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Sunday, February 12, 2017

New Mexican Posole

Ten years ago I moved to New Mexico and became more acquainted with its tasty regional cuisine. I was familiar with posole, a kind of pork stew, but didn't know how to cook it. Early on I did an internet search and combined several recipes until I came up with a dish that I think compares favorably with posole I get in restaurants. (I make few claims to authenticity since I'm an immigrant to the state.) I find New Mexican posole recipes differ slightly from those for Mexican pozole, many of which call for canned hominy and are more like soup than a stew. Using frozen or dried posole retains a chewiness in the corn which isn't as apparent in the canned form. Posole is often cooked in New Mexico as a Christmas tradition but it is good anytime, especially since it easy to put together. This is one of those foods that should be cooked often since the smell is part of the joy of cooking it.

For information about hominy, nixtamal, and posole (pozole) see this post.


New Mexican Posole

Serves: 10-12

This makes a very large pot of stew. It can be frozen for later use or you can modify this by halving the ingredients.

In New Mexico frozen nixtamal or posole is easy to find. See note at the bottom if you can find only dried.

1 2-pd bag frozen posole or 1 pd dried
1 teas salt or to taste
2 pd bone-in pork shoulder (you can use boneless and pre-cut, if you desire), cut in 1-inch cubes
2 large onions, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 T dried Mexican oregano (which is from the verbena family) substitute regular oregano if you don't have access to this--you can buy some in a Mexican grocery or grow it
1-2 cans chicken broth
red chile sauce--homemade, easily from red Hatch chile pods for most authentic flavor, see below

Start by making the red chile sauce:

If you don't have easy access to Hatch or New Mexican red chile you may want to substitute with anchos which are ripe and dry poblanos. Or combine with pasillas (dried chilaca peppers).

I use mostly mild chiles so I get the flavor but not all the heat. If you and all those dining with you will like it hot, choose hot chiles.

6 mild chiles and 2 (or more) hot chiles
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 teas salt

Wipe the dust off the chile with a damp paper towel. I usually tear off the stems and remove most the seeds because I can't handle too much heat. Roast the chile on a hot cast iron griddle or skillet (or comal, if you have one) but only for about 15 seconds on each side. The chile will darken and become more aromatic. Place all the chile in a saucepan and cover with water. Add the garlic and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for at least 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly or more and place the chile in a blender with about 1/2 c of the boiling liquid. Blend until smooth and set aside.

For the posole:

Pour the posole into a colander and rinse. Check for damaged corn and remove. Place in a saucepan and salt and cover with water. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook until the posole starts to "pop". It seems strange to me that even wet corn has this propensity, but it really does puff out of shape. It doesn't go as big as popcorn but it definitely changes shape. It will become chewy and release some starch into the water (this is good stuff).

For the stew:

Many recipes call for the use of lard to brown the pork in. This is a traditional fat to cook posole in. You can use a tablespoon of vegetable oil if you prefer or you can render the fat from some of the fat cap on the shoulder roast. Throw some pieces of fat into the pot on medium heat and allow it to "melt". When you've got a tablespoon or so of melted fat, remove the pieces of crispy fat and brown the cubed pork over medium high heat.  Lower the heat to medium and add the onions and allow to cook until soft. Add the garlic and allow to cook for a minute until no longer raw but not burned. Add the Mexican oregano.

Pour in chicken broth and deglaze the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the posole corn and some cooking liquid, depending on how much remains. (I often cook the pork and the corn separately until the point I think the pork is tender, about one and a half to two hours.) You can add some red chile sauce at this point to posole and to the meat mixture.  Start with a couple of tablespoons first. When the meat has cooked through taste it and add more red sauce if you desire. The color of your posole will depend on how much red sauce you put in. Taste for salt, too, and add more if needed. Remember that you can serve the posole with red chile sauce to pass so diners can tweak the heat to their preference.

Once combined, allow to continue to simmer for about 30 minutes or more until you like the thickness of the broth. The longer you cook it the more starches are released. Serve with garnishes more more red sauce.


Use any or all of these:

chopped cilantro
lime wedges
chopped green onions or shallots
sliced radishes
finely shredded cabbage
chopped green chile (you can use jalapenos, poblanos, anaheim or you can char and peel them before chopping if you desire)


I've talked with New Mexicans who make their red sauce using the powdered form of red chile. This might be easier to find than whole chile.

You can find instructions for cooking this with dry posole (for example see the article above and this). Since I've not tested which steps to take, I can't tell you the best method of cooking it. Next time I make posole, I'll try it with dried posole so I can make personal recommendations.

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