History Tidbit: In September of 1821, shortly after Mexico’s schism from Spain was finalized, and the war of independence had ended, its first flag boasted stripes of green, white and red as the new national colours, originally representing independence, religion, and unity, respectively. Over the next decades, a short monarchy, a struggling republic and the Reform War, originally instigated by the urge to remove self-proclaimed dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna from power, eventually brought the Mexican government to a secular state in the 1860s; in the 20th Century, after the Revolution War, the army and its veterans received more recognition. These changes reflect the current re-interpretation of the national colours: Green – Hope in the future, White – Purity of ideals, and Red – Blood of the heroes.
Last year, I wrote a post about the adoption of these national colours and their presence in traditional dishes in the month of September. One of them was White (clear) Hominy Soup (pozole blanco), a rich soup with hominy kernels, meat and fresh veggies (click here for the full History Tidbit and recipe). I also mentioned that there are many regional variations of pozole, depending on the different meats, seasonings and toppings available around the country. In the Mexican state of Guerrero, pozole verde (green hominy soup) is the favourite version. The protein of choice for this recipe is traditionally chicken and, as in the case of pozole blanco, all three national colours are still represented by toppings of lettuce, onion and radishes.
The green colour comes from a paste made from tomatillos, pumpkin seed, peppers, and several pot herbs (quelites). First, there is Hoja Santa (Piper auritum), which translates as “sacred leaf”, also known as acuyo and Mexican pepper leaf. As that name indicates, it has a little bit of fire in it, but the flavour is hard to describe, maybe a little like tarragon. Originally from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, it is sold fresh in Mexico, but it is unlikely to be found in Canada; I was only able to buy packaged dried leaves, in a Hispanic store in Toronto:
The leaves are big, heart-shaped, and look a little like grape leaves, but the flavour and texture are different. If not available, I would just omit, rather than trying to dabble into questionable substitutions and ending up altering the flavour of the dish.
Radish tops are another ingredient on the list, which is quite convenient since radishes are also used in the recipe; unfortunately, my husband is allergic to those greens, so I used Romaine lettuce instead:
Another ingredient is epazote (Dysphania ambrosioides) which I mention regularly in my posts because it goes well with beans, in quesadillas, and as in this case, in soups. I grow mine in the backyard, but if not available, for this dish, fresh thyme may be a decent substitute:
Green Hominy Soup – Pozole verde
Ingredients (4-6 portions)
3 chicken breast pieces; bone-in and skin-on
1/2 onion; peeled
1 clove garlic; peeled
10 cups water, approximately
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cans cooked hominy kernels; 30 oz (840 g) each
For the green paste:
2 leaves Hoja Santa (fresh, dry, or omit)
1 cup spinach; roots trimmed
2 cups radish green tops (or Romaine lettuce); chopped coarsely
2 tbsp epazote leaves (or 1 tbsp thyme leaves)
½ cup cilantro; with stems
¼ cup roasted pumpkin seed
1 poblano pepper; roasted, peeled and stem removed (click here for detailed instructions)
½ onion, peeled and chopped coarsely
4 tomatillos; papery cover removed
1 fresh jalapeño pepper (optional)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Romaine lettuce; sliced thinly
White onion; peeled and finely chopped
Radishes; sliced thinly
Avocado; pitted, peeled and sliced
Limes; cut into wedges
Serrano peppers (optional)
Dry oregano (preferably Mexican)
Tostadas (crispy corn tortillas)
Place chicken, onion and garlic in a large pot; add about six cups of water, to fully cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat, skim foamy layer from the top, then reduce heat to medium, and cook, covered until the chicken is tender and fully cooked (between 45 and 60 minutes.) Meanwhile, wash, dry and prep all vegetables, as directed on the ingredient list. Open cans of hominy and drain and discard liquid; the hominy kernels should be tender and without the germ tip, such as these from Bush’s Best™:
If the kernels feel hard, or still have the germ tip on, it is necessary to remove the tips with a knife, and boil the kernels in water until tender. If, like the ones pictured above, the kernels are perfectly clean and ready to add to the soup, just reserve. After the chicken has fully cooked, remove from heat and allow to cool down for a while. Remove and discard skin and bones from the chicken breasts, shred the meat and reserve. Discard onion and garlic, and strain broth through a mesh onto another large pot; place over high heat to bring to boil, then add reserved drained hominy kernels:
Bring back to boil, then lower heat to a simmer, and allow to cook for at least 20 minutes, until the kernels are hot.
I placed all the greens on a tray, from left to right, top row: spinach, Romaine lettuce and epazote leaves; bottom: Hoja Santa and cilantro:
In a small pan, boil a couple of cups of water over high heat; add tomatillos and jalapeño pepper (if using); allow to cook for about two minutes, just until the tomatillos begin to turn pale. Let cool down (caution: this step is important because hot food in a blender may cause spillages or even explosions.) Once cooled, slice tomatillos in half, remove stem from pepper (if using) and place in a blender jar with half a cup of the liquid from the pan; add all the prepped greens (pictured above), the poblano pepper, pumpkin seeds, and onion (photo below, left), then process for about one minute. The paste should be smooth, but it will have speckles in different shades of green (photo below, right):
Empty the small pan, dry and add the oil; warm up over medium heat, then pour the green paste (photo below, left); bring to boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the pot of broth has been simmering for a while, and the kernels are hot, incorporate green paste (photo below, right):
Now is the time to add water, as needed, three to four cups, for a good soup consistency, and to season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring back to boil, then incorporate reserved shredded chicken, and continue cooking and stirring for another five to ten minutes over medium heat, until chicken has warmed up. Serve hot with the toppings, oregano, lime wedges, serrano peppers (if using) and tostadas:
I think it is a little bit of an overkill, but some people add cream and cheese to the tostadas, and even make them a whole side dish with other toppings. In the photo above, both plain tostadas (top left) and bean and chicken tostadas (right, click here for recipe) are offered with a bowl of pozole verde, garnished with lettuce, avocado, onion and radish slices in a patriotic Mexican flag fashion, and finished with a sprinkle of oregano.
There is also a pozole rojo (red hominy soup) version from the Mexican state of Jalisco; maybe I will post a recipe next year, to complete the green, white and red trilogy of Mexican colours for pozole. Another suggestion of red soup for a “patriotic meal” could be Menudo (click here for my recipe).
I am bringing my recipe to Thursday Favourite Things #405 with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Marilyn @ Marilyn’s Treats, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Nina @ Vintage Mama’s Cottage, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance, Pam @ An Artful Mom and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.
UPDATE: Thank you, Miz Helen, for featuring this recipe at Full Plate Thursday #449!