Pozole is, by many Mexican’s standards, the Mexican national dish. It pre-dates Columbus by several hundred years, dating back to the Aztecs or further. One idigenous group’s creation story involves the people being formed from masa harina or corn flour. The corn was considered sacred to many during this time and since it is a good staple food, it was natural that it made it’s way into the dish. The other key component to the dish is pork or, at times, chicken, but originally, it is said, that the first meat used was human. This was a byproduct of human sacrifice. Since only the heart was offered to the gods, the bodies were offered to the people as a sort of sacred communion. These two ingredients came together with a simple broth made of stock and chile, and pozole was born. When cannibalism became taboo, it was natural to move onto the next closest thing in flavor, pork. Today, pozole varies from household to household, but there are three basic types. Pozole rojo, verde and (least commonly) pozole blanco. I prefer the heavy smokiness of a red pozole. This was my first time making it, and I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but…BEEP BEEP!
Here is the finished product with all of the accoutrements.
2 lbs Pork (Fatty Cut with bones, I used Spare Ribs, because I am a millionaire, but before I was literally swimming a pool of money, Scrooge McDuck style, I would use pork butt cut into chunks)
1 Large can of Hominy (not the huge one, but the one that is bigger than a 16 oz)
2 Boxes of Chicken Broth (maybe even 3 or add bouillon and water) If I had more time, I could have made a stock with the pork and some mirepoix, but I guess that I am lazy….;)
Several Dried Chiles (Chipotle, Guajillo, Ancho, de Arbol) Use a mix of all of them, they are cheap, and you can keep them forever
Fresh Red Chiles (I used red jalapeños and skinny finger peppers)
1 White Onion
3 Cloves Garlic
Avocado, Lime, Cilantro, Cabbage, Radish
First I soaked the chiles in hot water. I do this to soften them, but also to wash off some of the ockyness. They sometimes are even moldy, so this is a good move rather than just adding them as is to the broth.
I broke my ribs down to a more manageable size for searing, then I coated them with a nice spicy mexican rub.
I thought I was pretty clever yesterday when I called it “amazing rub”, but today I just think that I am an idiot. I do, however, use this rub on almost everything. It gives the meat a really nice representation of molé flavor without a lot of the work. I just make a lot at the same time and save it for later. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of this stuff (I just accumulated this stuff over a long time) I basically just fill up my spice grinder, a.k.a. my coffee grinder, with the following:
Salt * Sugar * Cinnamon Stick (the soft Mexican kind) * Dried Chile Ancho, Guajillo, Chipotle and Arbol (broken into pieces) * Clove * Allspice * Mexican Oregano * Annatto * Cumin * Bay Leaf * Smoked Paprika * Cocoa Powder *
Don’t worry, your coffee won’t taste weird….that weird…..
Next, you need to get a heavy pan or the same pot the pozole will be in, super-duper hot. Add a bit of oil and make sure it is smoking hot, but not to the flash point. Add the pork one or two pieces at a time, and let it get good color before you flip it. This will both impart flavor and help break down the fat and connective tissues. Once you get color on both sides, set the meat aside for later. When the pan is still hot, toss in the garlic and your chiles rough chopped. Stir those around a bit, then add half of your onion simply cut in half so that it stays together. Also add the bay leaf, dried chiles, and your stock.
Bring this to a simmer, in order to soften the chiles and impart the flavors of the other aromatics.
Once the chiles are very soft and the onion is translucent, strain the broth into a large bowl through a mesh strainer.
Pour most of the broth back into the pot, and put it back onto the heat with the porky goodness. Put the rest into your blender cup.
Pick the chiles out of the strainer, as well as the garlic. Throw the onion and bay leaf away. Pull the stems out of the chiles, and put the flesh into the blender cup. Blend until smooth-ish.
Pour your chile mix into your strainer and bowl to get all of the big chunks and the errant seeds out.
Beat the sides of the stainer to get the most liquid out, and throw away the seedy pulp. Now pour the chile slop into your pot with the meat and broth.
I used this can of hominy or maîz pozolero, but that was because I had no time. A lot of old Mexican abuelas would use dried hominy and soak it, but I wanted it fast. Hominy is a different type of corn than regular corn from the cob, it is much larger and white. It is soaked in an alkali solution and often lye, to give it that bloated cracky texture. If you choose the canned variety, make sure to rinse it, because a lot of sludge will accumulate on the bottom.
Whole Foods also had the real deal, but I had no time to soak it. I am not sure if the corn has been treated with the alkalai mix yet, but I would like to try it some time. At Mexican markets you can get large bags, and I am sure for at least half the price. If you plan on trying it, let me know how it goes. I would plan on soaking it for some time.
Now you can add the hominy and just start to cook away. Once the mix reaches a simmer, reduce it to super low, and leave it covered for as long as you can bear. When it is done, you should be able to pull bones out with little effort. In Mexico and in Mexican restaurants, pozole is often served with the big old bones floating in the soup, but in this case, I pulled them out and roughly chopped the meat, leaving big hearty chunks because I hate to pick the bones out (particularly in public places, because it is so funny to have huge chunks of spine or shoulder blade on your plate or on a napkin on the table).
While you are waiting to eat, you can make a “fixin’s” plate, for later. I julienned cabbage and sliced radish and put both in a bowl with a little water to keep them crisp. I also small diced the other half of the onion, picked cilantro, sliced avocado, and cut lime segments. I did mine ahead of time, so I sprinkled my avocado with lime juice and lime chile salt to keep it from oxidizing. Then I just covered it and put it in the fridge. My batch turned out pretty spicy, but I made sure to have Tapatio on hand. I also bought a couple small packets of tostadas for eating with the soup. Hope you win over the hearts of your loved ones with the recipe too.