There is a reason soups fall in the “comfort food” category. Soup just screams warmth, comfort and family. Which is why maybe soup in the heat of August is a little weird. But bear with me. Last week, my grandfather passed away quite suddenly. Heartbreak, grief, and exhaustion set in and stiffened all of us to the core. So what did I do? I cleaned my mom’s house and made pozole.
I didn’t get much home-cooked pozole growing up. I became a tried and true pozole addict at Consuelo Mexican Bistro at Santana Row in San Jose, CA (seriously. If you can, #gotothere). So, I had to do a little digging to find a recipe that wouldn’t take all day, but would still be full of well-built flavors. I found this one at Epicurious.com and, while a little involved, it only takes about 2 hours from whipping out the chef’s knife to digging in.
This recipe creates a really robust, spicy pozole with lots of “stuff.” As my husband might say, “There is a high stuff to broth ratio.” There are a lot of types of pozole out there, so you might be looking for a milder or more brothy version. For milder, shoot for the smaller jalepeños that have less time to age and build up capsaicin, or choose a still-flavorful, less spicy pepper, like Poblano or Anaheim. Remove all the seeds and the VEINS, which is where all the spice really builds up in a pepper, before tossing it into the blender. For a version with more broth, save some of that shredded chicken for a ridiculously amazing barbecue pulled chicken sandwich later in the week, and/or reduce the amount of hominy. You could go all the way down to half the amount of hominy and still have a meaningful pozole. Don’t just add more broth – that dilutes the flavor you just built up in the first part of the recipe.
A couple other things to note about this recipe are about pumpkin seeds (pepitas), step 10, and pans. Let’s start with pepitas. You can usually find these in the “Mexican” section of the grocery store. Get the green ones with lots of meat. Don’t let the “roasted” and “salted” ones fool you – those are more for chewing and spitting at the ballpark than this recipe. Not only are they too salty, but they are lacking the meat that gives your soup base the delicious body it deserves.
Now, your warning about Step 10. When the recipe says “it will splatter and steam,” it really means it. Invest in a splatter guard, wear an apron, and perhaps consider long sleeves. But when you are tempted to turn the heat down to protect yourself, just remember – it is supposed to be doing that! You’re ok – go with it. I acquired this cooking zen moment when making dry caramel, but that is another recipe for another time.
Finally, pans. This called for 3 separate pots of different sizes and a little pan. I already make more dishes than anyone I’ve ever met, so I scratched that and just used my 6-quart Dutch oven the whole time (except the little pan part), wiping down when appropriate.
This pozole warmed my heart with all sorts of good memories of my grandfather, of family, and of togetherness. Hopefully, when you need a tasty hug, a warm embrace (from the inside), or just want to pass a little familia to your loved ones, you can turn here.
Green Pozole with Chicken
Gourmet Magazine, February 2003 and Epicurious.com
9 cups water
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 large white onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs
1/2 cup hulled (green) pumpkin seeds (not roasted; 2 1/4 ounce)
1 lb tomatillos, husked and scrubbed
2 fresh jalapeño chiles, quartered (including seeds)
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon dried epazote or oregano (preferably Mexican), crumbled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 (15-oz) cans white hominy, rinsed and drained
Accompaniments: diced radish; cubed avocado tossed with lime juice; shredded romaine; chopped white onion; lime wedges; dried oregano; cilantro
Special equipment: an electric coffee/spice grinder
Cook the Chicken
1. Bring 8 cups water, bay leaf, half of onion, half of garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil, covered, in a 6-quart heavy pot
2. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes
3. Add chicken and poach at a bare simmer, uncovered, skimming off any foam, until just cooked through, about 20 minutes.
4. Transfer chicken to a cutting board to cool. When chicken is cool enough to handle, coarsely shred with your fingers or two forks.
5. Pour broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, discarding solids, and reserve.
Roast the Pumpkin Seeds
6. Cook pumpkin seeds in a dry small skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until puffed but not browned (seeds will pop as they puff), 6 to 7 minutes.
7. Transfer pumpkins seeds to a bowl to cool completely, then finely grind in coffee/spice grinder.
Make the Sauce
8. Simmer tomatillos and remaining onion in remaining cup water in the original 6-quart heavy pot, covered, until tender, about 10 minutes.
9. Drain vegetables and purée in a blender with jalapeños, 1/4 cup cilantro, epazote, remaining garlic, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
Put Everything Together
10. Again using the original 6-quart heavy pot, heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add purée (use caution as it will splatter and steam).
11. Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
12. Stir in pumpkin seeds and 1 cup reserved broth and simmer 5 minutes.
13. Stir in shredded chicken, hominy, and 3 more cups reserved broth and simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes.
Serve pozole in deep bowls with accompaniments.