May 16, 2011

Rainy Day Posole Verde Remedy

Spring this year has been strange. Cool and very very wet in California. And while we understand that April showers bring May flowers, we are still waiting for the April showers to stop and for the cold nights to go to sleep in wake of our "normal" Bay weather pattern.

Thusly, I still find myself in soup/stew mode. I have been eating alot of Posole Verde this year while frequenting Aunt Mary's in the Temescal district of Oakland, these cold Sunday mornings, and finally decided to make it myself. Jack's version at the Cafe is deeply warming and served with a hearty Chevre Corn Cake in the middle. Since we watch carbs in our house, because Troy is diabetic, I decided for my home version, I would leave this out and instead source really good whole dried posole from Steve Sando's wildly successful company Rancho Gordo. Troy, walking by the kitchen looked in the bowl of lightly salted water and posole said, "what are those corn nuts?"

Well yes, kind of. Funny that I have not thought about corn nuts in a long time. Anyhow, good dried posole corn does look alot like corn nuts. It has been pre-slaked,"to render slack", so that you only have to soak it overnight and then cook it another couple of hours for the corn to absorb the bright, roasted, smokey, green chile flavor of the stew. Alternatively, you can use the canned hominy, available in Mexican markets, but I find that kind of hominy, is slightly rubbery, and not at all what I envisioned for my version of this stew.

I also sourced and used really tasty and organically farmed Becker Lane Pork butt for my stew. I don't know where Aunt Mary's gets their pork, but Becker Lane is really good and readily available at nearby Berkeley Bowl West. They run a certified organic and animal welfare approved farm in Iowa, I know, not local, but I decided to go that way this time. Everything else that went into my stew was either made by me or sourced locally.

This recipe takes some time to put together, but is easily worked into whatever you plan for the rest of your weekend. I cut up the pork and seasoned it, put it into my oven in my lovely Bram ceramic pot with some homemade chicken stock for a couple of hours on Saturday, and set my posole corn to soak. Then I went about my day, going off the to Farmer's Market with Lucia. When we returned with our bounty, I simply took the pork out of the oven to cool. And that was that for Saturday prep.

On Sunday, I roasted off the poblano peppers, the onion, and the tomatillos on the gas burner on my stove top. If you are working with an electric stove, then simply roast the vegetables in a 400 degree oven until they are nicely charred and soft. I never remove the charred skins, as I love the black flecks and the smokey flavor that it adds, but you can remove them if you like. If you prefer your stew less smokey and more spicy, leave in most of the chili seeds too. I left in a few, but since I wanted Lucia to love this stew as much as I do, I composted most of them.
If you plan your prep you will reap the benefits of having this lovely warming stew to enjoy at the end of a busy weekend. Top with some creamy tart sour cream or chevre, some freshly shredded napa cabbage and cilantro and a good squeeze of lime. I also topped ours with a little chopped radish, as I love the bite that it lends, but you can do without if you wish.

M'Lisa's Pork Posole Verde

1 cup and 1/2 dried posole or 1 can hominy
2 cup tomatillos, husked and cleaned
4 poblano chiles
4 medium onions, divided
7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons allepo pepper, divided
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder, divided
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican), divided
sea salt to taste
1 3-pound boneless pork butt or loin
5 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
5 large garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons ground cumin
4 limes, each cut into wedges
Chopped fresh cilantro
shredded napa cabbage
shredded carrot
thinly sliced radishes
cotijo or chevre cheese or a drizzle of sour cream

The day before, soak dried hominy in lightly salted water overnight, drain.

Over a low flame on the stovetop, blacken the poblanos and the scrubbed tomatillos until blacked, cracked and soft. There will be alot of popping while these are roasting, so stand back a bit. Turn with tongs to blacken all sides. You can peel these if you like, but I like to use the charred skins to add more smokey flavor. Put the roasted veg into a brown paper bag, close tight and set aside to steam.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Thinly slice 2 onions. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions to pot and sauté until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon allepo, chile powder and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oregano; stir to coat. Sprinkle pork with salt and add to pot. Add 5 cups broth. Bring to boil. Cover and transfer to oven.

Braise pork until tender enough to shred easily, about 2 hours. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to large bowl. Pour juices into another large bowl. Refrigerate separately uncovered until cool, then cover and keep chilled overnight.

Discard fat from top of chilled juices; reserve juices. Chop pork into 1/2-inch cubes, discarding excess fat.

Thinly slice remaining 2 onions. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until soft, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons allepo and chile powder, remaining 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oregano, diced chiles, garlic, and cumin; stir 30 seconds. Blend vegetables with an immersion blender. Add pork, reserved juices, and hominy. Bring to boil; reduce heat to low.

Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend, adding more broth to thin, if desired.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cool. Cover and keep chilled.
Re-warm before continuing.

Ladle posole into bowls. Garnish with lime wedges, a mixture of napa cabbage and shredded carrots and thinly sliced watermelon radishes. Top with Cotoja or chevre cheese or a drizzle of sour cream.

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