I am willing to bet that even if you have remote familiarity with hominy you probably haven’t cooked it, much less tasted it. Personal experience aside, there is simply a lack of conversation on the topic. Recently “Pozole” has been lurking around the culinary edges, but it’s always a filler recipe, never the main event. For all I knew maybe there was a good reason….like tasting like a soggy tortilla! I suspect, however, that because it is a regional dish with an uncommon ingredient, it is simply passed over for it’s American cousin Chicken Noodle Soup. Pozole is a Mexican soup (or stew) anchored by corn (that’s the hominy, how uncommon is that?) that can be prepared white, red or green (ironically the colors of the Mexican flag) depending on the sauce or lack thereof. As a sign of solidarity with my new home- ripe with vibrant south of the border influence- I decided to whip some up sooner than later. I quickly learned this is not something you just “whip” up……..
As with most ingredients, I figured I should skip canned hominy and go straight for the “good stuff”…meaning the dried kernels to ensure a far more interesting texture and to get an actual corn flavor. A quick two-second taste test had proved that the waxiness of the canned hominy would probably ruin just about any dish. Rancho Gordo (I know, again with Rancho Gordo…but for good reason, their products are superior) sells prepared hominy that all you need to do is soak, simmer and add to your soup. Being a Pozole virgin, I scoured the internet for a recipe and ended up with flashbacks to those annoying third grade comprehension tests…which of the following does not belong?……there were throngs of chicken soup recipes that appeared to use an ingredient template that simply stated “insert hominy here” and then called it Pozole. The lack of authenticity was staggering, not to mention transparent even to a Pozole novice like myself. Yet, after playing detective and eliminating the counterfeits, I embarked on my interpretation of Patti Jinich’s Verde version and ….oh my goodness!
I mean, how has this soup not been given its due credit? It’s a powerhouse of flavor and incredibly rich without any heavy, oily fats. It’s light, but unbelievably satisfying because of the chicken and hominy. Sure it does take some time to make, but the commitment is well worth it.
Adapted from Patti Jinich.
Mexican oregano has a citrusy edge to it versus the peppery qualities most of us are used to in the Mediterranean oregano associated with Italian cooking. Find it at my favorite spice shop! By the way, the plethora of toppings are suggestions……don’t feel like you have to build a mountain of garnishes atop your soup.
- 1 pound dried hominy
- 3 lbs skin-on bone-in chicken breasts (about 3 large)
- 2 quarts homemade chicken broth
- 1/2 cup raw pepitas
- 1 pound tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed
- 1 large jalapeño, stemmed and quartered
- 1 large poblano
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp kosher
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- 2 TBSP canola oil
- 2 TBSP dried Mexican oregano
- 2 cups roughly chopped cilantro
- Limes for squeezing
- Radishes, thinly sliced
- Romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
- Avocado, cut into chunks
- Ancho Chili powder, a pinch sprinkled over each bowl
- Cilantro, roughly chopped
- Scallions, thinly sliced
- Tortilla chips, crushed
- Sour cream dollops
- Place hominy in a small stock pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Soak overnight.
- Drain the hominy and then return it to the pot and cover with water by 5 inches. Over high heat bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer for 3 hours or until hominy is tender and has begun to open up or “bloom”. Season with 1 TBSP kosher salt and cool in the liquid.
- In the meantime, roast the chicken breasts. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with foil (for easy clean-up). Rub chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 45-55 minutes until the juices run clear (length of time will depend on the thickness of the breasts.) When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken and set aside.
- Next, position the oven rack on the highest groove and turn the broiler to HI. Place the poblano on the rack and roast for about 10 minutes, turning every few minutes in order to char all sides. It will become beautifully blistered with black flavor-packing blemishes. Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it cool completely, then peel off the skin and pull out the stem. Give it a rough chop and set aside.
- Meanwhile, make the verde sauce. Place tomatillos, garlic and jalapeño in a 4 quart saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- After about 10 minutes the color of the tomatillos will no longer be bright green, but dull. You want them to be soft but not falling apart. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid, drain and set aside.
- Place the pepitas in a small skillet (I used an 8”) over medium heat and toast for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until they have lightly browned.
- Place the toasted pepitas in a blender and chop until finely ground. Then add the tomatillo mixture, garlic, onion, roasted poblano, salt and reserved liquid. Puree until smooth.
- In a large pot (I used 6.75 qt Dutch oven) heat the oil over medium heat.
- Add the tomatillo sauce from the blender and simmer for 18-20 minutes, stirring the entire time. The goal is for the sauce to thicken and deepen in flavor. The color will become darker as the process occurs.
- Combine the cilantro, Mexican oregano and 1 cup of broth in the blender. Puree until smooth and mix into the verde sauce.
- To the pot, add the hominy, shredded chicken and chicken broth. Simmer partially covered for 20 minutes.
- Taste for seasonings.
- Serve with toppings.
Tomatillos are tart, almost citrusy and should be firm to the touch when you buy them. The fruit is encased in a husk, which should NOT be dry and brittle when you take them home from the store. When you remove the husks you’ll find the tomatillos to be sticky- that’s normal. Just rinse under running water and dry with a paper towel.