duel of the pozoles

We all know my strange affinity for Mexican flavors...especially when the hot months roll around (and copious amounts of margaritas are seasonally appropriate).  But that strong urge to eat tacos, guac, and elote in (probably) unhealthy amounts at an alarming frequency tends to dissipate once the smell of fall is in the air.  That is, unless I'm making a mole.  But who has time to make mole?  I sure as heck don't. I can just imagine:

- Hey work, I'll be taking a vacation (at the busiest time of the year)
- Must be important, considering your abysmal timing, where are you going?
- ...my kitchen. 

Sadly, no one would really be surprised if that happened. But I'd also most likely get fired.  Maybe I'll do it, sans the vacation time.   But ALAS, I have been cooking a dish for the past few months - first as 'chilaquiles', next as a taco for ladies night, and then just as a stew, kinda.  Clearly, we all were having a difficult time figuring out what the heck it was at first, besides freaking delicious.  Throw some chips in it - CHILAQUILES! Throw it into a tortilla - SHREDDED POLLO EN ADOBO.  Throw it in a bowl - ?!  Well, it all came together after I stumbled upon some Indian (indian as in native american, thank you mr. columbus) red corn hominy.  Again, my urge to purchase anything new and exciting got the best of me.  Lo and behold, all along, I had been making my own form of POZOLE base! I hadn't even realized it until these gems popped up in front of me. Yup. Throw in some hominy, and there ya go. 

So, as with all 'peasant' dishes, recipes and variations go far and wide. Seems as though as long as hominy is included, you're good.  Pozole comes in many forms - red, white, or green, with pork, chicken, or straight up vegetables, spicy or mild...you name it, it'll most likely work out.  I'm sure if you asked 100 different abuelas, you'd get 100 different recipes. Here's the thing about those 100 different recipes...I'm sure that more than a few involve an insane amount of steps that are both tedious and time consuming.   Creating a chili paste from scratch, preparing the hominy, prepping meat, etc.  Fortunately, the following recipe is nowhere close to that!  It's a dish you can make at the last-minute when you're out of ideas - and after trying this, it'll definitely be a go to.

First and foremost, I'll let you know there are TWO recipes that follow, one for green pozole, and one for red.  I had been cooking a red pozole that is out of this world, but also wanted to make something that showcased the color of the hominy I picked up.  So green it was! It's nice to see the juxtaposition of the two. So, here you go - two straightforward, simple, delicious pozole recipes.

Pozole Rojo
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (I use San Marzano)
3-5 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1 small roasted chicken
3 cups chicken stock
2 14-oz cans hominy, rinsed and drained
Olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

In a large stockpot, heat about 2 T of olive oil over medium-low heat. After a couple minutes, toss in the onion and garlic.  Allow to cook slowly, about 15 minutes, until soft and translucent, stirring often.  Turn the heat to medium, and add in the diced tomatoes. Allow the tomato to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring only a few times.  While the prior ingredients are cooking, you can start shredding the chicken.  If you're dainty, you can use forks, but if you're like me, just get after it.  There's no way you can get in those nooks and crannies without using your hands! 

(Remember, Paula Deen unknowingly challenged me to dethrone her as the world's best chicken picker...maybe true.)
Next, add in the chipotle peppers, along with a bit of the adobo sauce.  Honestly, how many you use here depends on the level of spiciness and smokiness you want.  Spicy and smoky gets me every time, so I tend to put in extra.  Stir until combined.  Stir in the chicken, toss in the hominy, and pour in the chicken broth.  If you want more of a "soupy" soup, rather than a thicker stew, feel free to add more chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and let simmer for about 10 minutes, until the chicken had started falling apart even more.   Taste, and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve hot with accompaniments!

Pozole Verde
1 lb tomatillos, husked and halved

1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 small green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 poblano, roughly chopped
2 small jalapenos, seeded and quartered
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 T oregano leaves
4 cups chicken stock
4 chicken breasts, poached, roasted, grilled (or another rotisserie chicken, if ya crazy)
2 14-oz cans hominy, drained and rinsed
Sea Salt
Fresh ground pepper

In a food processor or blender, add the tomatillos, onion, garlic, peppers, and herbs.  Puree until finely chopped, scraping down the sides with a spatula.  Add in 1 cup of chicken stock, and puree until smooth.  Season to taste and reserve.  Note: this can be made way ahead of time!

If you're starting with raw chicken breasts, you can do whatever you want to them! Grilling is probably a good option, because it'll impart a bit of "grill" flavor.  I don't have a grill, so I went with the broil.  Preheat the oven around 350/400F, and flip it to broil as soon as you stick the chicken in.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper on both sides, cook for about 10-12 minutes under the broiler (flipping halfway through), and rest for another 10. Perfect! No matter what chicken you're deciding to use, make sure it's shredded and ready to go in the soup.  In a large stockpot over medium heat, add in the tomatillo puree.  Let cook, stirring often, until the green puree reaches a darker hue, about 10-15 minutes.  Next add in the remaining chicken stock, the hominy, and the chicken. Bring to a boil, stir, and let simmer for another 15 minutes. Season to taste.  Serve with accompaniments and enjoy!

To serve both/either, bring an assortment of accompaniments to the table for everyone to choose from.  Chopped cilantro, diced avocado, sliced radish, lime wedges, and cotija cheese are all perfect! Some add raw onion, diced iceberg lettuce, and various spices.  Do whatever looks best to you!  Heck, bring in some tortilla chips too, just for the heck of it.   The red corn hominy added a great nuttiness to both the green and red posole - a flavor not imparted by standard white hominy.  Think of it as akin to wild or black rice! (My favorites!) Both of these pozoles have GREAT flavor to them, and are great to have side by side, sheerly because they're almost exact opposites.  The pozole rojo is thicker and smokier, with a deep flavor that warms you up from the inside.  The green pozole is bright and fresh, and perks you up as soon as you take a spoonful.   Granted, both of these recipes make a bunch of pozole - about 4 big servings each, potentially 6-8 smaller servings - but it's well worth it.  It'll go in a flash, and you'll be glad you made so much! As for me, you'd think I was throwing a quinceanera this weekend, especially considering there are only two people to consume all of the above food that was made.  Again, worth it.  It'll be gone in two days, I'm sure. So go for it...make one, make all, get crazy! 

If you pick up dried hominy, soak the kernels overnight at room temperature.  For both recipes, I used 16 oz. of dried hominy.  Next, let them simmer in salted water or chicken stock (a bit more than to cover) for  at least two hours, if not longer, until tender. Some of the husks should pop open, or "bloom" - then you'll know they're ready! Drain and reserve until ready to put into the posole.


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