Pozole- My Cold Weather Companion

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

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When winter months roll around I want to hibernate. I want to be in a hot kitchen slow cooking, braising meats, roasting root vegetables, and invariably staying warm. Pozole is a dish that hits the mark on these dark, cold days. It encapsulates everything I love about Mexican cooking. It layers flavors and techniques to create a dish with intense complexity. There is a mild heat from the chiles that warms you balanced with acidic lime juice and rich braised pork shoulder. It is a hearty stew that can be served with an assortment of sides that personalize each bowl: tortillas, radish, avocado, cilantro, shredded cabbage, limes, creama (or sour cream), and cheese. This is a dish I have served many times over the course of my career and has taken on many iterations. Oxtail Pozole at Food & Wine Festival in Atlanta, Green Chile Pozole on Top Chef, and most recently Pozole Rojo, currently my favorite version. This recipe is gold. Print now, make it tomorrow, and thank me later.

Pozole Rojo

Yields 6 quarts

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch sized cubes
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon canola oil
9 gaujillo chiles
3 ancho chiles
2 medium sized tomatoes
2 chipotles in adobo, I like the Embasa brand
1 large white onion, small diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 poblano peppers, deseeded and small diced
1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoon ground coriander
3 dried bay leaves
1 Tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
5 cups of cooked and drained hominy, you can use the canned stuff
3 quarts of chicken stock
2 ½ Tablespoon kosher salt
½ cup limejuice
½ cup chopped cilantro

Begin by mixing the pork shoulder with the salt and black pepper. Set aside and gather the rest of the ingredients. Toast the dried guajillo and ancho chiles; I use a cast iron pan for this. Heat the pan over medium heat. Add a few chiles to the pan at a time, keeping them in a single layer touching the pan. Using a metal spatula gently press the chiles flat against the pan, the chiles should puff up slightly and darken in color just a little bit. They should not be charred or smoking, this will make them bitter. It will take about 30 seconds to toast each round of chiles. After the chiles have all been toasted, place them in a container and cover them with hot tap water. Weigh them down with something like a small plate so that they all stay submerged. Soak them for 30 minutes. While the chiles are soaking roast the tomatoes. Heat the same cast iron pan over medium heat. Place the whole tomatoes into the pan and cook for about 7 minutes. You want to get as much of the outside skin charred as possible, rotate the tomatoes as needed to accomplish this. After the chiles have soaked for 30 minutes, remove them from the water and place in a blender along with the roasted tomato, canned chipotle, and about a cup of the chile soaking water. Blend until smooth.

In a large pot heat the canola oil over medium high heat. When pot is ready add in the pork shoulder. Sear the pork until it is well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove the pork from the pot and set aside. Next carefully pour the chile puree into the pot and cook while stirring for about 3 minutes. This will help concentrate the flavor of the chilies and add more depth to the final product. Next, add in the onion, garlic, and poblano peppers. Cook for 1 minute. Add in the ground cumin, ground coriander, bay leaves, and Mexican oregano. Cook for an additional 3 minutes before adding in the hominy, chicken stock, and the pork shoulder. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat for about 1 ½ hours. Remove the bay leaves. To finish the pozole add in the lime juice and chopped cilantro. Season with salt to your taste, I used about 2 ½ Tablespoon of salt for mine. Serve along side crispy tortillas, shredded cabbage, radish, sour cream, and cheese.

*If you have the chance, make this a day before serving. I love how the flavors marry and become even more delicious overnight.