January 16, 2017 – Pozole or posole? Either way it’s a stew made with hominy. It usually includes pork. But chicken will work. And in today’s world, there are even vegetarian and vegan versions. Suit yourself. I’ll go with pork.
I’m not familiar with hominy, or mote in Spanish. I don’t recall eating it when I was growing up. And it’s not something often seen on restaurant menus. It should be.
Pozole, or posole, is a word from the language of the ancient Aztecs who long dominated what is now Central America and most of Mexico. Corn was sacred to the Aztecs. They believed the god Quetzalcoatl made humans from masa. Corn meal dough.
Hominy was especially sacrosanct to the Aztecs. Posole was a dish of celebration. It has a history that is rather…well, let’s not go into it here. It would ruin your appetite.
In many regions of Mexico, posole is still very much revered. It is served on special occasions. Weddings. Birthdays. Christmas.
Turning corn into hominy is done through a process known as nixtamalization. Corn kernels are soaked in alkali water. Water laced with either lime or wood ash. The finished product looks like swollen kernels. That’s what it is.
There are three kinds of posole. Blanco, (white). Verde (green). Rojo (red). Posole Blanco is prepared without the inclusion of additional sauces. A green sauce made from ingredients such as tomatillos, jalapenos, and cilantro gives Posole Verde its name. Posole Rojo includes a sauce made with red peppers.
When the stew is finished, it can be topped with several different garnishes. Cilantro, sliced radishes, sliced red onion, lime sections, sliced avocado, tortilla chips.
Hominy comes either dried or canned. I used canned because that’s all I could find. A 25 ounce can of hominy is a little over three cups. A cup of dried hominy yields 4 1/2 cups cooked. Keep that in mind and make adjustments as needed.
Dried New Mexico peppers are most often used in red posole. You can find them in the international section of most any supermarket. Simmer them in water for half an hour or so to soften. Remove the stems and put them into a blender or food processor, along with the water, to create a slurry, which can then be added to the posole toward the end of the cooking time.
Or you can do as I did. Buy a package of the dried New Mexico peppers already finely ground. At this stage of my life, I’m all for saving labor when it can be done without surrendering quality.
Ordinarily I would use olive oil. But I discovered there was none in the pantry. I used coconut oil. Worked just fine. Even added a little something.
The experiment was a success. After my first bowl of posole, I understand why it’s so revered in Mexico. It’s good food! Worthy of weddings, birthdays and Christmas.
After studying several recipes, here is the one I came up with.
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 country style pork ribs (about two pounds)
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons dried oregano
3 cups hominy
4 cups chicken stock, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons dried New Mexico peppers, finely ground
Garnishes: sliced red onion; chopped cilantro; sliced radishes; finely chopped jalapenos; tortilla chips
Warm a dry Dutch oven or heavy braising pan over medium heat. Toss in the cumin. Swirl it around as it toasts, being careful to avoid burning it. When that wonderful cumin smell fills the kitchen, it’s time to move on.
Place the ribs in the pan, moving each around to get a good coating of toasted cumin on both sides. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add the oil, lifting the ribs so that the oil can cover the bottom of the pan. Raise the heat to medium high. Let the ribs continue to brown, turning them once.
After the ribs have had a chance to start browning, add the onions and garlic. Let them cook down until the onions are soft, five minutes or so.
When the ribs are nicely browned and the onions have softened, sprinkle the oregano over the pot. Add the hominy and chicken broth. Stir to mix well
Bring to a boil. Then turn the heat to low. Cover and let simmer for two hours. Add additional chicken broth if necessary.
Turn off the heat and remove the ribs from the pot. When they have cooled enough to handle, shred the meat. Return it to the pot.
Add the ground New Mexico pepper. Stir to mix it thoroughly. Bring the stew to a boil again and turn the fire down to low. Let the posole simmer for another hour. Add more chicken broth if needed.
Garnish each bowl of the finished posole as desired.