Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Southwestern black bean hominy stew

My original plan was to make a traditional pozole--a stew of just hominy, peppers and pork--but things got a bit out of hand.

Well, backing up a bit, the origin of this dish is the tiny ethnic food isle in the local Whole Foods. They've got a rack of various southwestern peppers and herbs packaged by a company called Los Chileros out of New Mexico. They also sell dried hominy. I had no idea there was such a thing. Hominy is made by soaking dried corn in lye- or lime-water and I figured once it was soaked it was soaked and I had only ever seen it in cans. So I was intrigued and determined to try it out.

I also had on hand some dried black beans and some fresh corn on the cob that seemed like good additions. And, since I wanted something fire roasted in there and don't have ready access to fire, a can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes seemed like a good addition.

All that plus the pork--I think I accidentally made chili. It's nothing like a real bowl of red, mind you, but chili is such a degraded term these days I think this is somewhere under that broad umbrella.

Anyway, it went like this (keeping in mind that I didn't actually measure anything at the time):

1 cup dried black beans
1 cup dried hominy
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onion (I used red and white as I had those available)
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper (only because I had no fresh hot peppers handy)
1 Tablespoon Mexican oregano
1 Tablespoon epazote (epazote supposedly reduces gas, but best to use the beano anyway)
1 Tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin (whole cumin would have been nice but I seem to be out)
2 dried casabel chiles
2 dried chipotle chiles
1 lb pork roast (not stew pork as that does best when the stew never reaches a boil, but you've got to boil to cook the beans and hominy), chopped in 1 inch cubes
kernels cut from 1 small ear of corn, including the milk if you've got any. Mine didn't.
14 ounces crushed fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
vinegar hot pepper sauce

white onion, finely sliced
green cabbage, finely sliced

1. Soak beans and hominy separately overnight

2. Heat oil in dutch oven on medium heat. Add any whole spices you're using, cook until aromatic, add onions and peppers, sweat onion and pepper until soft but not browned. Stir in oregano, epazote, chili powder and cumin and cook until aromatic.

3. Add hominy, black beans and enough hominy soaking water to cover by 1 inch. Crumble, crush or chop peppers and add to pot. Simmer on low heat until hominy and beans are just getting tender, around 1 1/2 hours.

4. Add corn, tomatoes, enough chicken broth to thin out the stew to your preference and salt to taste. Simmer for another 1/2 hour.

5. At some point during that half hour add the pork. Exactly when depends on your cut of meat and how large the pieces are. Use your judgment. I added mine with the corn and tomatoes and it ended up a bit overdone. Ten minutes would have been sufficient.

6. Taste and adjust seasoning. I found mine a bit muddy so I added a vinegar based hot sauce, specifically Urban Chefs hotlicious pepper sauce which is a micro-brand out of Columbus, Ohio. Tabasco or Cholula would do fine, but Urban Chefs has a fruitier character that I like a lot.

7. Serve garnished with onion, cabbage, strips of tortilla and a squeeze of lime.

The end result is pretty good. Looking at it you expect chili pretty much, but the strong corn element in the broth (and the fact that it's actually soupy) is pretty distinctive and interestingly tasty. I like the variety of textures in the chewy hominy, creamy beans, firmly tender corn, not too overdone pork and crisp garnishes. Tasting the dish today, I found the tomato a little forward and the chiles a bit mild and dissociated from the other flavors. These sorts of stews always taste better and usually spicier the second day after the flavors had time to meld. It's actually tasting better every time I try it as it cools. I'll add a note tomorrow when I have a final result.

OK, it's tomorrow. I'm a little disappointed. The flavors did meld nicely but the broth turned into a chili-style sauce and the flavors all mellowed a bit so the end result is kind of undistinguished. I was hoping for something with more pizazz. Still, a couple shots of hot sauce and it's perfectly palatable.

I might try a different mix of peppers next time; I picked what I used fairly randomly. It's easy to find out how hot each pepper is, but its the other flavors they have that are important and that's much harder to learn so you just have to try them and see. Wow, I just found myself respecting Bobby Flay for a moment there. What an odd sensation.

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