A couple weeks ago, my friends Jeffrey, Oz and I went to a cooking demonstration at one of my favorite restaurants in Santa Monica, the Border Grill. Presiding over the demonstration were the two chefs/owners of the restaurant, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger AKA the Border Girls AKA Two Hot Tamales. Every so often the women host these demos at the Border Grill and they're really a lot of fun. A little elevated platform equipped with a little makeshift kitchen is built along one side of the dining room and as the women go through and prepare an entire menu starting with signature cocktails and appetizers going through dessert, servers bring out the same drinks and dishes for the audience to sample. Mary Sue and Susan are totally laid back, full of information (lots of tips about knife skills and care), and clearly love what they're doing. "Has everyone had a cocktail?" Susan shouts to the audience, as waiters carrying trays of cucumber mojitos and spiced sangria weave their way amongst the tables. That's my kind of cooking class. Free-flowing with booze. Mary Sue and Susan have that kind of relationship where they rag on and tease one another other. It's fun and lighthearted and the energy is infectious. It's a great way to spend the afternoon and at the end you get a small booklet featuring the recipes of all the dishes they made. This soup was the first course of the meal they prepared and when I tasted it at the restaurant I was blown away.
For those who don't know, "posole" is a Mexican soup/stew that is traditionally made with pork, hominy, and chiles and then garnished with cabbage and sliced radishes and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. It's as much about the garnishes as it is the soup itself, kind of like tortilla soup or even pho. Very DIY.
4 pounds pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into bite sized pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, diced
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked, cored and chopped
4 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped (yes it sounds like a lot, but once they are seeded, they aren't that hot. As such, depending on how spicy you want the soup, seed only some of them)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon, dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
8 cups chicken stock
2 cans hominy
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/4 small head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
10 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges
Season the pork generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Brown the pork chunks on each side, making sure to get good, golden color. Be careful not to over-crowd the pot. As such, this will have to be done in batches. Reserve the browned pork on a plate, while you continue browning.
Pour out the excess fat, then add the onions and a large pinch of salt. Saute for about 5 minutes, scraping up the brown bits that are left in the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatillos, jalapenos, garlic and oregano and continue to cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.
Add the reserved pork, any accumulated pork juices, the chicken stock. Cover the pot, crank the heat to high and bring to a boil. Remove the lid, turn the heat down to low and simmer gently until the pork is tender and starting to fall apart, which should take about 1 1/2 hours. Add the hominy for the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Stir in the cilantro and taste for seasoning. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with the shredded cabbage, diced red onion, sliced radishes, and lime wedges.
I can't speak highly enough about this soup. I'd have to go back through all the other soups I've made, but I think this is likely among the best. The broth is rich and flavorful with just enough thickness to give it some body. The slow-cooked pork is juicy and succulent, just on the verge of falling apart. The hominy is almost like little mini dumplings, starchy and soft. The combination of the tomatillos, cilantro, and lime juice lightens and freshens the richness of the soup. Then the shredded cabbage and peppery, shaved radish give it a really nice, crisp contrasting texture. As is often the case with this sort of dish, it's even better the next day.
It would be great to make on a Sunday afternoon for a casual gathering. Maybe for a football game (not that I watch football). Just set out the pot of soup, bowls of the garnishes and to round it all out, chips and guac, maybe some quesadillas, and lots of cold beer. In fact the next time I make it, I may add some beer into the stock. That seems like a good idea, right?
Serves 6 to 8