By Rosie Hawthorne on January 1, 2023
A couple months back, I gave you a recipe for “Tamale Pie.” I’d found the hand-written recipe tucked inside a book about Mexican cuisine which I’d unearthed at the recycling center. One of my readers asked for the cookbook’s recipe for pozole soup and I feel obligated to oblige. Please note: this is not the recipe from the book (You know about that pesky thing called “copyright.”); however, I did a little researching (i.e. Googling) and, using the basics for pozole soup and the ingredients I had on hand, came up with my version of pozole which I think you’ll enjoy.
As I often do, I offer a bit of food history before continuing. Pozole, in case you’re not familiar with it, is a centuries-old Mexican soup, typically consisting of pork, garlic, spices, chile peppers, and most importantly, hominy. There are numerous versions of pozole and any number of garnishes may accompany it. A festive dish, it is traditionally enjoyed on special, celebratory occasions, especially during the holiday season and particularly on New Year’s Eve.
The dish itself derives from rather dark origins. Pozole has pre-Hispanic roots, originating with the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. The Aztecs considered corn, or maize, a sacred plant, since creation myths credit the gods with using masa, or cornmeal dough, to create mankind. Pozole was created using hominy, which is made from corn, as a main ingredient. The soup was cooked only on special occasions and in a ritual context, as a way to honor the gods and bring the Aztecs together in a communal meal, rather literally. A warrior was sent out to capture an enemy, who was then brought back to the tribe and sacrificed. The captive was skinned and dismembered and his heart was gouged out, ultimately going into the pot of pozole and the whole being shared with the entire community as an act of religious communion. This practice continued up until the time of the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s when the Catholic Church, frowning upon the preparation of pozole with human parts, nixed the cannibalism. Human meat was replaced with pork, since apparently pork resembled human meat most closely in texture and taste. And now you know.
After gleaning through a bunch of pozole recipes, I came up with a fairly straightforward and simple one that’s hearty and perfect for a winter’s meal. And what better way to celebrate the New Year than with pozole! I served a jalapeño cornbread alongside for sopping up any leftover juices.
For the soup:
(I had guajillo and pasilla chiles on hand, so I used two of each. You can certainly experiment here with different types and combinations of dried chiles in order to add more complex flavors to your dish – from smoky and spicy to sweet and citrusy to earthy and mushroomy.)
In a soup pot, brown the pork in a tablespoon of oil, in batches. Add the onion and garlic in with the last batch of pork. Return rest of pork to pan and add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 40 minutes, or until meat is tender.
In a heavy skillet, sauté chiles in a tablespoon of oil over medium heat, pressing with a wooden spatula, for about 2 minutes. Do not blacken. Transfer chiles to a bowl and cover with about 1 ½ cups boiling water. Cover bowl and soak until softened, about 30 minutes. Remove seeds and stems, reserving water. Transfer chiles and liquid to a blender and process until smooth. Strain and press through a fine sieve, discarding any skins or remaining seeds. Add chile pulp to pork mixture.
Stir in hominy and oregano. Season to taste with salt. Cover and barely simmer for 20 minutes.
Ladle soup into bowls and serve with your choice of assorted toppings.
The soup is certainly fine all by itself, but I always like something to sop up any juices that don’t make it into my soup spoon. Mama Hawthorne’s jalapeño cornbread fits the bill.
Stir together all ingredients and pour into greased 9” x 13” pan. Bake 350° for about 1 hour, until top is golden brown.
Happy New Year and enjoy!
For any culinary questions, feel free to e-mail me at RosieHawthorne@gmail.com. Bon appétit! For more Rosie’s Recipes on the Outer Banks Voice click here