Pozole Rojo – A Christmas Favourite

Turkey and pork loin roasts are some of the most popular choices on the Christmas menu for many Mexican families, as well as more traditional dishes, such as revoltijo (a red mole-based stew), bacalao (a cod stew), tamales, and last, but not least, pozole (hominy soup).  I have shared recipes for pozole blanco (clear broth, “white” pozole), and for pozole verde (green pozole), but for Christmas time, nothing like a delicious pozole rojo (red pozole).   There are several recipes for red pozole, primarily form the states of Jalisco, Nuevo León, and other Northern states.  For this post, I have chosen a recipe from Jalisco, which uses the Mexican staple of hierbas de olor (bay leaf, marjoram and thyme), and only one kind of dry red pepper, either regional chilacate, or the more readily available guajillos.

Jalisco Style Red Hominy Soup –

Pozole rojo estilo Jalisco

Printable recipe: Jalisco Style Red Hominy Soup

Ingredients (for four portions)

2 lb (1kg) assorted pork meat, some with bone; for example, shoulder, rib and loin
1 lb (454 g) cooked nixtamalized hominy kernels (from package, or drained from can)
1 small bunch hierbas de olor: bouquet of thyme, marjoram and bay leaf, OR:
           ½ tsp dry thyme
           ½ tsp dry marjoram
           2 bay leaves
4 chilacate or guajillo peppers; wiped clean, stems and seeds removed
¼ white onion; peeled
1 clove garlic; peeled
Water, as needed
Salt, to taste
To serve:
Lettuce; washed and chopped
Radishes; washed, ends removed, sliced thinly
White onion; peeled and chopped
Limes; washed, sliced into wedges
Dry Mexican oregano*, or omit, if not available
Tostadas (crispy corn tortillas), OR tortilla chips
Spicy salsa, for example, chile de árbol (optional)

Cook meat with herbs:  If the meat is in a large piece, cut into sections; I started with a whole picnic roast, which is from the shoulder, and has bone and skin. I cut the roast into four pieces of about half a pound each; one had bone, two had skin, and one was just lean meat.  Place meat in a large pot on the stove, cover with water, and add hierbas de olor, or as in this case, dry bay leaves, thyme, and marjoram (photo below, left); turn on heat to high, bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium, and cook, covered, for approximately two hours, checking occasionally after the first hour, until meat is very tender when poked, and starts to fall off the bone (photo below, right):

Transfer meat to a plate, removing and discarding bones and excess fat; shred meat, slice skin (if using) into bite-size pieces, and reserve.  Strain broth through a colander, and reserve.

Meanwhile, clean and finish cooking hominy kernels:  place hominy in a colander, and rinse under running water; drain thoroughly (photo below, left).  In many cases, kernels still have a dark and hard tip attached, which must be removed with a pair of tweezers or the tip of a knife (photo below, right).  This is a tedious job, but it must not be skipped:

Place a large pot, where the soup will be assembled, on the stove; it must be large and deep enough to hold all the ingredients, and completely cover them with liquid.  Add the cleaned hominy to the pot (photo below, left), and enough water to cover the corn, plus two inches (5 cm) on top.  Turn on heat to high, bring to boil, then reduce to medium heat, cover, and cook for about two hours.  Start checking a spoonful of kernels after the first hour; they will be ready when the corn looks swollen and moist, and to corroborate, a few of the kernels should have burst open (photo below, right):

Assemble soup:  Add clean chilacates (or guajillos), onion and garlic to the pot, then pour in reserved broth (photo below, left).  Bring back to a boil, and continue cooking; with this method, the broth cooks the peppers, and in a reciprocal way, the peppers impart some colour to the broth.  Remove peppers, onion and garlic from the pot after ten to fifteen minutes (photo below, right):

Pour one cup of water at room temperature in a blender jar, and transfer the cooked peppers, onion and garlic (photo below, left).  Process well until a uniform sauce is achieved (photo below, right):

Pour about half or more, to taste, of the sauce, into the large pot, straining through a colander:

I poured only half the sauce into the pot, and strained the other half into a bowl, to offer separately at the table.  Add hot water if needed, and season with salt, to taste.  Cook for another fifteen to twenty minutes, until all the flavours have melded together.  

To serve, scoop a portion of hominy kernels into a bowl, then top with reserved shredded meat (and skin, if using), and finish filling the bowl with broth:

Top with shredded lettuce, chopped onions, sliced radishes, and a sprinkle of dry Mexican oregano.  Serve with lime wedges, tostadas (or tortilla chips), sauce (I had the other half of the red sauce, or spicy chile de árbol), more Mexican oregano, and salt:

A bowl of this delicious pozole is very comforting any time, but particularly helpful to solve the enigma of what to serve on a cold wintery Christmas Eve.


 


* As I have mentioned before, Mexican oregano is different from Greek or Italian oregano; sometimes I have offered substitutions, but in this particular recipe, it cannot be substituted. 


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