Jalapeño, Pork & Hominy ChiliPollan Family's Jalapeño, Pork & Hominy Chili
march 6, 2015

Posole from Nopalito restaurant is one of my favorite lunches ever, so I thought I'd try making it myself. This version of posole has pork in a green broth, instead of beef in a red broth, and is quick to prepare, as long as the hominy has been cooked ahead of time or comes from a can. 

We found out yesterday that dried hominy takes forever to cook, when I tried to prepare this stew for dinner. I hadn't soaked the corn in advance and it didn't fully soften until late that night. So we had leftover pasta with mini sausages instead and saved the posole for tonight.

Canned hominy would have been much more convenient, but whenever possible I try to choose dried ingredients over canned. Home cooked almost always tastes better, the chance of hazardous chemicals like bisphenol-a leaching into my family's food is lower, there isn't as much wasteful packaging and they are almost always cheaper.

Cooking dried foods like beans and hominy can be a pain, but soaking them overnight or simply starting them in a slow cooker the morning of the day I want to use them for dinner isn't too much of a bother, when I remember to do it.

Like beans, corn is a native food of the Americas and has been eaten here since the dawn of time. Hominy is made of corn kernels soaked in a corrosive solution that removes the hull and softens the seed. This process is called nixtamalization and has been used for thousands of years by native people of North America, to make tortillas, tamales and other foods. 

Removing the hull makes nixtamalized corn not a whole grain. But this process does make corn able to become dough and frees up the micronutrient niacin, also known as vitamin B3, so that our bodies can absorb it. Niacin is one of the nutrients added to enriched grain products to replace what is lost when whole grains are processed into a more shelf-stable, but less healthy form (like white flour and degerminated cornmeal). 

Without enough niacin, people can develop a disease called pellagra, which was endemic to poor areas of the U.S. in the early 1900s. Pellagra is known for causing the three Ds: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and ultimately death. This makes for great table talk with my kids, who wanted to know why their corn was so "funny looking."  I excused my usual request for decorum in trade for a conversation on historic health epidemics caused by food, that they'll almost certainly remember. For particularly juicy material to spur on your own kids, have a look at this page of  A. J. Bollet's article "Politics and Pellagra." It's really gross!

I'm confused, though, as to whether or not whole grain cornmeal contains niacin that can be absorbed by our bodies. According to its packaging, it does. But according to many articles I've read on nixtamalized corn, it doesn't. Which is it?

The grown-ups in our house gave a thumbs-up to Jalapeño, Pork & Hominy Chili. My son loved the broth and pork, but not the hominy. My daughter was out for a pizza party and didn't try it, or want to try it the next day. I used only one, de-seeded jalapeño to keep the broth less spicy for the kids, and used spring onions and green garlic in place of the usual drier versions. Hominy seems to be an acquired taste, even my husband described it as "trippy," so I'll keep at it and serve this one again soon.

On p. 182 of The Pollan Family Table: The Best Recipes and Kitchen Wisdom for Delicious, Healthy Family Meals.



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The Pollan Family Table

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