Friday, December 31, 2010

new favorite

The people at Cook's Country magazine come across as mad food scientists.  They make and remake and mess with and test a recipe so many times that it makes me impatient just reading about it.  The result is typically a reliable recipe, but sometimes involves ingredients I'd rather not keep on hand (anybody keep apple brandy in the cabinet??).

In the case of their "New Mexican Pork Stew", the result is a delicious and fairly simple posole.  When deciding to make this recipe, I did something I really shouldn't do.  I decided to make an ethnic dish from a recipe when I had never tasted any other version of the dish, good or bad.  I've attempted this foolishness with varied results.  Spanikopita was only so-so.  Korean bulgogi was actually pretty great.  And so was this posole.  The problem is, I don't know whether these recipes even begin to approximate the authentic dish.  If you're some kind of posole expert, please enlighten me.  I guess when it comes right down to it, I don't particularly care--this stew is that good.

Many meals in our home either start out spicy or get some kind of spice added to them later (red pepper flake, jalapenos, sambal).  This was not one of those meals, and yet we both found it immensely satisfying.  The ancho chiles, which Wikipedia tells me are a dried poblano, are not particularly spicy.  Instead, they are smoky and earthy.  Between the chiles and the intensely corny hominy, this dish reminds me of the first particularly earthy Mexican dish I ate, a tortilla soup at La Mestiza in Madison.  This is one recipe that will be going into our regular rotation.

One major benefit of Cook's Country (and they don't pay me to say this) is the mad scientist's report on the process which led to the recipe.  While mind-bogglingly involved, it does provide the justification for each step of the recipe that might seem unnecessary, like, say, browning hominy.  Steps that I might be tempted to skip, which would be very silly of me.  I will not be typing up Cook's Country's introduction to the recipe.  Just trust me and follow the directions.  As a side-note, the pork ribs from our butcher had little bones in a few of them, but they had no adverse effect.  Just pull them out when you shred the pork.  Also, my grocery store doesn't carry 15-ounce cans of hominy, so I went with two huge 28-ounce cans.  The more hominy, the better, I say.

New Mexican Pork Stew (Posole)
from Cook's Country-January 2011

3/4 oz dried ancho chiles (about 3 chiles)
8 c low-sodium chicken broth (I used homemade)
2 lbs boneless country-style pork ribs
salt & pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 (15-oz) cans white hominy, rinsed and drained well
2 onions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tbsp lime juice
chopped avocado, cabbage, and radishes for serving (optional)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place chiles on baking sheet and bake until puffed and fragrant, about 6 minutes.  When chiles are cool enough to handle, remove seeds and stems.  Combine chiles and 1 cup broth in medium bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave until bubbling, about 2 minutes.  Let stand until softened, 10 to 15 minutes.

Pat pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Cook pork until well browned all over, about 10 minutes.  Transfer pork to plate.  Add hominy to now-empty pot and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and hominy begins to darken 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer hominy to medium bowl.

Heat remaining oil in now-empty pot over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Puree onion mixture with softened chile mixture in blender.  Combine remaining broth, pureed onion-chile mixture, pork, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon sald, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in now-empty pot and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until meat is tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer pork to clean plate.  Add hominy to pot and simmer, covered, until tender, about 30 minutes.  Skim fat from broth.  When meat is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces, discarding fat.  Return pork to pot and cook until heated through, about 1 minute.  Off heat, add lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper.

Posole can be refrigerated in airtight container for 3 days.  We did not really skim the fat off the soup, thus the shiny spots in the photo.  We did, however, scrape some of the congealed, bright-orange fat off the top of our leftovers before reheating.  Only some though.  Matt's turned me into an animal-fat fan.

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