Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Recipe: Pork green chile posole stew with nopales

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Last week I was lucky enough to attend A Taste of Santa Fe, a meet-and-greet put on by the Santa Fe and New Mexico visitors' bureaus and American Airlines at the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica. The event was mostly for travel professionals, but a few food bloggers made the list, and I'm glad we did, because we got to meet a couple of the folks who run the Santa Fe School of Cooking. They'd brought in a few dishes from Santa Fe restaurants - yes, flown the food in that morning ready to warm and plate - to show us what their Santa Fe restaurant tours are like.

I liked the bison short ribs from Rio Chama, something I'd never tasted before; they were bolder than beef but just as tender. The Frito pie from Plaza Cafe, served in an actual Frito bag, didn't do much for me. But the grilled shishito peppers that went with a sheep's-milk cheese and quince paste, from La Boca, were both adorable and tasty, and the roasted piquillo pepper stuffed with paella from Amavi was very nice. (See more photos from A Taste of Santa Fe.)

I was drawn to the prep table, which sported, among other things, a large bag of posole, the traditional New Mexican lime-treated corn. Nicole, the manager of the Santa Fe School of Cooking, kindly gave it me after I drilled her with questions about how to cook it and where to buy it locally. "You can't," she said, and handed me the bag. One less thing for them to pack to take home, so a win-win, but still, I was thrilled and grateful.

I must have been thinking about New Mexico earlier this fall, because when I saw New Mexico Hatch chiles at my wonderful local Bob's Market in Santa Monica in September, I bought a few pounds, roasted them, and froze them. Good thinking, hm? because they're perfect for posole. I got a few pounds of pork butt, cut into cubes. And then, at the farmer's market last weekend, I bought a little zip-top bag of cleaned and diced nopales - cactus paddles. I'm not actually sure if nopales are consistent with New Mexico, but what the heck.

I got up very early yesterday - darn clock change - but that gave me enough time to make this stew before I left for work. The whole house smelled like toasted corn, and meat, and warm spicy tangy. Made it hard to leave for the office, but gave me something to look forward to all day.

If you can't find dried posole, you can use canned hominy, but the dried stuff is really much better. The Santa Fe School of cooking has an online market where they sell all kinds of local foodstuffs. Note that the dried posole needs to be soaked before you cook it in the stew. And yes, it's spicy. Give your kids macaroni and cheese, just this once.

Pork green chile posole stew with nopales

  • 2 cups dried posole (substitute canned hominy if you must)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs pork butt or other pork stew meat, cubed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 4 New Mexico Hatch chiles, roasted, peeled and diced (substitute 1/2 cup canned green chiles)
  • 2 cups cleaned, diced nopales (cactus paddles)
  • 2 chicken broth cubes or packets (I am partial - no, maybe addicted - to Savory Choice Liquid Chicken Broth, thanks to my wonderful friend Rachel)
  • 1 tsp dried ground chipotle powder, or other chile powder (but NOT chili seasoning mix, which is mostly salt, anyway)
  • juice of 3 limes
The day before you plan to make the stew, put the posole in a pot, cover it with water by a few inches, and leave it to soak overnight.

Time to cook: In a large pot over high heat, heat the oil, salt and pepper the meat, and brown the pork on all sides. Remove the meat to a plate. Add the onions to the pot and stir to coat the onions with the pork juices. Saute the onions for 3-4 minutes, until they soften. Add the garlic and stir 30 seconds more.

Now add the pork and any juices on the plate, the soaked posole, the chiles, the nopales, the chicken broth cubes or packets, and the dried chile powder, and cover the whole mess with water. Bring it to a boil, turn down the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about two hours, or until the pork is tender and the posole is chewy and some of the kernels have started to - well, not explode, exactly, but open, sort of like little flowers. If, at this point, the stew looks too watery, take off the lid and simmer it a while longer, until things have reduced to your liking.

Add the lime juice - you'll definitely want a shot of acid at the end to balance everything out - and add more salt if you need to. Serve just as it is, with lots of broth, and maybe some fresh corn tortillas on the side.


Lentil Breakdown said...

Wow! Great post! I am posting my vegan blue posole tomorrow and made a nopales salad yesterday. I went to happy hour at La Boca. Didn't end up taking a cooking class at the Santa Fe school, but I went there to buy a few things. I brought back a small amount of fresh shishitos. Those are to die for! I am wondering if you can buy them at Japanese markets in L.A.

Erika Kerekes said...

@Lentil - you can get fresh Padron peppers from Weiser Farms at the farmers' market, or at least I've been able to get them for the last few weeks at the Saturday Virginia Park market in Santa Monica. Padrons are very similar to shishitos. I am also growing shishitos in my garden - picked about a dozen last week! I'm sure you can get them at Mitsuwa market on Centinela, too.

Amy said...

Nice work talking them into giving you the posole ;) and roasting your own chiles! The recipe looks excellent - like a real New Mexican, you didn't add too much extra stuff. When you have great chile and great posole, you don't need much else. I think the nopales are a great idea - not exactly traditional, but appropriate - there's a prickly pear cactus in practically every yard in NM, and their tangy flavor would be a perfect addition.

Erika Kerekes said...

@Amy - sounds like you know your New Mexico - are you a native?

sarah Mascorro said...

This sounds great gonna have to try it thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

I like this recipe but as a native New Mexican I had to laugh when you said "use canned hominy (if you must)" but then when it had the chiles you notated that you used canned. Canned is not a substitute for fresh or frozen green chiles. The canned variety are bland and tasteless. You would have been better off adding the "if you must" notation to the chiles.

Erika Kerekes said...

@Anon - no, I didn't use canned chiles - I said in the text that I had bought my annual batch of New Mexico Hatch chiles and roasted them at home. When I put in parentheses "(substitute canned etc.)" it meant that someone else could, if they needed do - as not everyone has access to fresh Hatch chiles. Fortunately, here in southern California, they are readily available in season. I agree, the canned ones are not an adequate substitute.

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