Years ago when I spent a summer studying Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico, my Mexican teacher told me that it was much easier to pronounce the language properly if you smiled as you spoke it. She was right! Good thing Mexican food is so delicioso, because just thinking about dishes like this posole makes me smile.
It’s somewhat of a feast, posole. I guess you could make smaller batches, but since you have to cook it for several hours, it just makes sense to make a large amount, and then have lots of friends over with whom to enjoy it. Posole (or pozole) is a traditional soup in Mexico, often served Christmas eve, and in many parts of the country on Thursdays and Saturdays all year round.
This posole rojo, or “red” posole, is made with pork shoulder or shanks, red chiles, and lots of hominy corn. I made this for my parents, and they loved it. Mom told me she hadn’t had posole since she was a kid in Tucson. Lots of smiley faces around the table tonight.
Typically just the simple soup with pork and hominy is served, and the add-ins, or garnishes are set at the table for all to pick and put in their soup as they wish. The soup itself should be rather thin, or brothy, because you are going to load it up quickly with shredded cabbage, thinly sliced radishes, chopped avocados, cilantro, onions, and wedges of lime.
More hot sauce or chiles can be added for more heat. Posole is all about the garnishes. So good! Many thanks to my good friend Arturo from Guerrero Mexico for showing me how to make this wonderful soup.
We haven't made this in a slow cooker, but I'm guessing that step 6 could easily be done in a slow cooker.
- 4 ounces guajillo, ancho, or a combination of both, chili pods
- 1 large (108 ounce, 6 lb 12 oz, 3 kg) can white hominy, drained and rinsed
- 3 lbs pork shoulder (preferably with bone), cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes (can also use pork shanks), make sure to use a cut well marbled with fat
- 8 cloves garlic, 4 cloves roughly chopped, and 4 whole cloves
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 Tbsp of dry oregano (Mexican oregano if available)
Garnishes (can prep while pozole is cooking):
- Half a small cabbage, thinly sliced
- One bunch cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 white onion, chopped
- 2 avocados, chopped
- 4 limes, quartered
- A bunch of red radishes, sliced thin
- A couple dozen tostada shells*
*Tostadas are crispy fried corn tortillas. They are sold packaged and can often be found in the same section of your grocery store as fresh tortillas, or can be found at Mexican markets. You can make your own by frying stale corn tortillas (or tortillas that have dried out a bit in a warm oven), in hot vegetable oil until stiff.
1 Fill a large 10-12 quart stockpot with 5 quarts of water. Set on heat to bring to a boil while you proceed with the next steps.
2 Remove and discard the stems, seeds, and large veins from the chili pods. Heat a cast iron pan on medium high and lightly roast the chili pods for a couple minutes, until they begin to soften. Do not let them burn. While the chilies are heating, bring a medium pot with 3 cups of water to a boil. Once the chiles have softened, submerge them in the pot with the 3 cups of hot water, cover the pot and remove from heat. Let the chiles soak in the hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.
3 Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Pat the pork pieces dry with paper towels. Sprinkle them generously with salt. Working in batches, taking care not to crowd the pan or stir the meat much, brown the meat on all sides. Right at the end of browning the meat, add 4 cloves of roughly chopped garlic to the pan with the meat, let cook with the meat for about a minute.
4 Once the meat has browned, transfer it to the large stockpot of boiling water. Scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan, and any garlic, and add those to the pot as well. Add the rinsed hominy. Add bay leaves, cumin, and oregano. When you put the oregano in, smoosh together with your hands so that the oregano breaks up more as it goes in. Add a tablespoons of salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes.
5 Prepare the red sauce by puréeing in a blender the chilies, 2 1/2 cups or so of their soaking liquid, a teaspoon of salt, and 4 cloves of garlic. (To prevent the blender from creating too much pressure, it's probably best to start with the chiles and garlic and only a cup of the liquid in the blender, and then adding the rest of the liquid.) Strain the red sauce through a sieve, discarding the tough bits of the sauce.
6 Add the red chili sauce to the pot with the pork and hominy. Add another couple teaspoons of of salt. Return to a simmer, lower the heat to just high enough to maintain a simmer, partially covered. Cook for 2-3 hours until the pork is completely tender. Skim away excess fat. Taste for seasoning and add more salt to taste (you will likely need more than you expect, perhaps a tablespoon or more.) The resulting soup should be rather brothy, as you will be adding a lot garnishes. Add more water if necessary.
7 When getting ready to serve the pozole, you can prep the garnishes (slice the cabbage, chop the cilantro, etc.) To serve, arrange the garnishes in bowls on the table and serve the pozole soup into bowls. Let your guests pick and choose which garnishes they would like on their pozole. Serve with tostada shells (or tortilla chips if you can't find tostada shells).