It seems that everyone, including the weather gods, has agreed that Labor Day marks the end of summer. After one last day of warm weather glory, the skies opened and it has rained, nonstop, since Tuesday morning. The air is a little brisk too, a sign that it’s time to pack away the peaches and strawberries, the eggplant, the zucchini — it’s now time for apples and cinnamon and cider and pumpkin and all things orange.
It’s also time for stew. While winter’s long, rich braises are still a few months away (I hope.), now is the perfect time for something hearty but still light, a dish that only takes one hour to make instead of three. I needed comfort food tonight, after facing endless gray skies with not even an umbrella to protect me. (Never buy an umbrella from a street vendor. They last all of 3.2 seconds before quickly becoming a multi-pronged dagger to unknowingly stick in someone’s eye.)
So, while Googling around for a recipe, I chanced upon posole (or pozole), a pre-Columbian Mexican stew that usually consists of some form of meat and hominy, dried maize kernels that have been processed in a method too complicated to explain here. It even has a fancypants name — nixtamalization.
I say some form of meat because, according to Wikipedia, the Aztecs made posole only on very special days, and the meat they used was human. Researchers at the National Institute of Anthropology and History believe that after prisoners’ hearts were torn out in a ritual sacrifice, the rest of the body would get chopped and cooked with the hominy. After cannibalization was banned by the Spanish during the conquest, pork became the staple meat, apparently because according to Spanish priests, it tasted similar.
Obviously once I discovered that, I had to make this stew — nothing beats good food plus a good backstory. In a sort of chili-posole hybrid, I added black beans and lots of heat to the mix, as well as, of course, extra cumin. The end result is a spicy, smoky, warming stew that cushions fall’s chilly blow.
Green Chile and Pork Posole
Adapted from SELF June 2011
– 2 teaspoons olive oil
– 1 large onion, diced
– 2 stalks celery, diced
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus more for garnishing
– 2 small habanero peppers, seeded and diced
– 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
– 1 pound lean, boneless pork loin, diced
– 1 15-ounce can corn, drained and rinsed
– 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
– 2 small green poblano peppers, diced
– 8 ounces canned tomatillos, diced
– 1 tablespoon cumin
– 2 teaspoons dark chili powder (I used a Valle del Sol chili powder from Whole Foods)
– 4 cups chicken stock
– 1 teaspoon ground coriander
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1) Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and saute the onions, celery, cilantro, habanero peppers and garlic until the onion softens, 3-5 minutes.
2) Add the pork and cook, stirring, until the meat is browned on the outside, about 10 minutes. Add the corn, beans, poblanos, tomatillos, cumin, chili powder, stock and coriander. Season with salt and pepper.
3) Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, until the pork is tender and white. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of cilantro and serve.