When it comes to the second week of December, no matter how well prepared you are, the month begins to take over. It seems you’re not in charge of your own life. Instead of easy-going fall weekends culminating in Sunday games, there are work parties, family get togethers, school and church performances, and neighborhood potlucks. Somewhere down the road and fairly soon, that stack of bags in the corner of the spare bedroom must be gone through, sorted out, wrapped, and mailed or delivered, if need be. There are travel plans, weather delays or plain old bad weather, holiday attire to attend to, and the forever and constant barrage of holiday ads all with some version of “Sleigh Ride” for the soundtrack.
Some of you are in charge of food for a few people over the next couple of weeks. I’m not talking that big beef roast you’re planning for Christmas Day (shop for all the background stuff soon and that roast can be tucked away in the freezer), but just something to eat for a few of you or a small crowd. Maybe you need a main dish to take somewhere in a slow cooker?
Several years ago, I worked out the recipe for a luscious Pork Tenderloin Posole that was in my soup book, but never made it the blog. I made it this week for a group of women for lunch and decided it was time to share it here. While most posole is tasty, it’s often heavy and laden with fat –read caloric, too–as it’s made with pork butt or shoulder. It’s also a long process. My short and sweet version is fast and lean. While you sauté a few choice vegetables, a cut up pork tenderloin browns in a skillet. You toss it all together with warm chili-type spices and add tomatoes, broth, green chiles, hominy, and corn. It cooks down briefly and while that’s going on, there’s time to chop the most important stuff: the toppings. Posole has to have its toppings: lime wedges, chopped cilantro, sliced green onions, radishes, cheese, even avocado, if you like. Heat up a few tortillas in the oven and you’re good to go. You could even have a pan of cornbread made ahead. You’ll feed everyone, they’ll be happy and full; the mess is contained to one pot and the bowls. I’m not sure it gets any better than that. Before you know it, you’ll be putting your feet up to watch “Love the Coopers” or “Deck the Halls” or pulling out the Scrabble board.
My recipe feeds 6-8, but is easily doubled or even tripled for a crowd. You’ll need to brown the tenderloin in batches or have a couple of skillets going for larger batches, but it’ll still come together quickly and simply. I’d give it a 4 for heat on a scale of 1-10, so scale back or put a bottle of hot sauce on the table if you have folks who either can’t take the heat or were weaned on jalapeños. It must have a least a tiny bit of spice to make it posole, but it needn’t burn the roof off grandma’s mouth. In fact, the thing that most makes posole delicious is the juxtaposition of textures and the tang of acid from the lime. Need this to go further? Make some brown rice and serve the posole over a scoop of rice. The grain will also dumb down the heat a little if you need that.
PORK TENDERLOIN POSOLE serves 6-8
A fast and lean version of the famous old Mexican stew typically made with pork butt. Be sure you buy the garnish (toppings) ingredients because the crunch of the radishes and onions, as well as the zing of the lime, just make the dish. Prep: chop the vegetables for the stew in a food processor to speed up the process. This recipe doubles easily for a crowd.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, cut into ½ -inch pieces
- 2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound pork tenderloin–sliced into 1-inch coins, which are then cut into 4 pieces each (quartered)
- 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes
- 2 4-ounce cans chopped mild green chiles (or to taste)
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 29-ounce can hominy, well-rinsed and drained
- 2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
TOPPINGS (Garnishes): 3 limes, cut into wedges; 1 bunch radishes sliced thinly; 1 cup chopped onions or 1 bunch green onions, sliced; 1 cup shredded lettuce, 2 sliced avocadoes and/or 2 cups grated sharp Cheddar or Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in an 8-quart stockpot over low heat. Add chopped onions, carrots, and celery and season with chili powder, cumin, oregano, ½ teaspoon of the kosher salt, ½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper, and ¼ teaspoon of the crushed red pepper. Stir well; raise heat to medium and cover. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring often; add garlic during last minute of cooking.
- In the meantime, heat a large, deep skillet over high heat and add the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil. In a medium bowl, toss the cut-up pork tenderloin with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and the other ¼ teaspoon of the crushed red pepper. Add the meat to the hot skillet; let meat brown on one side. Turn pieces of pork, browning on all sides. Turn heat off under the skillet and add the browned pork to the stockpot, scraping any juices and browned bits into the pot. Stir well.
- Pour in the tomatoes, green chiles, broth, drained hominy, and corn and stir into the pork mixture. Bring to a rolling boil. Lower heat a bit and let simmer 15 minutes or so to marry flavors and until the posole has thickened slightly. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot with garnishes passed at the table.
Serve with hot tortillas or cornbread.
WINE: Malbec or Syrah
BEER: Mexican such as Corona or Dos Equis
DESSERT: Peppermint ice cream with chocolate sauce
Christmas Eve: Alyce’s Crab Chili
I just need some fish and vegetables: Alyce’s Salmon on Ratatouille
Need something excellent, grounding, and holiday-ish to read? I may have shared this before, but try Dickens’ CHRISTMAS CAROL. I know; it’s a cliche, but try it. Short, sweet. I just re-read it, as did my husband, Dave. Not a movie, the book! I’m also reading THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES by Nigel Slater. That’ll be my reading for many coming Christmases. I have out THE FIRST CHRISTMAS, for a second or third…reading.