One of the major reasons we keep our friend Nicole around is because she frequently brings us totally authentic Mexican food that induces eye-rolling, finger-licking, and inarticulate noises of deep bliss. Nicole showed up at our door last night with a huge pot of Pozole (pronounced “poh-SOH-lay”). We had somehow managed to attain our current station in life without having ever eaten pozole. I don’t know how to explain that sad omission, but we are working to correct our negligence now.
Pozole, according to Nicole, is the quintessential Mexican comfort food. Not comfort food, as in tuna casserole. Comfort food as in fried chicken, sweet potato pie, or Thanksgiving Dinner. Pozole is something that Mexican mamas make for their kids when they are sick. It’s also the thing that you MUST have for Christmas Eve dinner, or Thanksgiving (here in the States), or other holidays. Everyone loves it, and eagerly wangles invitations for dinner if they know you are serving it.
Nicole tells me that pozole has as many variations as there are grandmothers in Mexico, and there are especially pronounced regional differences, depending on what part of Mexico the cook hails from. This version is a red pozole, and comes from Hermana Rosita, who came from the Gulf state of Veracruz, and now lives here in Minnesota.
- 3-5 guajillo chiles (dried, long, dark red chiles that come in packages in the Mexican/bulk spices aisle)
- 1 head garlic, all cloves peeled
- 1/2 to 3/4 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- corn or safflower oil
- 2 large (#10–I mean REALLY large!) cans hominy
- 3 leaves hoja de aguacate (leaves of avocado, available at Mexican markets)
- 2-4 TBSP salt
- 1-2 pounds chicken legs or thighs, or pork
Boil the chiles in enough water to almost cover them, until chiles are soft. Drain. In a blender, blend chiles, a cup or 2 of water, garlic, and onion (reserve a few strips of raw onion for later.)
In a large stockpot, pour in enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot, plus a bit more. Heat over medium heat. When oil starts to smoke, throw in a few strips of onion, and stir until burnt, to flavor the oil. Discard the onion strips.
Pour the chile/onion/garlic mixture through a colander into the stockpot. This strains out a spongy/chunky mass. Use a spoon to press all the liquid out.
Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring constantly.
Add the cans of hominy. Add water–enough to cover, plus a bit more (if you use the hominy cans to measure out the water, it will be about 1 1/2 to 2 cans. You are aiming for the consistency of vegetable soup, not chili.) Add 3 larger leaves of hoja de aguacate (avocado leaves.) Add salt.
Add raw chicken pieces (leave bones in, but remove skin first.)
Bring to a boil, and let cook until the chicken is just done.
Let the soup rest, then reheat.
Serve with the following (people add these things in quantities as they wish):
- A large heap of finely shredded iceberg lettuce
- Diced radishes.
- Sliced avocadoes
- Quartered limes to squeeze over the soup
- Crunch tostada shells or tortilla chips
- For those who like more spice, sliced serrano chiles.
- Not sure if this is authentic, but we also drizzled in Mexican crema and sprinkled chopped cilantro over the top.
- If you make this with pork instead of chicken, then you serve it with oregano and fresh chopped onions.
This is a soup that gets better each time you heat it up. It hits its peak of flavor the day after it’s made. It is a FABULOUS thing to serve when you have a big crowd. You can double the recipe, and feed 20 or more people!