By Isaac Delamatre, Food Service Coordinator
Not only is this dish a staple on Mexican Independence Day (September 16), it is a favorite of Johanna Kohout, one of our resident life managers, and former resident of New Mexico. She even went so far as to source us the red chili paste used, which is a specific New Mexican variety. The hominy and peppers mentioned can be found, cooked or uncooked, fresh or dried, at any Latino market, Meijer, and probably Kroger (if you’re in the midwest). Johanna got all of this fun stuff at Jungle Jim’s International Market in Cincinnati, Ohio.
If you are not familiar with hominy, it is a large kernel of corn that has been prepared by soaking the kernels in water with lime. Not the citrus fruit, but the extremely basic pH mineral. This makes for a longer storage life when dried because it kills the germ, and is said to allow various amino acids and B vitamins to be more readily absorbed by the body.
The chili featured is called Guajillo chili, which is the dried version of the Marisol chili. As is common for chili peppers, this chili has a different name for different states of dryness. It is glossy and deep vermilion in color and is about four to six inches long. The chili has an estimated Scoville rating of around 5,000 making it relatively mild in spiciness, but it possesses a lot of character in its flavor profile. Dried fruit to the point of raisin or sundried tomato and sweet pepper come to mind along with slight back-of the-throat spiciness.
The real secret to the dish is the stock. We make our pork stock by first roasting raw pork bones with whole onions until browned. (We get our hogs in whole so we have the bones; you can ask your butcher for some. Don’t have a butcher? E-mail me at and I’ll find you one). This all goes into the stock pot with some aromatic herbs and simmers overnight. In the morning we will strain it and keep it simmering to reduce the liquid all day so the flavor becomes super concentrated. You then cool the stock (it turns to jello at this point) and scrape off the fat and impurities. It is now ready for use in any soup or sauce you want to taste really, really good. Here it is:
- 2 quarts pork stock
- 4 cups cooked hominy
- 2 cups New Mexican-style red chili paste* (Thai paste is not a substitute!)
- 2 cups chopped yellow onion
- ½ lb cubed pork butt (with the shoulder cut above the picnic ham, the butt of a hog is actually the ham proper. Weird, I know. You could ask for pork shoulder and this is what you will get.)
- 5 cloves fresh garlic, chopped fine
- 1 tbsp. Mexican oregano (or standard Italian oregano if that’s all you can get)
- 1 tbsp. cooking oil (sunflower oil or straight lard works well)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in the stock pot.
- Add the cubed pork shoulder and cook until browned.
- Add the onion, garlic and oregano. Sauté until fragrant and onions are becoming translucent.
- Make sure not to let anything burn on the bottom of the pan. Always scrape the bottom of the pan as you go.
- Add the chili paste, stock, and hominy. Bring all this to a simmer and cook for an hour or two.
- Serve it hot and enjoy!
- Garnish it with lime wedges, radish slices and avocado, or chopped raw onion for a special touch.
* If Johanna won’t go to Jungle Jim’s for you, making the paste is easy enough. It goes like this:
- 5 Guajillo peppers
- 5 ancho peppers, which are the dried version of poblano peppers
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 cup boiling water
- Reconstitute the dried peppers by submerging them in the boiling water and letting them steep for approximately 15–20 minutes.
- Combine all the ingredients, water included, into a blender and puree until very smooth. That’s it!