For the past several years, I’ve had cooking a good pot of pozole on my list of things to do. If you’ve never had it, you’re missing out. Pozole, also spelled posole or posolli, is a hearty Mexican soup that’s typically made with pork, hominy and chiles, and traditionally eaten around Christmas, although nowadays more regularly. It’s also believed to be a good hangover remedy.
Hangover or not, this soup is gooooodddd. Alone it’s luscious – spicy from the chiles, earthy from the hominy and rich from tender pieces of pork roast. Then when you sprinkle it with dried oregano, fresh lime juice, bits of onion, crispy cabbage and whatever else you flavor, it gets even better.
I’ve looked for inspiration while eating out but have been repeatedly disappointed because I had my heart and taste buds set on a green or clear pozole that was both light and satisfying – something resembling the version I had over 10 years ago with a friend from New Mexico. I prefer the green version over the red for two reasons: red pozole is almost like menudo (another Mexican soup with hominy) and a lot of folks get heavy handed with the red chile, which can get pungent.
So, when my girlfriend Chelby and her husband Don hooked me up with this green chile version, I knew I had to give it a go – the two know good grub (I think it’s a Texas thang) and Don’s version doesn’t have tripe (stomach lining), which I don’t mind eating on a rare occasion but will reserve for my menudo.
Green chiles are a staple ingredient in most Southwestern kitchens. And, early fall is prime time for folks to buy them by the bushel, fresh or roasted. Last week I got my loot: some Hatch, poblanos, and Anaheim – perfect for this recipe. Note, we’re using fresh, raw chiles for this soup.
Hatch chiles hail from Hatch, New Mexico, which has built a reputation as the Chile Capitol of the World among some. For this recipe, Don recommends Hatch chiles, which are more medium to hot on the Scoville Scale. If you can’t find them, substitute with poblano chiles, also called pasillas, which are typically milder. Poblanos are commonly used roasted and stuffed for popular dishes like chile rellenos.
Besides the chiles, the other star ingredient in this dish is hominy, called cacahuazintle in Nahuatl. It’s a natural variety of white corn with large kernels that is about four times the weight of regular corn kernels. Its taste is distinctive, earthy like that of corn in corn tortillas rather than the sweet flavor of corn in corn of the cob.
This recipe is easy to make, despite the length of this post. Enjoy! And, let me know if Don and I’ve converted any of you red pozole lovers.
Tidbits on Green Chile
- Green chile is generally a reference to its fresh state and red chiles refer to those that have dried. Generally, as chiles grow, they start off green and turn red or yellow.
- Chiles retain their heat level regardless of whether it is cooked, dried or frozen. When using fresh, to reduce the amount of heat, remove the seeds and veins. And, be sure to avoid touching your eyes and other sensitive areas after handling.
- “Hatch” chiles are not a variety of chile pepper, but rather a reference to where they are grown, according to the Chile Pepper Institute of the University of New Mexico.
I tweaked Don’s recipe to my liking – adding garlic because I am a garlic fiend and using a full cup of white wine for deglazing because it adds a nice dimension. The recipe makes a BIG pot of soup, perfect for a pozole party. My additional adjustments and notes are in italics.
Recipe by Don Browne and originally inspired by a reprint of a vintage Santa Fe, New Mexico American Indian cookbook.
Makes 6.5 Quarts
4 pounds pork roast,* cubed into 1” pieces (shoulder or butt roast)
White wine, for deglazing
6 large fresh hatch (if unavailable, poblano, also called pasillas, may be substituted)
2 green bell peppers
1 anaheim pepper
7 large tomatillos, husked
1 medium yellow onion
8 cups water
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced, optional
10 serrano chiles for nice heat, 5 to 6 for mild
4 cans white hominy (29 oz cans)
Salt to taste
*The cut of pork is key in this recipe, use pork shoulder or butt roast. It will come out deliciously tender after several hours of cooking. Do not use pork loin or stew meat made from pork loin, the cut has less fat and the end result will be dry and tough.
- Prepare the meat: use a pork roast or pork stew meat. Cut into 1” cubes or a bit smaller. Remove most thick pieces of fat and any connective tissue running through the meat. Leave a small amount of fat here and there for flavor. Generously salt and pepper.
- Heat a large, heavy stock pot (at minimum 6.5 quarts) on medium high heat; cover the bottom with olive oil. Brown the seasoned, cubed meat for 20 to 30 minutes; stir constantly. Once browned, use a wooden spoon and a splash or several splashes of white wine to deglaze the pot and loosen those caramelized bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and let rest.
- Prepare chile peppers (hatch, anaheim, and green bell; not serrano chiles) for the food processor by removing stems and large white core, leaving seeds intact (especially if you want the heat). Rough chop the peppers, onion and tomatillos for the food processor. Place chopped ingredients into the food processor, don’t overfill. Pulse until the mixture is the consistency of fairly liquid salsa.
- Pour the mixture over the meat in the stock pot as you process it. Add 8 cups of water and stir; bring to a boil with the lid off. (The sauce will become smooth and deep as it simmers. I added 2 teaspoons of salt and 4 cloves of fresh minced garlic right after it came to a boil and before simmering the soup for 2 hours.)
- Reduce heat to simmer on very low boil covered for at least 2 hours, checking periodically to adjust heat if necessary and stir so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
- After soup has simmered, chop serranos finely. Before adding serranos to the soup, taste the broth to gauge how hot/spicy it is; adjust the amount of serranos you add to your liking – if hot, use more and leave the seeds, if milder, use less and remove the seeds and veins.
- Add 4 cans of hominy, three drained and one with the water. Stir, cover and let simmer for 1 hour, stirring periodically to be sure nothing sticks. Sample; adjust salt to taste.
- The pozole is ready to serve. However, the flavor is greatly enhanced the longer it sits, over night is ideal. Keeps refrigerated for 4 or 5 days and, based on experience, the last bowl will taste the best.
Garnishes: Some quick research indicated that various regions of Mexico use a gamut of items to top off a bowl of pozole, including – finely shredded cabbage, fresh lime, diced onions, dried oregano, sliced avocado, sliced radishes, and chicharrones (fried pork rinds).