Pozole Rojo & Chinese-style Slow Roasted Pork Neck Bones

Pork neck bones are one of the last bastions of economy cuts available on the market. Once popularity in the restaurant marketplace hits, prices skyrocket and availability wanes. Lamb shanks and oxtail are two classic examples. But so far, pork neck bones, pig’s ears and trotters are still in the clear. Neck bones in particular are super versatile, lending themselves to all styles of cookery, two styles I’ve explored in the last week. Mexican is one. Pozole, a classic comforting Mexican soup with hominy corn, and available in verde, rojo or blanco versions, and starts with a rich broth made from a pig’s head and neck bones, and sometimes the addition of pig’s trotters. With a limited size of stove, and stock pot – and just the two of us at home – I gave the dish a whirl with just neck bones, around 2.5 lbs, at a cost of $6.00 and change. The bones are simmered on the stove with garlic and salt until the meat falls off the bones. With a surplus of dried chiles, I decided on pozole rojo, using ancho and guajillo chiles, resulting in a deep red colour and earthy flavour.  Another wonderful aspect of pozole are the accompaniments: sliced radishes, shredded cabbage, minced white onion, Mexican oregano and fresh lime, all lined up for the diner to add as they see fit.  The whole dish from start to finish only took a leisurely afternoon’s worth of time and results were stunning. (A few friends have requested the recipe, and I have to admit, I did this a bit on the fly, so I’ll try and write it out as accurately as possible).

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Pozole Rojo

Serves six

2. 5 lbs of meaty pork neck bones

1 can of hominy corn

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 large dried chile anchos, stemmed, seeded and deveined

2 – 3 large dried chile guajillo, stemmed, seeded and deveined

Salt to taste

For the Condiments

1/4 head of green cabbage, shredded

6 to 8 radishes, thinly sliced

1/4 cup finely chopped white onion

1/3 cup dried Mexican oregano

2 limes, cut into wedges

Rinse the pork neck bones under cool running water. Add them to a stock pot with the garlic and salt, and fill pot with cold water, almost to the top. Bring to the boil and simmer, skimming the surface. Let simmer until the meat almost falls off the bone, around 3 hours. Remove the bones from the pot, and add the meat and hominy corn to the stock pot. Meanwhile, tear the chiles into large, flat pieces and toast them, a few at a time, on a dry heavy skillet set over medium heat, pressing them against the hot surface until they crackle and blister, flipping them and pressing again. Transfer to a bowl, covering them with boiling water and keep them submerged for 30 minutes. Drain the chiles, add 1/2 cup of water and puree in a blender until smooth. Strain the chile puree through a medium-mesh sieve and add to the hominy and meat broth. Let simmer for another hour or so. Serve in deep bowls and pass around the accompaniments.

The other dish of pork neck bones that have kept us sated this week, used Asian flavours as its inspiration, and is equally simple to make. Classic ginger, garlic and chile work their magic alongside star anise, Shaoxing Chinese cooking wine, a bit of brown sugar and oyster sauce. It becomes a slow cooked dark, luscious, sweet and sticky dish of divinity. One that you can’t get enough of. Again, it was made on the fly, but don’t that deter you. You’re smart. I can tell.

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Slow-baked Asian-style Pork Neck Bones

1 1/2 lbs. meaty pork neck bones

8 slices of ginger

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

3 star anise

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 red chile, fresh or dried

3/4 cup Shaoxing

2 glugs of oyster sauce

A few splashes of chicken stock

Preheat over to 325 degrees. Add bones, ginger, garlic, chile and star anise to deep casserole pan. Mix the sugar, Shaoxing, stock and oyster sauce together and pour over the pork bones.  Cover with foil, and bake for two hours, turning the bones halfway through. Check for doneness and make sure it doesn’t dry out too soon. If so, add a bit more broth. Remove the foil and cook further until sticky. Serve over steamed rice. Go straight to heaven.

 



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