Updated: Aug 26, 2021
On certain mornings, the weather basically dictates what to cook (recipe link), and this past Sunday was one of those days. Mid-30s, gusts of northerly wind, a mixture of rain and snow falling from a steely sky, the kind of nadir-of-winter morning where the smartphone weather app simply states "you don't want any part of that." February is when I remind myself that there's a reason the majority of the human race lives within 25 degrees of latitude from the equator. Since I'm not lucky enough to be that close to the sun year-round, I spend at least one weekend per winter making my favorite warming stew: the Mexican posole rojo.
Posole is an indigenous, pre-conquistador dish from present-day Mexico. Essentially, it's a preparation of a large-kernel white corn not unlike the hominy we use to make grits. It can be green or red, it can feature pork or chicken, and it can be a thick stew or a thinner soup. Mexico has many varieties of corn, so you will see countless variations of this dish depending on which region you are in. One of the reasons I love this dish so much is how customizable it is, and how a few tweaks here or there will produce an entirely different result.
A few notes on the ingredients:
In the past, I'd use Goya-brand hominy (which is available everywhere). You're welcome to use it, but for this version I used Manning's (which I've only ever seen in Baltimore). I prefer the Manning's hominy because the kernels are little smaller, and it comes packed in some ground hominy as a binding agent, which does wonders for thickening the stew. Also, Manning's is originally a Baltimore company whereas Goya is a global megabrand, so choose accordingly.
Adjust the peppers to suit your taste. This version was not very spicy, but that can be fixed by adding a few more chiles de arbol. The ancho pasilla and guajillo peppers add a nice background of earthy, raisiny, and chocolately notes but do not contribute any heat.
Food processor or blender
Heavy-bottom pot or Dutch Oven
FOR THE POSOLE
1 pound (450g) pork shoulder or rib meat, diced into bite-sized cubes
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 can (20 ounces) of Manning's hominy
1 can (12 ounces) of Mexican lager
2 dried ancho pasilla peppers, stem and seeds removed
2 dried guajillo peppers, stem and seeds removed
2 dried chiles de arbol, stem and seeds removed
4 whole cloves of garlic
10 ounces (280g) chicken stock
e.v. olive oil
FOR THE GARNISH
1---In a small saucepan, bring about 2 cups of water to a boil. When boiling, remove from heat, add the ancho, guajillo, and chiles de arbol peppers to the water and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Ensure that the peppers are completely submerged and allow them to reconstitute for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2---After the peppers have reconstituted and are soft, place them in a food processor with the garlic, a dash of salt, and about a half-cup of the liquid from the saucepan. Pulse the mixture until there are no noticeable chunks of peppers or garlic. The result should be a thick paste, but you can add more of the liquid to achieve the desired consistency if you want a thinner stew.
3---Season the pork with salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, and allow it to come to room temperature. Place a heavy-bottom pot or Dutch Oven over medium high heat, and pour about 3 tablespoons of e.v. olive oil into the pan. When the oil begins to shimmer and becomes fragrant, brown the pork for about 5 minutes per side, working in batches so as not to crowd the pan. Remove the pork and set aside.
4---Add the diced onion and stir with a wooden spoon. After about 5-7 minutes, or when the onions become translucent and start to brown, pour in about 2/3 of the Mexican lager to deglaze the pot (chug the rest), scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pot while the beer reduces. When the beer has reduced by about half, pour in the pepper/garlic paste, the hominy, and return the pork. Stir to incorporate.
5---For a thicker, richer stew, pour in about 10 ounces of chicken stock. If you're going for more of a soup-like preparation, add chicken stock until the desired consistency is reached. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, add two bay leaves. Simmer with the lid ajar for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot.
6---Serve hot in a crock or earthenware bowl with the garnishes of your choice.