It is common knowledge that I ate pozole rojo for two years straight as a child.
My mom was a waitress at a small Mexican restaurant near our home for years, and I was often dropped off or picked up there by my dad. Every time I visited, without fault, I would ask for pozole rojo. Both the gringos and Mexicans that frequented the restaurant would look up with surprise at the sight of a small curly headed girl lapping up pozole by the spoonful. Pozole is a red, mildly spicy soup usually made with pork meat and large pieces of hominy, white nitxtamalized corn. Not exactly a kids meal.
Not only was my affection for pozole remarkable for my age, but the prolonged nature of my obsession with pozole was also surprising to those around me.
I’ve always been a little obsessive. As a toddler I watched the Jungle Book every night before going to sleep for about a year. Freshmen year of college I sang these two lines, “only one word comes to mind, there’s only one word to describe,” for three weeks straight. One night, while working with my best friend in the library late one night, she finally yelled in exasperation “What’s the word!? You never say the word!” (The word, for the record, was holy).
Now, as an adult, my obsessiveness still emerges—like when I ate a bagel sandwich for breakfast every day my first year teaching, or when I listened to the same Christmas carols from November to February. However, generally, after the thing—movie, song, sandwich—loses its novelty, I move on and am usually over said object indefinitely. Pozole is unique— it never grew old for me.
All Mexicans will agree with two statements about Pozole. 1) There are two main varieties of pozole in Mexican cuisine: pozole rojo and pozole blanco (The difference in hue is accounted for in the lack of pepper in the latter). 2) Pozole must include hominy. Apart from these obvious statements, pozole recipes can vary greatly depending on the cook! Pozole is traditionally made with an entire pork head in a pot too large to lift by oneself. However, family recipes can vary greatly; some recipes call for chicken and others for beef, and there is great variations in other components of the soup like toppings and spices used.
Although pozole is traditionally made with pork, my mom doesn’t like pork, so the pozole we ate at home was actually pozole blanco made with chicken! My mom began to cook more frequently when I was bout 4 or 5, and around this time we transitioned permanently to pozole blanco.
At first, the tangy white pozole’s milder broth paled in comparison to its deeper, darker hued sibling, but slowly I began to love pozole blanco. Over time, the tanginess of the tomatillo in pozole blanco won me over. Although I always added enough dried pepper flakes to the soup so that it ended up resembling pozole rojo anyway. Now, I love to eat this soup in the winter because it’s so hearty, healthy and tasty. My husband has also grown incredibly fond of pozole and his eyes light up when he hears that we are having pozole for dinner.
This pozole soup is made differently each time depending on what ingredients we have at hand. My mom will often add beef bones to the broth to produce a more nuanced broth. And when we don’t have bones at all, we simply cut up boneless chicken breast into uniform pieces and use that for our broth base.
This pozole blanco gets tastier the longer it sits together, so it makes for great leftovers. It will keep in your fridge for a week and also freezes beautifully!
Pozole Blanco con Pollo
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yields: 8 servings
- 1 lb of peeled and washed tomatillos, diced into small pieces
- 1 small onion, diced into small pieces
- 5 cloves of garlic, two minced, three whole
- 2 stalks of celery
- A few sprigs of fresh oregano or one teaspoon of dried Mexican oregano
- ½ a bunch of Italian parsley, finely minced
- 1 large can of hominy
- 2 lb of bone in chicken breast
- 1/2 white cabbage
- 2-3 radishes,
- 3 limes
- Salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Add 2 stalks of celery, the onion, 3 whole garlic cloves, oregano, and chicken breast to your favorite stock pot. Cook on medium heat until chicken is fully cooked, 35-45 minutes.
- Sauté diced onions in 2 tablespoons of oil. After onions have become almost translucent (a few minutes) add the parsley, tomatillos and garlic. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and cook a few more minutes until the tomatillos begin to change color to a more muted green.
- Add tomatillo salsa to pot of soup base.
- While chicken is cooking, prepare pozole toppings, slice radishes and cabbage finely and cut limes into wedges.
- Once chicken is fully cooked, removed from pot with tongs and place on a bowl or plate to cool. Meanwhile, taste soup base and add salt as needed.
- Once chicken is cool enough to touch, shred chicken and discard bones.
- Add shredded chicken back to soup and do one final taste test.
- Serve with toppings and enjoy!