Hominy's haunting appeal

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Mexican chilli

Mexican chilli (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

The costume can turn the friendly fearsome. Consider spaghetti: Kind, plain and eager to please. Unless it's huddled in the dark, posing as the haunted-house bowl of brains. Then it's terrifying.

Consider hominy. It's always dressed for Halloween. Indeed, its life story seems lifted from a horror script. Hominy is corn. Corn scraped from the cob and soaked in acid until its skin and soul (or germ) dissolve.

Leaving kernels that are blanched and bloated to twice their normal size. Scary.

And yet, tasty. Hominy has a mild flavor and squeaky, limey bite. It thickens stews, crowds pozole, and even jells into pudding.

Unmasked, hominy loses its fear factor. Ground, hominy is grits. Ground finer, it's masa, the bedrock of tortilla and tamale. Ground, sweetened and crisped, it's a cornflake, building block of breakfast.

And no one fears the cornflake.

Mexican chili

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 2½ hours 
Servings: 6

Ingredients:

2 pounds pork shoulder

1 cup water

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Spanish onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 quart water or chicken broth

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons oregano (preferably Mexican)

1 bay leaf

3/4 pound (about 6) fresh Hatch* chilies, seeded and chopped

4 ounces canned, diced, spicy green chilies

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