Sunday, January 11, 2015

Posole Verde

I've been back in the U.S. for the holidays for a few weeks now and tonight we're making one of my favorite meals. Posole Verde. I've already written up a recipe for Posole Rojo hereMany Mexican restaurants serve an orangey, red chili pozole, but I prefer the spring green, tomatillo version - when given a choice between a red or green sauce, I always choose green.

Pozole is pork and nixtamalized corn stew. First you make a delicious tomatillo and poblano pepper soup base, thickened with raw, green pepitas that give a creamy mouth feel. The pork is browned and then stewed in the soup until it falls apart, then buttery tasting hominy is added part way through, creating a hearty meal.

I like to add a small dollop of sour cream on the soup, and serve with corn tortillas, slices of avocado and limes, and chipotles on the side. Mmmm.


For the stew:
3-4 pounds of well marbled, boneless pork ribs, cut into approximately 1 inch cubes and trimmed of excess fat
2 large cans of hominy, drained and rinsed
2 tetrapak boxes of chicken or pork broth
1 medium sized, yellow onion, diced fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 ½  tbsp Mexican oregano
½ tbsp cumin

For the soup base:
20 medium sized tomatillos cut into quarters or eighths, roughly all the same sized pieces
1 medium sized yellow onion, diced (medium sized, but leaning toward the smaller side)
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 - 2 serrano peppers, cut in half
3 poblano peppers
½ cup of chicken broth
3 tbsp olive or corn oil
2 tbsp pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1 tbsp, whole Mexican oregano crushed

Serve with:
Avocado slices
Warmed corn tortillas
Lime wedges
Cilantro, rough chopped
Canned chipotle peppers

In a large stockpot, add half the pork and heat the pan to medium-high or high. Heating the meat slowly will help to render the fat out of the meat, making additional oils unnecessary. Sprinkle the meat with a large pinch of kosher salt. Brown the meat and then remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl (to collect any juices). Add the other half of the meat to the same pot, salt and brown the same way. Remove to the bowl when browned.

In the same pot, add your diced onion and saute over medium-high heat until translucent. Add the garlic and bay leaves and cook until garlic is softer. Add the crushed Mexican oregano and the halved serrano pepper(s), saute for about a minute.

Tip the meat and any juices that have accumulated into the pot and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to deglaze. Add the chicken broth and turn heat to medium-high, the pot should be just slowly bubbling, for about 1 hour or until meat is tender. While you wait, make the soup base.

First, roast the poblano peppers. Turn on your oven’s broiler to high. Wipe down the peppers with a mostly dry paper towel, then make a small cut just to allow steam to escape. Rub very lightly with olive oil to speed browning. Place under the broiler until skin is blackened on one side. Flip using tongs.

When both sides are blackened and blistered, remove from oven and place in a makeshift pouch made from aluminum foil so they can steam, making the skin easier to slide off. Leave for 5 minutes, then carefully peel skin off. Remove stem and seeds, if you feel like your peppers are very spicy. Set aside.

In a large, high sided pan add slightly less than 1 tbsp of olive oil, swirl and heat over medium high heat. Add half your cut tomatillos and halved serrano pepper, add a sprinkle of salt and cook until liquid has accumulated and all tomatillos and peppers are soft. About the consistency you’d expect of a roasted tomato. Remove to a different bowl and repeat with the other half of the tomatillos, removing them to the same bowl as the others when cooked.

In the same pan, add the rest of the olive oil (it should be a little more than 1 tbsp left after the second batch of tomatillos). Heat over medium heat and add the onion. Saute until translucent, add the garlic and pepitas and saute until garlic is soft and pepitas are mildly toasted.

Now we liquify it. Put the softened tomatillos and serrano pepper plus all their juices into a blender or food processor and whirl until liquified. Add one roasted, peeled and seeded poblano pepper at a time to make sure the sauce is uniform. This is also when you should add the Mexican oregano, some salt to taste and half the chicken broth. Pulse and beware of whirling on high for too long. The oil used to saute the ingredients can make the sauce cloudy looking and frothy if whipped too much because it emulsifies. When liquid, add back to the pan with the onions, garlic and pepitas and cook until it is just slightly bubbling. This helps to blend the flavors.

Sauce should have the mild sweetness and sourness of the tomatillo, a light kick of spice on the back of the throat, and a silky mouth feel. If too sour, add a small pinch of baking soda. If more spice is desired, add part of another serrano pepper to the mix and lightly spin in the food processor once more.

By now, the pork should be tender and able to be cut with a spoon or easily pulled apart with two forks or your fingers. The broth should be slightly reduced and thickened with the browned juices we deglazed earlier and more rendered fat from the pork. If this fat bothers you, you can wait for the broth to cool and skim off the top, but this requires an EXTRA day of waiting, and honestly it adds a delicious silkiness to the stew.

At this point, add the drained and rinsed hominy, turn the heat up to a busy, but not rolling boil. Add a ladleful of green sauce at a time until you reach the desired ratio. I add all of it myself, as I love tomatillos and I like it to be stewy.

Cook until hominy is nice and soft, about 10 minutes.

Serve with lime wedges to squeeze into the soup, a sprinkle of freshly chopped cilantro and warmed corn tortillas. I’d highly recommend pozole pork tacos, which are made with the pork and hominy from the stew in a corn tortilla with a little sour cream, a little chipotle and a few slices of a slightly firm avocado. Delicious.

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