Baby, it’s Cold Outside! The remedy: a soul-melting Christmas Eve Pozole that’s as rich as Deano’s voice with enchanting aromatics destined to become a family holiday classic.
The fragrance of this delicious stew triggers memories of a very special chapter in my life. It was a period of renewal, tranquility and incredible inspiration. On my year long sabbatical from Hollywood, I lived in the green chile-infused high desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Pozole (aka Posole), a heart-warming dish served in homes and restaurants all over the ‘Land of Enchantment,’ kept me cozy through future Canadian winters and always sent me back to my windswept youth in west Texas.
Although I haven’t resided within the bounds of the Lone Star state in well over a decade, I’m a born and raised Texan. That means we eat Mexican food on Christmas Eve. Tamales are mandatory for good reason – the good ones are like a corn husk-wrapped present that makes your mouth leap for joy – perfect for the anticipation of Santa’s arrival. My year in New Mexico forever altered my traditional Christmas Eve main entrée to accompany the tamales. I started making Pozole every year and over time, I’ve made the recipe my own and it’s become a welcomed and anticipated staple. This was only reinforced when our family friend down in Punta Mita, Mexico explained to my dubious parents that Pozole is actually a Mexican Christmas tradition.
Pozole is also one of my favorite pairing partners with Cabernet Franc from France’s Loire Valley. The pork dances a magnificent salsa with the tannins, the green chiles elevate the varietal’s pyrazines (the wine’s roasted chile characteristic) to a state of sheer nirvana while the crunch of jalapeño, carrot and cilantro on top lends the perfect texture to this captivating wine. I recommend examples from the villages of Chinon and Bourgueil – look for producers, Olga Raffault or Bernard Baudry for an incomparable treat!
So, without further adieu…
- 2 pounds pork shoulder, chopped and trimmed
- 1 cup roasted green chiles, diced (preferably from Hatch, New Mexico)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 carrots, peeled and minced
- 2 celery stalks, peeled and minced
- 1 shallot, minced
- ½ Tb rubbed sage
- 1 Tb cumin
- 1 cup water
- 4 cups chicken stock
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 3 cans hominy, rinsed and drained
for the chile paste:
- 4 dried New Mexican red chiles (preferably from Hatch, New Mexico)
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
- 1 shallot, peeled and quartered
- 1 bay leaf
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup of water
for bouquet garni (place in a tied cheesecloth or a tea ball):
- 7 black peppercorns
- 3 whole cloves
- 7 coriander seeds
- 2 bay leaves
for the garnish:
- 1 jalapeno, minced
- 1 carrot, minced
- cilantro, finely chopped
Start out with the chile paste. This is the secret to the magic of traditional Pozole. Do not skip it. Do not buy it. Take the time to make it – it’s worth it! Brown the dried red chiles in a pan then add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then immediately turn to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid reduces to a third. Pour contents into a food processor, puree and set aside.
In the meantime, trim and chop the pork then dry the meat thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Coat a dutch oven with olive and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, brown the pork on each side for roughly three minutes then place in a colander to drain.
In the olive oil, scrape up the brown bits and sauté minced carrot, minced celery stalk and minced shallot then add to the colander to drain as well. Bring the chicken stock to a boil then add the bouquet garni, sage, cumin, red chile puree, pork and sautéed vegetables. Cover the contents with water, return to a boil and immediately turn the burner to low for a three-hour simmer. Then add the chopped, roasted hatch green chiles for the long simmer ahead.
The last twenty minutes, add the hominy. If you’re pressed for time, you can cook at medium-low for one hour, but the meat will not be quite as tender. This dish can also be prepared ahead of time and is just as wonderful, if not better, the next day. Serve in bowls and top with fresh minced carrot, jalapeno and cilantro.
* I personally buy all the roasted hatch green chiles my freezer can handle when they are in season. If you can’t get your hands on them, you can put canned green chiles in the Mexican food section of your local grocery store. If you opt for this, supplement the stew with one minced jalapeno for the added kick. Regardless, green chiles are absolutely necessary. If you want to buy roasted hatch green chiles online, you can order them at https://www.hatch-green-chile.com/product-category/frozen-hatch-green-chile/, although they are MUCH cheaper in the grocery store when they are in season.
* Dried red chiles from Hatch, New Mexico can be ordered online at https://www.newmexicochileandristra.com/Hatch-NM-Sun-Dried-Red-Chile-Pods-Available-in-Big-p/hccp.htm or purchased at Central Market in Texas.
Comer Hasta! Feliz Navidad, y’all!