Pozole and condiments

One of the joys I get in food writing is learning recipes and techniques from San Diego’s local chefs and food purveyors. Periodically something comes along that I want to share with you in à la minute because I think would be a great fit for personal chefs–and something you may not come across on a regular basis. This week I thought I’d introduce you to green pork pozole, an unusual hearty stew that’s a regional favorite in the Mexican state of Guerrero. This mildly spicy dish will surely help ease the last dregs of this crazy bitterly cold winter.

Green pork pozole falls under the category of “who knew.” Like many of you, I’ve enjoyed red pozole. I’ve enjoyed it with chicken. But green? And with pork? That was a humbling and happy discovery I made late last fall while visiting the little local eatery, El Borrego, which is owned and operated by the mother-daughter team of Rodnia Navarro (daughter) and Rosario Sotelo (mom and chef). The broth is rich and herbaceous, thickened with the mandatory hominy. The chunks of pork shoulder are tender and meld beautifully with the broth and the various condiments you can add to the soup–from chicharones and cilantro to sliced cabbage and radishes. It’s a meal meant to warm your insides in cold weather. And with all those condiments, it’s like a party in a bowl.

Pozole is actually quite easy to make. The greater challenge is finding the ingredients. And that leads to the other discoveries.

Green pozole gets its name from all the marvelous green ingredients it incorporates. The most prominent is pulverized pumpkin seeds. Look for them in Hispanic markets, but don’t worry if you can’t find them. You can buy the seeds whole and grind them in a good blender. You’ll also need epazote, a weed-like herb that is traditionally associated with cooking black beans. It’s pretty easy to find in Hispanic markets. And, you’ll want Mexican Pepperleaf, or hoja santa. It’s unusual tasting–to me it had a slightly bitter minty flavor. And, you’ll want–get this–radish leaves. Yes, finally I’ve learned of a use for those beautiful leaves we tend to toss when we buy a bunch of radishes. And, Sotelo says, you can clip, wash, drain, and freeze these various leaves.

Clockwise from top left: Hominy, pork shoulder, hoja santa, ground pumpkin seeds

Clockwise from top left: Hominy, pork shoulder, hoja santa, ground pumpkin seeds

One thing I’ve heard a few people say about making pozole is that they bought the wrong hominy (which, by the way, is what pozole means). So, above is a photo of what you’re looking for–oversized corn kernels, not grits.

The green pozole Sotelo makes is a staple in Acapulco in Guerrero, where Sotelo is from, and traditionally served on Thursdays, or what Sotelo notes “Jueves Pozolero.” So the restaurant started serving it on Thursdays, but has expanded it to include Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays–and rainy days. Of course, San Diego’s rainy days are rare, so if you come for a visit, stop by on the weekends for this dish. But do make it yourself and your clients.

Green Pork Pozole (Pozole Verde Guerrerense)
from Rosario Sotelo of El Borrego
Serves 4 to 6 people

Ingredients

1 pound pork shoulder (can also include bone)
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 quarts water
1 pound can of hominy, rinsed and drained

Mixture 1
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 cloves garlic
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
3 cups chicken broth

Mixture 2
6 ounces pulverized pumpkin seeds
5 tomatillos, skin on and grilled
5 garlic cloves
3 teaspoons oregano
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
2 jalapeño chiles, seeded
1 Mexican pepperleaf (hoja santa), about the size of a corn tortilla
3 ounces epazote
2 iceberg lettuce leaves
12 radish leaves
2 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions

1. Cut the pork into two-inch cubes. Add to a pot with water and salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

2. Add the ingredients for Mixture 1 to a blender. Blend thoroughly.

Blending first mixture2

3. At the 30-minute cooking point for the pork, strain just the liquid from Mixture 1 into the pork pot and discard the solids. Twenty minutes later add the hominy. Check the meat. It should be almost cooked. Throughout the cooking process, periodically skim the scum from the top of the soup.

Straining liquid into pork broth2

 

Skim scum2

4. Add the ingredients to Mixture 2 to a blender. Blend thoroughly. Heat a skillet and add the vegetable oil. Add the blended Mixture 2 to the pan and saute over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Pumpkin seed mixture2

5. About 10 minutes before the meat is tender, gradually add the sauteed paste to the pork pot and cook for 10 more minutes. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings.

Last cooking2

6. Serve the pozole with a variety of condiments, including sliced radishes, chicharones, sliced cabbage, cilantro, chopped onions, slices of avocado, lime slices, dried red pepper flakes, dried oregano, crispy tostadas, and mini roll taquitos.

What warming dishes are you making clients to ease the chill?

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