Our friend B is from Albuquerque, New Mexico. That means not only does he recognize all of the landmarks in Breaking Bad, but he also makes a mean posole. He makes this spicy pork and hominy stew every year for the holiday caroling party that he and his wife host, and every year they have to tear me away from the crock, even the times when it’s so spicy that my eyes burn and turn bloodshot and I break out into hives. I may look like a meth addict, but, fear not, it’s just a pepper problem. Half of my taste buds say yes, and the other half (along with my entire immune system) say nooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
This is my toned-down gringo version of posole. It has all the authenticity of the traditional dish with none of the pain. I add half of the pepper paste in the beginning of the cooking time. Later, I taste and tailor how much more I add at the end depending on how potent my particular peppers are. Then I serve more pepper paste at the table for people to customize their own bowls. Feel free to increase the peppers even more if you enjoy the sensation of a thousand Africanized bees attacking your face.
Hominy is a type of hard-kernel white or yellow corn that is precooked in an alkaline solution to remove the hull. The resulting kernels swell up to the size of garbanzo beans and they're equally tender. They add a mild, tortilla-like flavor to the stew. You can buy hominy in cans (Goya is one brand) in the ethnic section of the grocery store. You can also buy it frozen or dried. If dried, you will need to soak it overnight and expect a longer cooking time.
8-10 dried New Mexico chiles (look for big bags in the ethnic aisle of the store)
2-4 cups hot water
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 lb. pork shoulder (with or without bone)
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 cups chicken stock (or two cups plus one cup of beer)
1 bay leaf
1 29-oz. can hominy, strained and rinsed
Salt and black pepper to taste
Diced avocado, fresh cilantro, and sour cream for topping
(Other options: shredded cabbage, sliced radishes)
Place the dried chiles in a large bowl and cover them with hot water. Set a small plate on top to weigh them down if necessary. Let them soak 15-20 minutes until softened.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven. Dry off the pork shoulder with paper towels and season it with plenty of salt and pepper. Brown the pork on all sides over medium-high heat, letting it sit on one side without moving until browned, then repeat on the next side, then the next, etc.
While the pork is browning, remove the peppers from the soaking water (reserve the water). Pull off the stems and remove most of the seeds from the hot peppers. Be careful not to touch your eyes or any other sensitive areas with your hands while working with hot peppers. You only have to learn that lesson once. Add the peppers to a blender and pour in enough of the soaking water to allow the mechanism to puree the mixture smoothly. You want a fluid reddish-brown slurry with no chunks. Pour the pepper mixture into a small bowl and set aside.
Remove the pork from the pot and place it on a large plate. Reduce the heat to medium and immediately add the chopped onion. Sauté until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cumin and oregano and stir briefly. Then add the chicken stock (and beer, if you like). Drop in the bay leaf. Stir in about half of the hot pepper paste. Add the pork and its juices back to the pot and increase the heat. Add enough of the reserved pepper soaking water that the cooking liquid comes halfway up the side of the meat. Reserve the rest of the soaking water in case you need to add more later. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a low simmer. Cook until tender, turning the meat occasionally, for about 3 hours.
Add the hominy and continue to simmer, uncovered, for another hour or until the pork is practically falling apart. Remove the bay leaf. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and pull it apart into bite-sized chunks. Return the meat to the pot. Taste to determine if it needs more pepper paste. Add as much as you want, reserving some for the table. If the broth is too thick, you can thin it with some of the pepper soaking water. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the stew with the toppings of your choice. I like cilantro, diced avocado, and maybe a bit of sour cream.
[To make this dish in a crockpot, you can brown the meat on the stovetop (or skip that part). When you get to the fourth paragraph, just add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker. Cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions, adding the hominy during the last hour or two of cooking. Pick up at the fifth paragraph where it says: Remove the bay leaf.]