Perfect hominy: Hard corn the right ingredient for pork stew
It all started at my friend Anthony’s house not long ago during the beginning of the so-called polar vortex. He is a gifted home cook and a food television producer, so he knows his way around a pot. He also is from Texas and we share a love of tequila, barbecue and anything Tex-Mex.
That icy night, Anthony made an amazing pork stew with loads of chilies, cilantro and garlic. The flavors and textures were at once warm, comforting, fresh and exciting. The minute I tasted his stew tucked into a warm flour tortilla, I couldn’t wait to make it again and share it with friends and family.
As a cook, we all take recipes and add our own twist, and I instinctively knew that hominy would add another layer to this already delicious stew.
I love hominy and it is a perfect pairing with pork. Hominy is hard white or yellow corn, specifically maize, which is the type of corn used in making corn meal and other grain products, as opposed to the softer sweet corn, which is the familiar vegetable we steam or grill and eat all summer long.
Kernels of this corn are soaked in a solution of either lime or lye. But don’t let this scare you; lye is the same substance that crisps certain pickles, cures olives and gives pretzels a distinctive crust. The strong solution makes the hull and germ of the corn come off, and the grain puffs up to about twice its normal size. Once soaked, most hominy is dried and ground to form hominy grits.
Hominy also is available whole, dried or in cans, and used in stews and soups. Posole is a traditional Mexican soup made with hominy. Because the dried hominy has to be soaked overnight, much like dried beans, I used canned hominy for the ease of it, but the dried hominy works well if you plan in advance.
The poblanos and red peppers can be roasted on the grill or in the oven, but everything else can be thrown in the pot and left to cook for hours until the pork is so tender that it falls apart and the broth becomes rich.
I made this stew in a Dutch oven, but I imagine it also would be perfect in a slow cooker. Putting all the ingredients in the slow cooker and letting it simmer all day is a cozy way to warm up a house in winter or on a cold spring night, and an easy way to make this dish.
The key to this recipe is a fresh “salsa verde” purée of raw tomatillos, lime juice, garlic, cilantro and the roasted poblano peppers that you braise the pork in. The tart salsa verde balances the beer and the chicken stock to make this dish come alive.
HOG ’N HOMINY SALSA VERDE STEW
Start to finish: 3 hours (30 minutes active). Servings: 10.
4 large poblano peppers
2 red bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups of chopped red onions
3 to 4 pounds boneless country ribs or pork butt
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
8 large raw tomatillos (about 12 ounces)
6 to 8 large cloves garlic
1 heaping cup fresh cilantro, stems and leaves
1⁄2 cup lime juice (about 4 limes)
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
1 bottle (12 ounces) of beer, any variety
1⁄2 cup jarred sliced jalapenos, or more to taste
2 cans (15 ounces each) hominy, drained
Flour tortillas, tortilla chips or rice, to serve
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the poblano and bell peppers on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until they blister, about 15 to 20 minutes, using tongs to turn them halfway through. Transfer the roasted peppers to a heat-safe bowl, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the peppers steam for 7 to 10 minutes, then remove them and slip off the skins. Cut out the stems, then remove and discard the seeds.
Finely chop the roasted red peppers. Set the poblanos aside.
Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-duty pasta pot over medium. Add the olive oil and the onions. Saute for about 10 minutes, or until the onions become translucent.
Season the pork with salt, pepper and the cumin. Add pork to the pot with the onions and brown on all sides.
Meanwhile, peel the tomatillos and cut into quarters. In a blender, combine the tomatillos, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, poblanos and 1 teaspoon of salt. Purée for a few minutes or until liquefied. This may take a few tries and you may need to stir the contents of the blender a few times to make the tomatillos and cilantro blend together. Set aside.
Once the pork is browned, add the chicken stock, the beer and the puréed tomatillo mixture. Stir well, then add the jalapenos and reserved red peppers. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 hours, or until the pork breaks into pieces easily and the liquid has reduced by about a fifth. About 30 minutes before the stew is done, stir in the hominy.
Nutrition information per serving (without tortillas): 400 calories; 130 calories from fat; 14 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 120 mg cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 38 g protein; 550 mg sodium.
Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and cookbook writer who is executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York.