Warm and Cozy Mexican Pozole

December 2, 2015

Pozole is a rich and flavorful Mexican stew that is made with chicken or pork.  Traditionally, this dish is served during the holidays to keep the family warm and cozy during the winter months.  There are two main types of pozole, a red one and a green one, each one is named after the dried chiles used to make the luxurious sauce.  This article focuses on the red pozole but you can find a lovely recipe for green pozole here if that is more your style.  

Classic pozole cooks dried white hominy in a homemade pork broth studded with pigs head, neck and feet.  Unless you visit a specialized market, like your local Latin market, these items may be hard to come by.  This recipe includes some adjustments to account for that but if you can get your hands on those foodstuffs, I highly suggest preparing the soup using the old school method.  

The key to outstanding pozole is the homemade pork broth.  This is absolutely something you have to make yourself and cannot come out of a can.  Secondly, toast and soak your red chile peppers.  The toasting adds a nice smoky undertone that pairs well with the bold peppers.  Again, a red sauce made from scratch is preferable to one that is store bought.  If you take your time and prepare each piece of the recipe yourself, you will incredibly happy with the results.  The best part is that leftovers can be eaten up to five days afterwards or frozen for a meal at a later date.

Red Pork Pozole

Ingredients:

For the soup:
4 quarts of water or more (enough to cover)
2 pounds pork shoulder, cubed
1 pound pork spare ribs
2 tbsp flavorless oil, like canola or vegetable
1 white onion, quartered 
1 small head of garlic, cloves removed
1 bay leaf
kosher salt, to taste
3 cans (15 ounces each) white hominy, drained and rinsed

For the red sauce:
3 to 5 dried chiles de arbol
4 to 5 dried ancho chiles
4 to 5 dried guajillo chiles
5 large garlic cloves
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 white onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp flavorless oil, like canola or vegetable
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the garnish:
Shredded lettuce or cabbage
white onion, finely chopped
red radish, sliced
avocado, diced
fresh cilantro
tostadas

Directions:

Step 1: Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat.  Season the pork shoulder generously with salt and pepper and cook until just beginning to brown.  Add the onions and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant.  Add the spare ribs and bay leaf and cover with water.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to low so that the broth is at a simmer.  Continue to cook the broth for at least 2 hours or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.  While the meat is cooking, skim the scum and fat from the top.  Discard the onion, garlic and bay leaf.  Remove the meat from the pot.  Trim any remaining fat and cut the meat from ribs.  Add the meat back to the pot along with the hominy. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Step 2: Meanwhile, prepare the red sauce.  Remove the seeds and veins for all chiles.  In a cast iron pan, toast the chiles until fragrant.  Once toasted, cover them with warm water and allow to soak for 30 to 35 minutes.  Once soft, place the chiles into a blender along with the remaining sauce ingredients (with the exception of the oil).  Puree the mixture until smooth adding some of the soaking liquid if necessary.  Strain the mixture to remove any lumps or seeds.  

Step 3: Heat the oil in the skillet over medium high heat.  Add the red sauce to the skillet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.  Add the red sauce to the soup and continue to cook the soup for an additional 10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.

Step 4: Serve the pozole hot with garnishes on the side.

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