Pozole, in one form or another, has been a part of Latin American cuisine for centuries.
The heart of the recipe is hominy and chili pods. Hominy are dried corn kernels that are treated and soaked until tender. I get large cans of it from my local 99c only Store. Hominy has a slight nutty flavor, quite different than sweet fresh boiled corn. I compare Hominy to a starch, like rice.
The texture is a bit mealy, but it still holds up well for this recipe. I guess it's serves the same purpose as pasta or rice - more to absorb the main chile and meat flavors.
I made this Pozole with more expensive chunks of pork stew meat, and pork that's cut especially for Pozole (it has bones and some fat) from my local Latin market.
The cheapest pork is from a whole pork shoulder. I get mine for around a dollar per pound - hey, that's why I'm called The 99 Cent Chef. They come in at about 5-9 pounds per shank. There is a lot of skin to remove, along with the center bone. Even with a 6 pound pork shoulder, you can expect about 3-4 pounds of usable meat.
Next to pork shoulder, I like to use thick, country-style pork ribs when they come on sale. These ribs are mainly all meat with a thin bone part. It's easy to add to the pot with little preparation (okay to remove some of the more fatty parts.)
You can also do a cheapie poultry version with chicken breast, legs and/or thighs. It's all good.
The trick is to get some dried chili pods and rehydrate them. It's easy, really. Tear off the stem, scoop out and discard the seeds - that is where most of the heat lies. Then let the chiles set in hot water for 10 minutes. When the water and chiles cool down some, finally blender it all, and add it to the stew pot.
And as a bonus, rehydrated and blended chili make a fine fiery Chili Salsa, my recipe is here.
I used dried California and Ancho Chilies. It's okay to use any large red dried chilies. (For an easy substitution go with a couple cans of red chili or enchilada sauce.) Other chilies are New Mexico and Guajillo.
Click on photos to see larger.
Each chili has a slightly different flavor. Ancho chilies are darker and more pungent than the rest, while Guajillo is slightly hotter. California and New Mexico chiles are mild. Do stay away from the tiny red chili peppers, they are too fiery hot. (Most of the heat from dried chilies come from the seeds, so make sure to remove them.)
You then add enough water to cover the meat and add some sauteed onion and garlic with plenty of dried oregano. Cook the meat until tender then finally add a large drained can of hominy. Let it all cook for a few more minutes, while you get some fresh toppings ready.
Pozole is quite intense on it's own, so traditionally it's topped with fresh chopped onion, cilantro, and sliced greens like cabbage or lettuce. You can even add a slice or two of avocado, and finish it all up with a squeeze of refreshing lime juice.
This one-pot Mexican meal also freezes well, so you can come back to it another day, when you may really have a hangover that needs curing!
Pozole - VIDEO
Play it here, video runs 4 minutes, 2 seconds.
My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.
Ingredients (about 4 - 6 servings)
3 pounds pork - pork butt, shoulder, stew meat or country-style ribs (the extra meaty type.) A cheaper substitution are your favorite chicken pieces, like thighs and legs.
1 large 29 ounce can hominy - drained. Any type will do, just make sure it's the cooked type (usually located by canned beans in the grocery shelves.) I used Mexican hominy.
6 dried red chilies - remove stem and seeds. I used California and Ancho Chili. Okay to use any type of dried red chilies, except for the very small fiery ones. (For an easy substitution use a couple cans of red chile or enchilada sauce.) Other dried red chilies are New Mexico and Guajillo.
5 cups water - for the stew.
2 cups water - to hydrate the dried chilies.
1 onion - chopped. Yellow or white, I used yellow.
1 tablespoon garlic - chopped. Okay to use garlic powder, flakes, or from a jar.
1 tablespoon dried oregano - okay to use fresh oregano.
Salt and pepper to taste.
* When served, Pozole is often topped with any combination of the following: sliced radish, chopped onion, slices of avocado, cilantro, some more oregano, greens like cabbage and lettuce, and a squeeze of lime.
Get the dried chilies ready, rinse them off if necessary. Bring 2 cups of water to boil. While the water heats up, prep the chilies.
Remove the stem and seeds. Just cut or tear open the dried chili and remove seeds and light colored membranes. Don't worry if the chili falls apart, you will just blend it later.
The seeds are not as hot as a jalapeno, but still don't rub your eyes. Make sure to wash off your hands with soap after handling them, especially if you are sensitive to spicy things.
Once the water is boiling add the dried chilies and submerge them. Cover the pot and turn off the heat. They need to soak and soften for about 10 - 15 minutes.
Roughly chop one onion, and about 3-5 cloves of garlic (or about one tablespoon.) Okay to used dried garlic or garlic from a jar.
Depending on the pork you get, cube it into about 2 inch pieces, if necessary. For country-style ribs you can cook them whole and separate the meat off the bone later (same for chicken - cook the pieces whole.) Okay to remove any excess fat from pork pieces, but leave a small amount for extra flavor.
In a large pot, over a medium heat, add a few pieces of fatty pork. This will provide the oil to saute the onion in. If the pork is lean, then just go right to sauteing the chopped onion in a tablespoon of cooking oil. Leave out the pork, you don't need to brown it. Saute and stir onion until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and saute for another minute.
By this time the chilies should be soft, and the water will not be too hot for a blender. Add the chilies and chili water to a blender or food processor.
Blend until chilies are pulverized. It should only take a minute or so. It will be a soupy mix. There will be some very small pieces floating around (like red chili flakes) and that's okay. You don't need to turn every bit into sauce. Some recipes call for straining, but I don't go that far. Further cooking will smooth it all out.
Now time to bring it all together. Pour in 5 cups of water into pot of sauteed onions and garlic, and mix well. Add all the pork. Finally add the pureed chilies into the pork stew. Sprinkle in the dried or fresh oregano. Salt and pepper to taste.
Bring it all to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Simmer for about 45 minutes.
Now time to add the hominy. Since it's already cooked, you just need to heat it up in the stew and allow the hominy to absorb some chili flavor.
Open a large can of hominy and drain it. Remove pot cover add the drained hominy to the pork and chili broth. Stir to mix.
Continue low simmering for another 15-20 minutes to reduce the broth a little bit, and heat the hominy all the way through. This will also intensify the flavors. If the liquid cooks down too much then add half cup of water at a time.
Take out a larger piece of meat to check for tenderness; just see if it cuts easily, to your satisfaction. Usually an hour total of simmering is enough, depending on the size of meat pieces. If the meat is not tender enough, then just cover the pot, continue simmering, and check back every 10 minutes or so.
Pozole is very intense, so I like to add some fresh chopped or sliced veggie topping when serving. Mainly, I use a little chopped onion. You can also add sliced radish and avocado, cilantro, some more oregano, and a squeeze of lime. Some recipes call for chopped cabbage (white and red) or lettuce. You can top the Pozole with any favorite chopped greens like kale or spinach, too.
If you have a favorite salsa then use that. Click here for links to my homemade salsas. You can also serve Pozole with fresh heated flour and corn tortillas, or tortilla chips.
You can soften and blend the dried chilies ahead of time - store in the refrigerator until ready to use. When you remove the chili seeds you have reduced the spicy heat. There is a little bit of spice left, though relatively mild.
(And, by the way, the softened and blended chilies are a rich homemade salsa! Just blend-in half a raw onion and a clove of garlic for extra flavor.)
If you don't want to deal with dried chilies then use a large can of enchilada sauce instead (a 29 ounce can or 2 fifteen ouncers).
Depending on the fattiness of pork pieces, you can skim off some oil before serving Pozole. I leave some for lusciousness.
As I mentioned earlier, the cheapest pork is a large pork shoulder. They come with skin and a large center bone. So even a 6 pound pork shoulder may only have 3 to 4 pounds of meat to cook with. It's a little messy to work with, but with a sharp knife you can slice off the meat without much trouble.
Easiest to use stew pork meat, it's more expensive though. I also like to cook with country-style pork ribs, they're meaty and cost somewhere between pork shoulder and stew meat.
Some Mexican groceries sell cuts of pork (with some bone attached) that's especially used for Pozole, just go to the meat counter to see if it's there. I saw it for $1.69 per pound, while whole pork shoulder is often on sale for about 99 cents per pound (usually comes as a twin pack.)
Of course, you can always add as much meat as you want. You may want to add a couple more cups of water, three more chilies, and one more can of hominy, to double this recipe.
You can leave the pork in larger pieces (but cook it longer) and break it down later.
This Pozole recipe works well with chicken. If legs are on sale then use them - don't even worry about removing the meat from the bone. Use any favorite chicken pieces you like.