Posole Rojo

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Posole is the name for hominy in Mexico.  Posole Rojo is a soup made from hominy, pork shoulder and a mix of reconstituted dried red chilies.  It is an earthy mix of absolute scumptiousness, my new favorite soup. I was inspired to make it by a Posole Rojo recently added to the menu at the Cantina Los Charros side of the Essex Restaurant in Centerbrook, CT.  The Essex has two kitchens and two sides, one a fancy farm-to-table tour de force with a menu that changes monthly, and the other a very casual and friendly place, with a long bar, an open kitchen and the best Mexican food in CT.  It's my Cheers.

To help reprise the Cantina Los Charros Posole Rojo, I worked from a Food Network recipe I found online.  Here are the assembled ingredients, what fancy pants foodies call the Mise En Place:

 

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From left to right: 2 lbs of boneless pork shoulder, 45 oz of hominy, 2 qts of chicken stock, 2 bay leaves, 6 cloves garlic, 3/4 cup Arbol chilies, 5 Ancho chilies, 1 onion, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 T dried oregano, Kosher salt and 2 T vegetable oil.

The first step is to seed and reconstitute the dried chilies:

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Above are the stemmed and seeded Arbol and Ancho chillies.  The Arbols supply the heat and the Anchos supply the flavor.  Removing the seeds tames the extreme hotness of the Arbols. You cover these with boiling water, submerging the chillies with a plate, and steep for 30 min:

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You then put the chilies, the steeping liquid and the peeled, sliced garlic cloves into a food processor or a blender and spritz into a smooth purée.  You then push this through a fine meshed sieve, discarding the solids.

 

 

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Above is what I had left of the strained chili sauce after I added 3/4 cup of it to the soup.  I used some of it to drizzle on top of the finished soup.

I first started reconstituting dried chilies when I made the Food Lab's Best Short Rib Chili (see Chili Over Savory Jalapeno Cornbread).  The Food Lab recipe just uses the chilies without the steeping liquid so you end up with a paste rather than a sauce.

But whether paste or sauce, I have never looked back.  I even threw out what was left of my bottle of chili powder.  The reconstituted dried chilies have an amazing depth of flavor that you just can't get from chili powder.

The next step is to sauté 1 chopped onion in 2 T of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven.  Once the onions are soft, you push them to one side and brown the pork shoulder in the same pan.  Before I chopped and sautéd the onions, I cut the pork shoulder into 2 large pieces and dusted each of them in a rub of the cumin and 1/2 tsp salt, so the pork could rest in the rub for awhile:

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Once you have softened the onion and browned the pork, you add the chicken stock, oregano, bay leaf and 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of the chili sauce, to taste.  The Food Network recipe calls for 2 cups of water as well, but I would leave that out next time to get a thicker soup.  You can always add some water or broth later if necessary.  Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to maintain a low simmer.  Partially cover and cook, turning the pork a few times, until tender, about 3 hours.

 

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You then add the drained, rinsed hominy and continue to simmer, uncovered until the pork starts falling apart, about one more hour,  Remove the bay leaf.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board, roughly chop and return to the soup.  Add some water or broth if the posole is too thick.  Season with salt. Serve with assorted toppings.  The picture at the top of this post is my first bowl, with just some grated Vasterbotten cheese and some of the chili sauce.  For my second bowl, I used those two toppings plus some tortilla chips, chopped cilantro, avocado and some Marigold petals that I happened to have on hand from my Trifecta Ecosystems weekly harvest:

 

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More to Come

Cantina Los Charros flash fried the hominy before adding it to the soup.  This gives it a crisp texture that I liked.  I tried to do that, but couldn't get it crispy the way they did.  Will keep experimenting.

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