If I Knew You Were Coming I Would Have Cooked You Pozole
If you’re asking me if I’m in the mood for cooking, the answer is no—but I am open to persuasion.
But it can’t be anything that reminds me of summer, with its wet, ill-fitting bathing suits that makes you look like a sunburned chorizo sausage in its casing. Don’t even mention those cloying girly girl drinks with tiny umbrellas in them, got it? And no cold salads, please. . . . Pozole, did you say? Hmmmm, consider me persuaded.
There is a snap in the air in the Central Coast, as sweet and as sharp as a bite of a Pink Lady apple. Harvest time has arrived to the vineyards. El otoño [autumn] is coming with its clear, but sepia-toned, days, and with it the desire to dust off my mamá’s old large pot to cook a hearty pozole. What, with those tender chunks of pork and hominy swimming in a luscious red chile broth—(ay, yay, yay, I’m so happy about it, I can’t even finish this sentence!) It’s a stew that is also a salad, if you can believe it—no pozole is complete without heaps of thin-sliced cabbage, fresh chopped cilantro, diced green onion, disks of sharp, peppery red radish and that ever ubiquitous squeeze of lemon or lime. Of course, you can have pozole any time of the year, but eating it in el otoño just seems right.
And here is the best part: cooking pozole ain’t exactly fix it n’ forget it, but nobody need know that I don’t slave for hours on end over a hot stove. I just like to pretend that I do. “Ay, pobrecita de mi [poor little old me], I’m sooooo tired from all that cooking! Now peel me a nopal.” After preparing all the ingredients, I like to kick back and polish my nails while the pozole is simmering on the stove. Es nuestro secreto, ¿verdad?
Pozole is the perfect alternative for those who with weak stomached, squeamish sensibilities and upturned, wrinkled noses say a big yuck at the mere mention of menudo with its wobbly bits of tripe. And yes, pozole has no offal in it (sometimes, unless you count the pig’s foot that I am going to drop in to make it taste like the bomb). And yes, pozole only takes about two hours to cook, versus, say, the six hours it takes to cook menudo. And no, it doesn’t stink up the whole house like menudo does. And no, pozole isn’t better than menudo, and if you even think I’m ever going to forsake a bowl of stinky outlaw menudo for its upright cousin, pozole. . . maybe I will, but just for today.
Pásale, muchacha, pásale. Come inside. Ya que estás aquí—now that you are here, I’m cooking you a pot of pozole.
The longer you cook it, the better it will taste. And, as almost always with stews, pozole tastes even better the day after. You don’t need to add the pig’s foot, but not only does it enhance the flavor, but makes for a rich, luscious broth. Don’t worry about all the fat. You can always skim it off once the pozole is cooked. You can also skim off the all the solidified fat once the pozole has cooled down in the refrigerator. I do like to keep a little fat in the stew—it just makes it all the more flavorful.
3 lbs. bone-in pork shoulder butt, cut into 1-inch cubes; or left whole (to shred later once the meat is tender)
1 or 2 pig’s feet, cut in half (optional)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large white onion, cut in half. Save ¼ onion for Red Chile Sauce
1 tablespoons salt
Directions (for a visual tutorial on how to make Red Chile Sauce click here):
Toast and soak the chiles, garlic and onion: Take the chiles and cut off all the stems. Remove all the seeds with your bare fireproof macha fingers. Over medium-high heat, toast the chiles on a lightly oiled comal [griddle] for 30 - 40 seconds on each side. Add the unpeeled garlic and onion, and toast until they are soft and slightly charred. Remove from heat, let cool slightly and peel the garlic. Place the chiles, cloves, garlic and onion in a bowl and just cover them with boiling water, making sure all of the chiles are submerged. Use a plate or a large mug to press down the chiles. Let them soak for about 30 minutes. Drain the chiles, but save the water you soaked the chiles in. In small batches, take the chiles, garlic, onion and cloves along with some of the water and whirl them in a blender at medium speed.
Into a bowl pour the chile mixture through a wire mesh strainer to remove the tiny bits of peel. It should pour like spaghetti sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add more of the soaking water. Stir in the vinegar.
Cook the Pork Meat: Put pork meat with the bone and pig’s foot in a large pot. Add 12 cups water. Add salt, onion and garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Add bay leaf and cumin. Cover, and simmer for an hour, occasionally checking to skim off any left-over foam. During this time, you can prepare the Red Chile Sauce for the pozole.
Shred the pork (unnecessary if pork has been cubed): Use tongs to lift and remove the pork from the pot. Use 2 forks to shred the pork and return to the pot. Add Red Chile Sauce and hominy. Adjust salt and other seasonings. Cook for one hour more, or keep simmering until ready to eat. Fish out the large onion pieces and garlic. No need to discard the pig foot—some, like my viejo, think it’s the best part. The pozole should be brothy, so add boiling water or chicken broth if it runs too low.
Serve with with corn tortillas and garnishes of thin-sliced cabbage, chopped cilantro, dried oregano, thin-sliced red radishes, cut lemons or limes and avocado.