New Mexican Posole
The smell of a pot of posole on the stove always smells like Christmas. It conjures memories of holiday open houses, full of close family and friends. A labor intensive dish, to be sure, but it’s absolutely worth the effort.
I’ll be moving (yet again!) in the coming weeks, this time from Sacramento back to the central coast. In searching for the perfect main course dish for my farewell get-together, I was struck by the urge to make posole.
Be prepared to set aside 5+ hours for this dish, but once you get things going, it’s fairly low effort – just let the pork roast and the soup simmer as your house fills with wonderful smells. Best of all – you can make a portion of this soup vegetarian (or, really, vegan + gluten free) by separating a portion before adding the roast pork.
The recipe below will make about 12-15 servings, depending on how hungry your guests are. Don’t expect any leftovers!
3.25 lbs boneless pork shoulder
1-2 tbsp salt
1-2 tbsp pepper
1-2 tbsp New Mexican red chile powder
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions
1.5 heads of garlic
6 cups homemade vegetable broth (if making vegetarian/vegan), other stock, or water
2.5 + 2 tbsp oregano
2 cups New Mexican red chile sauce* (see note)
24 oz canned tomatillos
28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
1 large can hominy (or, use 1 lb dried hominy and cook according to package directions)
1 lb carrots
2 large russet potatoes
2 bunches radishes
1 bunch cilantro
1 cup cotija or similar mexican cheese
1/2 head cabbage
Preheat oven to 325.
Trim exterior fat from pork shoulder, then cut into fist-sized pieces.
Mix the salt, pepper, and New Mexican red chile powder in a small bowl. Rub into all sides of the meat.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a Dutch oven. Sear pork on all sides, working in multiple batches if needed. Set aside.
Chop 1 onion into thick slices, and peel 1/2 head of garlic.
Add pork back to the Dutch oven, then add the onion pieces and garlic cloves in between the pork. Pour 1 1/4 cup of the vegetable stock or other liquid on top of the pork. The liquid should almost but not quite cover the top of the pork pieces. Bring the pot to a simmer, then place the lid on top and cook in the oven for 2 hours. After 2 hours, test for done-ness; the pork should fall apart with very light pressure. If not yet done, return to the oven and check every 30 minutes. Pork should take between 2 and 3.5 hours to cook.
While the pork cooks, dice the remaining onion and garlic. Add to a very large pot with remaining olive oil and 2.5 tbsp oregano.
Cook over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until onion and garlic is fragrant. Add red chile sauce, tomatillos, crushed tomatoes, and remaining vegetable stock or other liquid.
Simmer over low heat for 4 hours.
After pork is fork-tender, remove from Dutch oven and set aside in a medium bowl to cool. Once the pork has reached room temperature, shred and set aside.
About 20 minutes before the posole is finished, chop carrots and potatoes. Set aside.
After the posole has cooked for 4 hours, if tomatillos have not dissolved into the rest of the soup, remove with a slotted spoon, dice, and add back into the soup. Add the hominy, carrots and potatoes and stir to combine. If making a vegetarian portion, remove some of the soup and place into a separate pot. Then add the pork to the main portion. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until carrots and potatoes are tender.
As the posole continues to cook, prep the toppings. Thinly slice radishes, chop cilantro and cabbage, cut limes into quarters, crumble cotija, and place additional oregano in a small bowl.
Once posole is done, ladle into bowls and add desired toppings. Serve hot.
*NOTE: New Mexican red chile sauce can be hard to find, but is easy to make at home! I recommend making several portions at a time (more than you would need for this recipe) and freezing the remainder.
Rinse and remove the stems and seeds from 25 dried red chile pods. Place in a large pot, and add enough water to fully cover the pods. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool until no longer painful to the touch. Add pods and water to a blender, working in batches if needed. Once blended, use a colander or metal sieve to separate the pulp from the skin. The strained liquid that remains is your red chile sauce!