kennedy’s “The Cuisines of Mexico,” the original version of posole calls for half a pig’s head.
I also learned that in rural areas of Mexico, a ritual dance of fire building includes tediously pinching off the pointy nub of each lime-treated, half-cooked corn kernel, often starting the previous day.
Looking online I found two recipes that sounded more doable.
One used a pressure cooker, which I knew would significantly reduce the cooking time needed for a pull-apart tender pork, but the list of ingredients struck me as bland.
The other recipe turned dried chile pods into a magnificent red sauce that felt like authentic Mexican cooking, but it would take an afternoon of simmering.
It was a posole conundrum; I wanted it both ways. So as I often do when faced with a cooking challenge, I combined the two recipes.
I had no idea if this would work or turn into a hide-the-evidence-and-order-pizza disaster. But since I had purchased the pork shoulder and stopped at El Bori Mex Supermarket in Riverview for the chiles and oregano, I forged ahead.
My kitchen smelled divinely Mexican as I seared, blended and simmered.
Unique and deeply pleasurable, posole makes a meal that reminds you of the culinary magic of chiles. Tamed by the hominy and pork, it’s not too spicy.
Your steaming, fragrant bowls of posole should look hearty – chock full of hominy with bits of meat – but consistent enough to be thought of as a soup or brothy stew. If necessary, add more water.
Even with the pressure cooker, this “soup” still took a good deal of time to make. But don’t be intimidated, it yields a lot of stew that keeps very well and even improves for several days, when refrigerated.
You can serve up a low-fat version by substituting chicken for the pork or create a paleo version of posole by subbing celery, carrots or squash for the hominy.
I’m telling you if Mexico has the equivalent of my mama’s chicken soup, it’s posole.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.
Pork and Hominy Stew (Posole)
2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 cup water
3 cans (15 ounces each) white hominy, drained and rinsed
1 white onion cut in quarters
8 large garlic cloves
Sliced radishes and lime wedges, for serving
For the red sauce:
5 guajillo chiles, cleaned, seeded and deveined
5 ancho chiles, cleaned, seeded and deveined
6 garlic cloves
1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
Salt to taste
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to pressure cooker pot. Season pork with salt. Add the pork to the hot oil and cook until pieces are browned on all sides. When browned, remove to a large bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to the cooking pot. When hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and pork. Lock lid in place, increase the heat to high and bring the cooker up to pressure. (Read the pressure cooker manual for how this works with your particular cooker.) Reduce the heat to maintain the pressure and cook at high for 20 minutes. Remove the pressure cooker from the heat and let the pressure come down naturally, about 10 minutes.
Leave the remaining liquid in the pot, remove pork from cooking pot and using two forks shred it. Return pork to the pot with the reserved broth.
To make the sauce, soak the ancho and guajillo peppers in water just enough to cover for 25 - 30 minutes, until soft. Using a food processor or blender, blend the peppers with garlic cloves, chopped onion and oregano, adding some of the water in which they were soaking. Puree mixture until smooth.
Add chile puree and hominy to the pot with the pork and broth. Simmer on medium heat about 25 minutes. Salt to taste. Serve the posole in large soup bowls with radishes and lime juice.