When we recently decided to cut picnic shoulder for the vending machines, we employed our usual practice of asking our entire staff for recipe ideas. This recipe was passed along by Greg, our production manager at our Stone Ridge facility. His wife is from Mexico and whenever he’s not busy being our production manager or running his own wild game processing facility, he’s down there spending time with Adriana and their daughter. Adriana was kind enough to give us her recipe for traditional Mexican pozole, which I proceeded to customize to my own pantry contents and personal quirks.
Basic pozole is comprised of just a few things:
*Pork picnic shoulder
My picnic shoulder was about 4 pounds, which is on the small side for this particular cut. I portioned out my other ingredients proportionately — two onions, four whole cloves of garlic total, a couple of bunches of cilantro (for cooking and for garnish).
The first thing I did was place the pork in a large pot just covered with slightly salted water. I added half an onion, two whole cloves of garlic, a few shakes of cumin, and a bit of pepper. I was out of oregano, so none of that made it in — a couple of bay leaves were my paltry substitute and they seem to have done the trick. Let the pork cook uncovered on medium heat until the water boils, then cover the pot, turn down the heat and let the whole thing simmer for another hour.
After that hour passes, remove the pork to cool on a clean cutting board. Save the broth that was created by your first cooking step; you’ll need it to create your final pozole product. You can just keep it in the same pot you cooked the pork in originally.
Let the pork cool until you won’t burn yourself while handling it. Remember that the inside of the cut closest to the bone is going to be way hotter than your surface. Once the pork has cooled down, heat up some oil in your largest skillet. Sauté a whole chopped onion and two diced cloves of garlic until translucent. While that’s happening, cut the picnic shoulder into 1” cubes. I left it fatty and regretted it. Keep your cubes lean for a more pleasant meal experience. Add the cubes to your saute skillet, along with a pinch of salt and generous quantity of paprika and cumin.
What I did next was add some of my pork broth, a couple of cans of hominy (whatever could fit in the skillet), and some fresh chopped cilantro. I let it sit in that skillet for about 15 to 20 minutes. Eventually, because my skillet wasn’t big enough, I had to move everything back to the large pot — but first I skimmed out the bay leaves and the whole cloves of garlic. Once I moved everything to the big pot, I added more cumin and paprika, the rest of the hominy, and a little extra cilantro. I also did this weird thing that I love to do. I have a little cardboard container of special dark Hershey’s cocoa powder for baking that’s been sitting in my cabinet for like, five years. Sometime last year I started the practice of adding small forkfuls to my ground beef and black bean mix whenever I made tacos…it deepens the color and flavor in a way that I like to imagine mimics molé. Anyway, I realize that this is pozole and not molé, but I added a forkful of the god-dang cocoa powder anyway. I love the stuff.
Whether or not you add the chocolate or any other strange personal charm, you’re gonna let that whole stew cook at low heat for another hour or so, at least. The longer you let it ride, the more flavor develops.
Now here’s the fun part: you get to slice up radishes, cilantro, the last of your fresh onion and a handful of limes into beautiful garnishes! Present them fresh and separate from the pozole so that your guests can serve to their own liking. Make sure to include tortilla chips or freshly heated corn tortillas.
I got a little overzealous and attempted a roasted radish créma that wound up tasting more like a vegetable dip. To be perfected next time! For now, pozole on it’s own and nothing lost. Earthy, nutty and delicious.
— Samantha Gloffke