Especially during sweet corn season, it’s easy to forget that there’s any other kind of corn. But hominy, field corn that’s been treated to make it better for human diets, feeds a lot more people.
Around these parts, hominy comes in cans, white and colored yellow. It’s a versatile addition to stews and vegetable dishes, once you get over its texture, which is more like cooked beans than corn off the cob.
Elsewhere, hominy is also ground into masa, the cornmeal dough that’s turned into tortillas and tamales by Mexicans and other Central America cooks. Classic uses of the whole kernels include posole, a chile-laced stew of chicken or pork, and atole, a thick beverage made from ground hominy, milk and sugar.
Lye to me: Cows can subsist on field corn, but humans who make it a large part of their diet are susceptible to disease because it lacks niacin, an essential vitamin. About 4,000 years ago, someone in Central America learned that lye, which can be made from wood ash, dissolves the kernel’s outer membrane. The process, known as nixtamalization, creates chemical changes that free nutrients and makes the corn easier to form into workable dough.
Here, canned hominy anchors an easy, hearty weekend dinner with a Mexican twist. Dump and stir, roast and enjoy.
Mexican Pot Roast
1 chuck steak, 2-3 pounds
1 29-ounce can white hominy
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, whole or diced
1 16-ounce jar salsa verde
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Generously salt and pepper beef. Heat oil in large skillet. When oil is almost smoking, add beef and sear until brown and crusty on both sides, about 15 minutes.
Place beef in 9-by-13 pan or similar ovenproof vessel. Around beef, distribute drained hominy, tomatoes and salsa verde.
Cover pan with foil and place in oven. Roast 2 to 3 hours, flipping and stirring once an hour, until beef is fork tender. You should be able to push a fork into the thickest part and twist it easily.
Break up beef and serve as a stew, over rice or mashed potatoes, topped with shredded sharp cheddar or queso blanco, if desired. For a more genteel dish, carefully remove beef to plate to cool. Shred beef and remove fat and gnarly bits before returning to dish, warming through, and serving.