Pozole Rojo

2017-03-14 00.49.50As many of you already know, my family spent 4 years living in Mexico City. I was an infant when we moved there, and the biggest disappointment of my life is that, although I spoke Spanish before English, I was just 6 when we moved back to the United States and I never maintained my Spanish. Although I have a great accent if I read or speak, I am far from fluent. I do understand much of what is said to me, but I cannot respond proficiently in Spanish.

That said, I, and my family as a result, have a fondness for traditional Mexican foods, not Tex-Mex, that abounds in the US, but the traditional foods we ate every day. In Mexico my parents had maids. It sounds pompous and make us seem rich, but truthfully, it was typical in the country at that time, as it is and was in many places around the globe. Theresa was with us the entire time and taught my mother some of her family’s recipes, which my mother has passed on to me. When my mother made Pozole though, she used to season it with “pozole powder” which she had picked up on one of her multiple trips to Mexico over the years. I did not have any in the house, so I had to learn how to make it from scratch.

This recipe is a combination of my mother’s recipe, my touches, and the skills from Mely Martinez’ mexicoinmykitchen.com .  I tripled most, but not all of the ingredients in her recipe, to suit my family’s taste.

Pozole is usually a celebratory food in Mexico. It takes quite a while and many steps to make it right, but, when it’s done, it is a hearty, delicious, soup/stew, perfect for a family dinner on a cold night.

So what is it? Pozole itself is the Spanish word for hominy. Yes, the same stuff we turn into grits in the US. It is dried corn which has been soaked in a mineral lime bath, which in turn puffs the corn, removes the shell, and turns the niacin into something we as humans can benefit from, making it much more digestible than plain corn. It is delicious added to soups and stews, and is ground into cornmeal for tortillas and tamales.

I don’t like to make soup in small quantities. Soup is one of those wonderful dishes that 1. freeze well, and 2. taste so much better the next day. So, this recipe is for 12 quarts of soup. If you want a smaller recipe, the one mentioned above by Mely Martinez is very close.

The soup recipe will be in 3 parts: The Soup itself, The Chili Seasonings, and The Toppings

INGREDIENTS for the Soup:

  • 5# Boneless pork shoulder, or 8# bone-in pork shoulder, cut into hunks, just for ease in handling ( you can also use ribs as part of the meat – you will be shredding the meat for the soup itself
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chunked
  • 5 stalks of celery, cleaned and chunked
  • 2 large onions, peeled and quartered
  • 10 to 12 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 cans, white hominy, rinsed and broken up (The hominy will come out of the can holding the shape of the can. Using your hands under running water, break up the hominy. It will come apart into kernels, washing the excess starch off)
  • Enough water to fill the pot
  • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt

DIRECTIONS:

In a 16 quart stock pot, put in everything except the hominy. It will be added much later in the process.

Bring the pork, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, salt and water to a boil. Turn it down so that it continues to simmer, partially covered, for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. As it cooks, the meat will release some of the fat which will rise to the top of the pot as a foamy scum. Remove this with a large spoon periodically.

When the soup is done, and the meat is falling apart, remove the meat from the pot into a large bowl. When it is cool enough to handle, shred the meat, removing all visible fat and bones, and set aside. To shred the meat, you can use two forks. Personally, I believe in either freshly washed hands or using light weight latex gloves so you can find any stray fat or bones and remove it.

You want to remove all the solids from the pot. I find, though it’s messy, the easiest way to do it is to strain the soup into another large pot. Since I had a stock pot, and inherited one from my mother, I can do this. I strain the soup into another large pot and toss all the onion, carrot and celery. You can, if you’d like, mash the veggies through a strainer. This will keep the nutrients but still keep your broth clear rather than cloudy.

INGREDIENTS For the Red Sauce:

  • 15 dried ancho chili peppers
  • 15 cried guajillo chili peppers
  • 5 dried Chili de Arbol (All are available in most supermarkets, in bags, in the produce or Ethnic food aisles)
  • Boiling water
  • 10 to 12 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium onions, rough chopped
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the stems off the dried peppers using kitchen shears and shake out the seeds that you can, without working at it too much.

Put all the peppers into a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Make sure they are totally under water, and set aside for about 30 minutes.

In a blender, add the onion, garlic, peppers, and enough of the pepper water to be able to blend the peppers into a paste. Don’t use all the water, but use enough to keep the blender from jamming. Make it in batches if you have to.

In a pot with higher sides, add the oil and heat it, then add the pepper paste you just made. Over medium heat, heat the sauce. It will bubble and splatter, so be careful. Turn the temp down, stirring it occasionally, and cook it for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Now, using a strainer, add the red sauce to the stock pot. You can ladle some broth into the peppers to help strain it. You are straining it to remove the hulls and seeds, but still release the pepper, capsasin, flavor and color into the broth.

Now add the pork back into the pot, as well as the 6 cans of rinsed and broken up hominy.

The soup should be red, slightly spicy, and sweet, all at the same time. If you like it spicier, you can add chili powder. I recommend adding it just 1/2 tsp. at a time. A little goes a long way when you already have the guajillo, ancho and chili de arbol in the soup. Season with additional salt if necessary.

INGREDIENTS for Toppings:

Pozole is basically a stew. You want to fill the bowls only about 2/3 of the way, with about 2 to 1, solids to broth. Then everyone can individually top their bowl with:

  • Shredded lettuce, iceberg or romaine both work well or shredded cabbage
  • Diced sweet onion
  • Radishes, washed and sliced thin
  • Mexican Oregano
  • Lime wedges
  • Chili powder or dried chili flakes
  • Diced avocado (this is not traditional, but adds a wonderful flavor and texture to the soup)
  • Serve with tortillas or tortilla chips, if desired.

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2 thoughts on “Pozole Rojo

  1. Hi,

    It’s very funny that you posted this today. Earlier this week, Bob made pozole from my Spanish class and everybody loved it! We did not use the carrots and celery in the broth, however I did cook the pork in half water and half chicken broth, so probably got the same result. We searched high and Low for Chile Guajillo, and finally found it in a Mexican store on the southside of Tucson. We made a red sauce entirely with that Chile and it was very flavorful but mild. I figured that was fine for my Spanish class. I’m interested in the combination of peppers that you used, and if we were to make it again, that would probably be the one change I would make to my recipe. Thanks!

    Sent from my iPad

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    1. That’s funny. Glad you made it and enjoyed it. Yes, the carrot, onion and celery just helps give the soup a little depth of flavor, which as you said, some chicken broth would do as well. Depending on the broth/stock you use, the chicken flavor will make the soup a little sweeter. I have to say I am amazed you couldn’t find the dried chiles. Around here all the major stores carry them, but in odd places. Giant has them in their produce section, hanging on the wall right next to the onions and potatoes. Not an intuitive location, to be sure. Shop-rite has a wall of them at the start of their ethnic aisle, but next to the Jewish foods; again, not intuitive. Glad you enjoyed it. I had a Mexican tasting party last week for Mike’s sibs so I’ll be posting those recipes as well in the next few day.

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