There seems to be a debate as to whether posole is a soup or a stew. Most people here seem to think of it as a soup. In New Mexico, where I lived for 12 years, it's considered a stew. Posole has it's roots in Mexico, to be sure, where it is served as a soup. The soup is made with a special type of corn, which has been slaked (soaked) in a solution of lime. Treating corn with lime to remove the tough skins was probably a technique the early Meso-American cultures passed on to the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico. This corn, called posole, is the basis of a dish by the same name, which is made of hominy and pork.
Posole comes in several colors, depending upon the type of chili used. Some people use green chili. We always used red chili in New Mexico, but my husband told me that the first time he had posole, it was pure white. Pure white or not, the heat of the chilis used in that posole was enough to make one diner literally scream, and burst into a spontaneous sweat! So posole comes in the colors of the Mexican flag - red, white and green.
If you live in a place where you can obtain the dried, treated corn, you can start by soaking it overnight in water. You will want to change the water after a couple of hours, and then change it again in the morning when you wake up. Then you can cook it by bringing it to a boil in salted water, turning down the heat and simmering it for a couple of hours, or until the corn is soft. You will want to change the water once during the cooking.
Alternatively, you can buy a can of posole. They can be found in the Mexican food section of most grocery stores. (At least, here in the west they can. I don't know about the east coast. If someone wants to let me know, I'd be interested.) I've used them and found them to be an acceptable substitute.
You start by cubing some pork. You can use pork chops, a pork roast, or whatever version of pork you might have on hand. Depending upon the size of the can of posole you are using, you will need enough meat to have your final stew be slightly more than 1/3 pork to 2/3 hominy. If you wind up with half and half, that's fine.
Chop a large onion, and mince 3 cloves of garlic. Put some oil in a large, heavy pot and sautee the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent - about 3-4 minutes. Add the meat and cook on medium high heat, turning often. Reduce your heat and add red chili + powder * to taste. I never measure, but I'm assuming I use at LEAST a couple of tablespoons. But remember, I like my food spicy! So you might want to start out with less, depending upon the heat of your chili. You can always add more if it's too tame.
Stir the meat until it is coated with the chili, and then add about 2 cups of chicken broth, depending upon how much meat you've got. At this point, I throw in a healthy dash of oregano and a well rounded teaspoon of cumin powder, as well as some kosher salt. (Didn't all the early settlers have kosher salt?) If you are starting with the dried posole, you will want to add it before it's done cooking on it's own. If you've been cooking it for 45 minutes, you can add it at this point and let it finish it's cooking with the meat. You will also want to water - not the water you've been cooking it in (you want to make sure you don't have any of the lime in your final dish.) If you are using canned posole, you can cook the meat for about 40 minutes on it's own, before adding the posole. When you add the posole, remember to add water. If you want this to be a stew, add enough liquid to make it a stew, not a soup.
Cover and simmer on low for at least an hour and a half. I usually wind up cooking it for at LEAST an hour and 45 minutes, because I get busy doing something else. Or maybe because it just needs more time. No matter which version of hominy you use, it will need time to cook. Your nose will tell you when it's getting close to being ready. Test it by tasting a piece of the hominy. It should be soft enough to chew easily, but not mush. I don't think I ever ate it with avocado when I lived in New Mexico, but I recently started chopping some on top and I love it that way!
Posole is considered a dish that brings good luck. It's often eaten on New Year's eve, but it's also eaten any time one needs a little extra luck. Kind of a nice touch, don't you think?
*Red chili powder is not the same as the stuff they sell in grocery stores as "chili powder", which has things other than chili in it. I'm talking about the plain, dried red chili powder. I get mine from Hatch, New Mexico, which is famous for it's terrific chili. I try to take a vacation in the fall and drive to New Mexico, stopping off in Hatch to stock up on my chili. It's very rich in vitamin + C. Perhaps it was the early settler's secret to surviving the winter cold and flu season?
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