Friday, December 9, 2011

Whole Foods Friday: Mexican-Style Pork Stew with Lime-Pickled Onions

For details on Whole Foods Friday, take a peek at the tab at the top.

This pork stew is reminiscent of pozole, a classic Mexican dish. It has the pork, it has the hominy, and it has the peppers.

But after that, I veered off the classic route to create my own version of a pork stew that's great with tortillas, but would also be great over rice, or with a side of your favorite potato.

Pozole is the name of the dish, and it's also the name of an ingredient - it's hominy.

I've specified New Mexico chilis for the recipe, but you can use others - ancho, guajillo, or similar peppers all work well. Or you can combine varieties, if you prefer.

This recipe is a 2-day process, but it's mostly hands-off if you have a crockpot. You can make it in one day, but the chilly rest in the refrigerator improves the texture of the meat.

Lime-pickled onions are a perfect garnish for this stew. They're easy to make, and once you've tried them, you'll probably find all sort of uses for them.

And of course, chips and guacamole make a great starter for this meal.

Spicy Pork Stew

3 pounds pork shoulder, cut in stew-sized pieces
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 large white or yellow onion, cut into large chunks
2 bell peppers (your choice of color) cut into large chunks
1 29-ounce can hominy
1 3-ounce package dry New Mexico chilis
2 tablespoons masa harina (optional)

Put the pork cubes and garlic into your crockpot. Add the salt and diced tomatoes and add enough water to come about halfway up the meat. Cook on low for 8-12 hours, until the meat is fork-tender. (Cooking time depends on the size of your pork chunks as well as your crockpot.)

Refrigerate the meat with all the liquid until it is fully cold - overnight is fine.

Put the dried peppers in a heatproof bowl. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, and pour the water over the peppers in the bowl. Let them soak until they are soft and the water is cool enough so you can handle them. You might want to wear gloves - not so much for the heat, but because the peppers will stain.

Remove the stems and and veins from the peppers, and rinse out the seeds. You don't need to worry about getting all the seeds out, but remove the majority.

Put the cleaned peppers in your blender and blend until you have a smooth puree. If you need a little water to get them to blend, add plain water - the soaking liquid from the peppers can be bitter.

Pass the pureed peppers through a fine strainer. This isn't absolutely necessary, but it removes the seeds and the bits of skin for better texture in the finished stew.

Put the pork and all the liquid back into the slow cooker. Add the onions, bell pepper, and drained and rinsed hominy. Add about half of the pureed peppers.

If you want to thicken the sauce, add the optional masa harina. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low until the vegetables are fully cooked, about 2 hours, depending on your crockpot. Taste and add salt, if needed.

Serve with tortilla and a garnish of lime-pickled onions. Pass the extra pepper sauce for those who prefer it. I you like, serve with cilantro as a garnish. A little sour cream also makes a nice addition.

Lime-Pickled Onions

1 medium red onion
Pinch of salt
Juice from 2-3 limes

Peel the onion, quarter it, and slice it thinly.

Put the onions in a jar. Add a pinch of salt and enough lime juice to cover the onions.

Cover the jar and refrigerate at least overnight, or several days if you have time.