Tasty Tuesday: Pozole!

Okay, we’ve talked about basic vegetable soup; we’ve contemplated a yummy, cheddar broccoli chowder and a spicy jambalaya. I think we’re ready to talk about Pozole (pronounced “poh-SOH-lay”). We discovered this fabulous soup, thanks to a good friend named Nicole, about a year ago. Life has not been the same! Well, that might be overstating it a bit, but this IS really good stuff.

Pozole, according to Nicole, is the quintessential Mexican comfort food. Not comfort food, as in tuna casserole. Comfort food as in fried chicken, sweet potato pie, or Thanksgiving Dinner. Pozole is something that Mexican mamas make for their kids when they are sick. It’s also the thing that you MUST have for Christmas Eve dinner, or Thanksgiving (here in the States), or other holidays. Everyone loves it, and eagerly wangles invitations for dinner if they know you are serving it.

Nicole tells me that pozole has as many variations as there are grandmothers in Mexico, and there are especially pronounced regional differences, depending on what part of Mexico the cook hails from. This version is a red pozole, and comes from Hermana Rosita, who came from the Gulf state of Veracruz, and now lives in Nicole’s community in Minnesota.

Pozole

Ingredients:

  • 3-5 guajillo chiles (dried, long, dark red chiles that come in packages in the produce section–often located near the onions and peppers. Ingles has a nice selection, btw.)
  • 1 head garlic, all cloves peeled
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • corn or safflower oil
  • 2 large (#10–I mean REALLY large! The #10 can holds about 6.5 pounds ) cans hominy (Ingles also carries these large cans. You can also find them at the Mexican market.)
  • 3 leaves hoja de aguacate (leaves of avocado, available at Mexican markets–I like the one in the building that used to house the Boone Meat Market.)
  • 2-4 TBSP salt
  • 1-2 pounds chicken legs or thighs, or pork

Boil the dried chiles in enough water to almost cover them, until chiles are soft. Drain. In a blender, blend chiles, 2 cups of water, garlic, and onion (reserve a few strips of raw onion for later.)

In a REALLY large stockpot, pour in enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot, plus a bit more. Heat over medium heat. When oil starts to smoke, throw in a few strips of onion, and stir until burnt, to flavor the oil. Discard the onion strips.

While the oil is heating up, pour the chile/onion/garlic mixture through a colander into a bowl. This strains out a spongy/chunky mass. Use a spoon to press all the liquid out. Dump this liquid into the very hot oil. (You can either discard the mass of onion and chiles or you can stir some of it into cornbread.)

Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring constantly.

Add the cans of hominy. Add water–enough to cover, plus a bit more (if you use the hominy cans to measure out the water, it will be about 1 1/2 to 2 cans. You are aiming for the consistency of vegetable soup, not chili.) Add 3 larger leaves of hoja de aguacate (avocado leaves.) Add salt.

Add raw chicken pieces (leave bones in, but remove skin first.)

Bring to a boil, and let cook until the chicken is just done. If you want to retrieve the bones at this time, you can. You don’t need to fish out the avocado leaves, but we usually just eat around them.

Let the soup rest, then reheat.

Serve with the following (people add these things in quantities as they wish):

  • A large heap of finely shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Diced radishes.
  • Sliced avocadoes
  • Quartered limes to squeeze over the soup
  • Crunchy tostada shells or tortilla chips
  • Sour cream
  • For those who like more spice, sliced serrano chiles.
  • Chopped cilantro
  • If you make this with pork instead of chicken, then you serve it with oregano and fresh chopped onions.

All these ingredients that top the pozole are very important. They provide the amazing contrasts that make this such a memorable soup. In particular, the cold iceberg lettuce, fresh cilantro, hot radishes, creamy sour cream and avocados, and the sour lime juice squeezed over everything create a very complex soup “experience.” Trust me, you have to taste Pozole to understand why we rave about it.

This is a soup that gets better each time you heat it up. It hits its peak of flavor about 2 days after it’s made. It is a FABULOUS thing to serve when you have a big crowd. You can double the recipe, and feed 20 or more people! I’ve made this in my canning kettle because it was the only pot big enough to hold all the soup.

Some of you may have noticed that I never did get around to posting the gumbo recipes I promised on My Sister’s Kitchen. I apologize for that. Things should be settling down this week and I’ll have a chance to get caught up.

Barb Kelley