Most people’s fall traditions involve pumpkins and hay rides. But for Wendi’s husband, Keith, fall means fire.
Fire, as in fire-roasted New Mexican chiles, and their addictive heat.
Every fall, for more than 20 years and counting, Keith orders fresh New Mexican green chiles from his favorite farm in Escondida, New Mexico. He blisters them on the grill, then peels and freezes them in ziptop bags to toss in scrambled eggs, burgers, pork stew or slow-cooked beans all year long. And he doesn’t just order a couple pounds, he orders a couple hundred pounds.
Clearly he loves his chiles, but they’re not all for him. Over the decades he’s introduced friends and neighbors to the beauty of these chiles, with their warm, round heat and bittersweet flavor, and we’ve all become just as devoted to stocking our freezers. There are so many people involved now, Keith keeps a spreadsheet.
He’s also turned the chile roasting into a party.
When the chiles arrive, everyone descends on Keith and Wendi’s house to grill up their lot (usually 10 to 20 pounds worth) and settle in for an evening of peeling, bagging, drinking and laughing.
It takes a few hours and it’s a messy business, all those slippery chiles and plastic bags. And this being fall in Portland, not Albuquerque, it’s pretty cold and sometimes rainy out on the deck where we convene to get the job done. But with the heat lamps going, the radio on, the tequila flowing and Keith’s big pot of pork and green chile stew warming us from the inside out, we barely notice the chill in the air and time just seems to fly.
And then, in the depths of January, when the fresh chiles are long gone but our freezers are stocked with their fiery goodness, we know all that work was worth it.
Pork, Green Chile and Hominy Stew
Makes 6 servings
Sort of a like a thick version of posole, this hearty, spicy stew is easy to put together if your chiles are already roasted and peeled. It’s well worth the effort of starting your own chile-roasting tradition just to be able to make this stew on the fly. Look for fresh New Mexican chiles in mid to late September and early October at farmers markets or grocery stores like Whole Foods. If you miss their brief window, you can order frozen roasted and peeled chiles from online purveyors. The stew will happily simmer for hours unattended, making it a great candidate for the slow-cooker, and it tastes even better the next day. Try eating the leftovers for breakfast, with a poached egg and tortillas.
3 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
10 roasted New Mexico chiles, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
5 cups chicken broth
12 oz cups dried hominy (white corn/posole), soaked overnight or (or 1 28-oz can hominy or 1 1/2 pounds diced Yukon gold potatoes)
2 bay leaves
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup masa harina
Chopped fresh cilantro
Corn tortillas, warmed, or corn bread
Cut the pork into 3/4-inch pieces and sprinkle with salt. Set a large cast-iron Dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot. Working in batches, add the fattiest pieces of pork, fat-side down, in an even layer without crowding. Cook until fat renders and is deep golden brown. Turn and sear the other side, about 3 minutes more. Transfer to a plate, leaving the fat behind, and continue browning the rest of the meat in batches, about 3 minutes per side (you can brown all 4 sides if you want, but 2 sides is plenty to give the stew depth of flavor). Transfer meat to the plate.
If there’s more than 2 or 3 tablespoons of fat in the pot, spoon out the excess (if you want. I don’t!). Add the diced onion to the fat and saute, stirring to scrape up the browned bits, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and saute a few minutes more. Add the cumin, chiles and oregano, stirring to combine. Stir in the broth, soaked hominy, bay leaves and browned pork. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to low, cover, and cook for 3 hours or until meat is almost falling apart and hominy is softened and tender. (Alternatively, you can used canned drained hominy or diced Yukon Gold potatoes. Wait to add them until after the meat is tender, then simmer for about 20-30 minutes.)
In a small bowl, mix together the masa harina with enough liquid from the stew to make a paste. Stir the paste into the stew, along with the lime zest and juice. Continue cooking until stew thickens, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.
Divide stew among bowls and serve with chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado and sour cream, and corn tortillas on the side.