Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Posole, and a Little Sous Chef

Posole, a hominy and pork soup, uses inexpensive shoulder, or Boston butt.
Posted at 4:09 PM
This past weekend my 3 year olds were sick — and crabby and irrational. And that's different, how? Oh, right. It's even more fun for their 7-year-old brother to rattle their cage. All. The. Time. Think "monkey house on Mountain Dew." The sun was shining, the air was crisp, and the universe had launched its plot to drive me mad. It was working.

As I started on a pork and hominy soup called posole, the kids tussled over a little car. Someone yelled in pain. I glanced over. No blood. Good. None of them normally cared about the car, but this particular afternoon two of them chased the car snatcher, yelling and knocking through the kitchen like Capital One barbarians. The moment I leaned into the fridge, someone rammed my backside, nearly planting my nose in the onions.

I snapped at the younger two as I chased them toward the basement. "You're going to play downstairs and be happy, right now!" To big brother, I ordered, "You. You stay with me!"

"I'm bored!" my son whined immediately.

"Here, peel this onion," I blurted. I just knew he'd bicker and I'd lecture him ... But he accepted the two halves of the Vidalia, sat at the kitchen table and started pulling off the outer layer.

He wasn't arguing. He always argued ... to play the Wii, play his DS, watch Sponge Bob, avoid homework, delay bedtime, ... But he wasn't. We weren't.

"Here," I said as the band of tension around my shoulders loosened. "Have another one."

At the kitchen table, we fell into a rythm. I cut an onion lengthwise, he peeled the halves and handed them back, I chopped.

"What's this for?" he asked?

"I'm making posole, you know, that corn soup you asked about last week."

"All right!"

Like me, he gets stoked over Mexican food: homemade tamales, flaky empanadas or our little invention, taco nachos - hors d'oeuvre sized "tacos" made of tortilla scoops, taco filling and cheese. Recently he had asked for "that corn soup" — the cumin-flavored soup of pork shoulder and hominy that we had eaten a lot last winter.

We started chatting about little things, school and food. "Do you want to help cook?" I asked as I turned the heat on under my Dutch oven. "You can bring a chair to the stove."

"Yeah," he said, unusually engaged.

"Ok, first pour in the oil," I instructed, handing him the olive oil and a small measuring cup. "Then you can dump in the onions. Stir them a little until they get soft and more clear. And make sure you don't lean too close or your T-shirt'll catch fire."

I stayed at his right hand, ready to save him from immolation, but he worked carefully. He measured and added the seasonings and I put in the pork and broth before tucking the pot into the oven for a couple hours.

He asked if I was putting the soup into my blog. Sure, I planned to write about this. Could he do it too? Could he! When I helped him start his blog, I'd been hoping he'd practice a little writing instead of playing with the Wii so much.

He spent the next half hour or so putting thoughts into words, checking spelling with me, asking if I could help load a picture into his blog.

I didn't need the soup to warm me inside.

The posole that we made Sunday includes apple, the tarter the better. It won't be too fruity. The apple dissolves into the soup. You could also try adding a strip of orange peel (remove the pith, which is the white fleshy part). If you have time you could use dried posole in place of the ready-to-use canned hominy. My son and his siblings happily emptied their bowls, no argument.

Posole Recipe
Pork Shoulder and Hominy Soup
Serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup olive oil (or canola or corn oil)
2 onions, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, smashed with side of knife
1 apple, roughly cubed or diced
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon chili powder
3 pounds pork shoulder (mine was cut as "country style ribs")*
1 quart (4 cups) low salt chicken broth (or homemade pork broth if you have it)

1 to 2 Tablespoons cumin
2 (15 ounce) cans hominy, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper

roasted pepper (poblano, jalapeno or bell pepper)

optional garnishes: cilantro sprigs, lime wedges, crispy tortilla chips or fried tortilla strips, shredded lettuce or shredded cheese, sliced avocado, roasted tomatillo salsa


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add oil to Dutch oven over medium flame. Cook onions, garlic and apple over medium to medium-low heat until onions soften and turn translucent.
Add oregano and chili powder and stir into the onions. Cook one minute.

2. Season pork with salt and pepper, then add to pot. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and place into the oven until pork easily pulls apart, about 2 hours.

3. Remove soup from oven, and let sit covered 30 minutes. Remove pork and pull apart with two forks or your fingers. Discard fat.**
Return pork to pot, stir in 1 Tablespoon cumin and the hominy. Taste. Add more cumin and salt and pepper if needed. Simmer covered, over low heat, for 20 minutes more.

Top with strips or pieces of roasted pepper. Also add other garnishes as desired.

Use leftover meat to make pulled-pork sandwiches.
* You can get two meals by cooking once if you use a larger package of meat than you need for soup. When I cook extra pork shoulder, I like to use the meat for pulled-pork and cucumber sandwiches or for a meat sauce to go with pasta.
** You can remove more fat from the soup by skimming the oil from the top before returning the meat to the pot. If you make the soup a day ahead, you also can refrigerate the soup separately from the meat and then spoon off the fat that collects on the top. When ready to serve, put the pork back into the soup, add the cumin, hominy and any needed salt and pepper and simmer.

Below: My son wanted to demonstrate mixing in the hominy.

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