I am not sure if there is such a thing as “winging it with a slow cooker” but I think I may have been doing that on Sunday morning. In the midst of the bedlam that is my weekend life, my daughter and I created our own version of Pork Posole – a slow-cooked pork stew with hominy.
This was not your traditional Mexican pork posole, because I couldn’t hold back putting a variety of different ingredients into the mix, i.e., an assortment of veggies and spices, some beer, stock and tomato paste. I would pick, and my daughter would dump. We both stirred. It was quite the experiment and team work.
I will apologize in advance for the long list of ingredients. You can probably omit a lot of the spices or pick and choose if you want to keep it simpler and more traditional. I was having an issue with self-control on Sunday morning.
Of course, while my daughter and I’s creative endeavor was ongoing, the white-haired imp was making his own fun. My little toddler put into a skillet some red pepper flakes, garlic powder and some of mommy’s coke zero. Sophie and I didn’t notice it at first (too busy picking and dumping), but then we heard a little yelp and an “ick.” There he was stirring up his own stew with a wooden spoon (the stove was not on, thank god). But he had the misfortune of trying his creation. There were subsequent efforts at getting the red pepper flake off his tongue. And then a repeat performance. It was quite the fanfare.
I informed my chef in training that cooking was all trial and error and quickly whisked the concoction away and into the sink. I then allowed him to add his own can of hominy to the pork posole mix to distract him from his failed attempt at breakfast (!?!?). (And yes, go ahead and judge. I understand I was not exactly on my “mommy A game,” to put it mildly.)
But I digress. Back to this pork posole. I started yesterday morning by wrestling with half of a picnic pork shoulder purchased at the local Stop 'n Shop. I basically cut the meat into 1 inch pork cubes. I started with a 5 lb piece, but it was probably 3 and change after I had discarded the bone and the skin.
Next, into the slow cooker went some olive oil. When it was hot, I added the pork, browning the pieces on all sides and then removing them with a slotted spoon to a plate. If you don’t have a slow cooker that has a braise option, you can do this in a dutch oven stove top.
After the browning of the pork, some onions and carrots went into the pot. There was some stirring, followed a few minutes later by a hefty amount of minced garlic and then some more stirring. In went some tomato paste. Even more stirring. And then the spices added by my lovely daughter: some paprika and cumin and just a little sprinkling of cayenne.
I explained in response to an excellent question by my five-year old that she could eat the stew even if we were pouring beer in because the alcohol would evaporate. I am not sure she was convinced, but she was happy to pour it into the pot and watch it sizzle and sputter. The beer served to deglaze the pan and bring the flavors together. It was starting to look yummy. Sophie agreed. (Note: At this point, you could transfer the concoction to a slow cooker along with the browned meat.)
Next into the mix went the pork, some chicken stock, hominy, some sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves, dried oregano and some salt and pepper. In retrospect, I would have added the salt and pepper to the meat first (but if you haven’t figured it out yet, I was winging it..).
You might be wondering now if there was anything in my pantry that didn’t go into the pot. Good question. The answer is no. I have both a serious spice buying and spice pitching (I don’t) problem so these were only the spices that I saw on the shelf first.
By this point, it was about 9 a.m. I brought the concoction to a boil and then switched it into slow cook low mode for the next 8 hours during which time I cleaned up the house, ran a few errands, made lunch and went to make some pottery with my daughter. Did I mention how much I love my slow cooker? The stew was ready by the time football was airing and we spontaneously invited over my in laws to watch the game (and serve as guinea pigs!). We devoured our pork posole at the half-time of the Redskins/Seahawks game. I am hoping the Pork Posole was better than the result of that game.
If you don’t have a slow cooker that braises, I would recommend that after you’ve got your creation complete, put it on high for the first half hour to hour and then reduce it to low for the next six to seven. Or just leave it on high for a full 4 hours. Regardless, you will notice that over time the pork begins to get softer and softer until by the time you eat it you can cut it with a spoon.
Now the true beauty of this dish is actually the wonderful crunchy accompaniments that get strewn on top. The mixture is a combination of textures and flavors. It is quite fresh, different and just plain excellent. Cabbage, radishes, green onions, cilantro, avocado and sour cream. Choose your own combination or put them all on top (recommended).
I bet you are wondering whether my kids ate this? Even if you aren’t, I’ll tell you that my daughter was a good sport and tried it. She had several bites and decided only to have sour cream as a topping. She proclaimed that she liked it, but I am not sure she really did. The white-haired imp wasn’t having any of it. But the adults seemed to enjoy it just fine. I think I liked it the most of anyone, but I am a sucker for any meat that melts in my mouth, is topped with cilantro AND is essentially done (save the slow cooking part) by 9 a.m.
Author: Julie du Pont
Prep time: 45 mins
Cook time: 8 hours
Total time: 8 hours 45 mins
- 3 to 3½ lbs of boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- ⅛ tsp of cayenne (or just a sprinkling depending on how you like your heat)
- 1 cup of beer
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 4 cans of hominy (14.5 oz)
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- Additional salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup chopped radishes
- 1 cup chopped avocados
- 1 cup chopped cabbage
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil.
- Salt and pepper pork should cubes and add to dutch oven or slow cooker capable of braising. Brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.
- Remove meat with slotted spoon.
- Add onions and carrots and saute for 5 minutes until softened.
- Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes more.
- Add tomato paste and stir until it is evenly distributed.
- Add paprika and cumin and stir until evenly distributed.
- Add beer and stir, deglazing the pan and getting any bits off the bottom of the pan.
- (If using a dutch oven, transfer to slow cooker at this point.)
- Add chicken broth, hominy, thyme, bay leaves and oregano. Stir and then bring to a boil (or turn on high in slow cooker).
- Once it comes to a boil, cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
- Serve with the fixings in small bowls, allowing guests to serve themselves.
Julie du Pont is a Darien resident, mom and lawyer. She blogs about food and entertaining at weekend table.