Pork and Hominy Stew

by Carol Peterman

This pozole is rich satisfying comfort food with as much spicy kick as you care to add. It's a great dish for a crowd that won't break the bank. The long slow cooking time turns the economical pork shoulder deliciously tender and succulent, and allows the stew to develop a deep rich flavor. A FineCooking.com recipe challenge was the inspiration to develop the recipe, and much to my thrill it won!

3 lb. Pork shoulder such as Boston Butt
3-15 oz. cans hominy, drained and rinsed
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 dried pasilla Oaxaca chile
1 dried ancho chile
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican oregano, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, ground, divided
1 teaspoon coriander, ground
salt and pepper to taste

Optional garnishes (highly recommended!)

Fresh lime wedges
Sliced radish
Fresh cilantro
Warm tortillas or chips

If desired, trim excess fat from the pork shoulder and then season both sides with salt and pepper and set aside.

Turn a slow cooker to high and add the 6 cups stock, hominy, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon each of oregano cumin, and coriander.

Heat a skillet, and once hot, add the tablespoon of lard and the seasoned pork shoulder. Brown all sides of the meat adjusting heat as needed to get a nice deep brown sear without burning the meat or the brown bits in the pan. While the meat is browning, dice the onion and mince the garlic. Once the meat is nicely browned on all sides, transfer it to the slow cooker.

Reduce the heat under the skillet to low and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Let the onions sweat until they are translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the minced garlic and cook an additional minute or two. Add about 1 cup of the chicken stock from the slow cooker into the skillet with the onions and garlic to deglaze the pan. Stir to scrape up all the brown bits. Add the onion mixture to the slow cooker.

Trim the stem end off the dried chiles and shake out the seeds. Add the chiles to the slow cooker. Reduce the heat of the slow cooker to low, cover, and let cook for about 6 hours.

Remove the pork from the slow cooker onto a large plate and break the meat apart into bite-sized pieces using a couple of forks. Remove the ancho and pascilla chiles and set aside. Remove the bay leaf and discard. If desired, skim excess fat from the surface of the stew.

Scoop about 2 cups of stock and hominy into a blender and blend until smooth, return to the stew. Stir in the remaining ½ teaspoon of oregano and cumin. Add the pork back to the stew and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. If more spiciness is desired, add some of the stew liquid to the chiles and blend to a smooth paste, then add as much as desired back into the stew.

Prepare garnishes and serve alongside the stew.