Friday, September 04, 2009

Dinner, Day 6: Pozole

Before I write anything, I need to make sure you pronounce this properly. It's a Mexican soup, and it's pronounce "poe - SOE - lay". Now we're talking about the same thing.

So I mentioned last week that I was quite sick. I'm all better now, thanks for asking, but my husband was hit at the beginning of this week with the same knock-your-socks-off cold I had. This was no ordinary humdinger, but rather the kind where you can do nothing but lay in your bed and avoid everything. There was only one thing I could do for him: make pozole.

What?! What about chicken soup with homemade noodles? I'll answer your question, but just because I'm so nice. Back in my single days, anytime a friend got sick, I would make the very best homemade chicken soup and use my grandmother's recipe for homemade noodles. It was delicious at the time, and I especially loved the noodles, but I was burned out on chicken soup before I ever got married. Lucky for me, Mark has never been a chicken noodle soup fan. He does, however, like soups that are aromatic, spicy, and have a good broth.

Pozole is a combination of many of the best flavors Mexico has. You start with a strong stock (though you can cheat, as it gets stronger) then add the flavor of chiles, lots of garlic, pork, hominy, onions, cilantro, cabbage, and lime. I'm convinced that if you only had that garlic, chile-infused broth, you'd be delighted, but everything else puts it over the top. When you're sick, this is the best thing you can eat. It's satisfying and healing. When you're healthy, this is still one of the best things you can eat. It's satisfying, fresh, and packed with vibrant flavors.

I learned how to make pozole soon after I married Mark, as he's long had a strong affinity for good Mexican food, and learned to make it better from Rick Bayless. If you want to make good Mexican cuisine at home, or even just want to improve your Mexican repertoire, he is the master. And if you live nearby, you can come over and browse a cookbook. I have three or four from him, all very useful.

This is a fairly simple version of the recipe. I include my instructions on making a good chicken stock, but if you buy a good variety in cartons at the grocery store, you'll still get a decent soup.


5 lbs. chicken drumsticks
1 large head garlic
2 lbs. pork (sirloin roast or Boston butt works well; even pork chops will do), sliced or diced, 1/2" thick
2 oz. dried guajillo or New Mexico chiles (or more, if you like it extra spicy; or less, if you don't)
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 t. dried Mexican oregano
1 30-oz can white hominy, drained, rinsed
cabbage, thinly sliced
onions, thinly sliced
limes, wedged or cut in half
cilantro, roughly chopped
radishes, sliced

To make the chicken stock, lay the drumsticks in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a pan. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400˚ for an hour. Cool the chicken until it is manageable. Remove the meat from the chicken and save it for another use.

Place the bones, skin, and anything else remaining from the chicken in a large pot. Cover with water. Bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 hours. Strain the stock and return the stock to the pot. You should have about 6 cups of broth, give or take. Season lightly with salt, but not too much, as the stock may further reduce a bit.

Remove all the garlic cloves from the head. Set two cloves aside. Peel and slice the rest, then add them to the chicken stock. Add the pork to the stock as well. Place the Mexican oregano (not even remotely the same thing as regular oregano, this is found in inexpensive plastic packets in the Mexican section of most grocery stores) in the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together over the pot to crush the oregano as it falls into the soup. Bring the stock to a simmer again; simmer for about 90 minutes, until the pork is tender.

After about an hour, remove the stems from the chiles and shake out the seeds. Place the remaining chile pods in a bowl. Cover with very hot water (or microwave the bowl with chiles and water until water is nearly boiling); set aside and let the chiles rehydrate for about 20-30 minutes.

Once the chiles are soft, place them in the blender with the 1/2 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 t. salt, and about 1/2 c. water from the chile bowl. Blend until smooth, adding a touch more water if necessary.

Here's an optional extra step: you can pass the chile purée through a strainer before adding it to the pot if you like. If you don't, you'll have very small pieces of chile skin that you will feel occasionally as you eat the pozole. This doesn't bother me, but it is more pleasant without them. If you thin the purée with a little more water first, it will be slightly easier to strain. The soup will be very good either way.

Add the chile purée and hominy to the soup. Simmer for about 30 minutes to let the flavors come together. Taste for salt and season as necessary. If it's not spicy enough for you, add some cayenne as well.

Set out the aromatics: cabbage, onion, radishes, cilantro, and lime.

Ladle some soup into a bowl, then add aromatics as desired. Don't miss the squeeze of lime; it's essential!

Enjoy. You'll be better soon.


Carrie said...

Thank you for the recipe. I saw the picture on your husband's blog and it just looked so yummy!

Watcher said...

Awesome. I am so making this- thanks!

DanMetcalf said...

I love pozole. Never quite got used to menudo, even what people claim to be the best, but a good bowl of pozole is welcome anytime!

Joshua J said...

uh... i never like when i find out that you know how to make delicious things that i haven't had in years! next time you make this i think i could find time to make it out to your house

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

Not only does this sound great, but "pozole" is one of those words that's just fun to say!

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