Back Forty‘s One-Pot Dinner Series debuted last month and is slated to run through March. The idea was to feature one, soul- (and body-) warming meal each cold-weather month, like Brazilian feijoada or Cajun gumbo. But November’s Pozole Verde was so popular with patrons that the restaurant decided to extend it through the end of December. Chef Shanna Pacifico gives Fork in the Road the exclusive on the dish.
“I think that pozole is such a great way to celebrate some of the wonderful food made in Mexico, especially this time of year,” she says. “This warm, hearty pork and hominy stew is something I just love to eat. Alex Yellan, the chef de partie here at Back Forty, is well-versed in traditional Mexican foods. He helped give the recipe an authentically Mexican feel by implementing what he learned about the dish while traveling through Mexico.”
Back Forty’s Pozole Verde
1 half pig head rinsed well, or two jowls (call your butcher ahead of time to order)
2 pig trotters (same deal as above)
4 pounds pork ribs
2 onions, halved
1 head of garlic, halved
2 stalks of celery
2 pounds dried pozole corn (descabezado, with the tip or pedicil removed)
2 1/2 tablespoons cal, slaked lime powder (available at Kalustyan’s)
6 jalapeños, stems removed and chopped
1 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
10 Bibb or romaine lettuce leaves
10 red mustard greens (kale or chard are fine, too)
1 pound tomatillos, husks removed
1 bunch cilantro, roots and stems chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
salt, to taste
Put the half pig head, trotters, and ribs in a large pot and cover with cold water. Over high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer, skimming any foam or scum that appears. Add onions, garlic, carrots, and celery, and simmer 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until a knife can go into the meat easily. Remove the meat, strain the stock, and let cool.
Pick the meat, fat, and cartilage from the head and trotters. Rough chop or shred head and trotter, cut ribs (removing bones if you’d like), then set everything aside. (This part can be done up to a week in advance.)
Soak the pozole in a large bowl of water overnight, and drain. Fill a stainless steel pot with 2 quarts water and, over high heat, bring to a boil. Dissolve the cal in the boiling water, and add the pozole corn. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the corn is yellow and their skins loose. Drain the corn in a colander, and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Rub kernels between hands to remove any remaining skin. Put corn in pot and cover with cold water by 3 inches. Bring to a gentle simmer, and once corn begins to soften and “flower” or “pop,” you may salt and cook it until your desired tenderness (approximately 1 to 2 1/2 hours). Strain, and reserve liquid. (This part can be done a few days in advance.) In a skillet over medium high heat, toast the tomatillos on both sides until charred and soft (you can also broil them), then halve and set aside. In frying pan over medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds, tossing them until they pop (about 5 minutes). Spread the seeds out on a flat surface to cool, then grind into a powder with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. In a blender, puree the tomatillos, jalapeños, cilantro, and greens until smooth. Strain in a sieve, pressing out all the liquid. Set the liquid aside in a pot.
Heat oil in a large pot over high heat. When the oil starts glistening, add the green liquid (caution: stand back, as it may splatter a little). Reduce heat to medium high and cook for about 5 minutes, then stir in the pumpkin seed powder and cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes, or until thickened. Add the pork stock and 1 quart or more (to taste) of the corn liquid broth, the meat, and corn, and salt to taste. Let simmer for about 30 minutes to let flavors marry.
Serve in large bowls with thinly sliced radishes and jalapeños, shredded cabbage, diced onion, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, and tostadas.
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