The first time I ate pozole verde was at a small Cliffside restaurant within the historic Los Flamingos Hotel in Acapulco. I couldn’t have been more than six years old. As we walked into the lobby of the hotel my parents were oohing and ahhing over some signed pesos framed on the wall…only now do I realize that, had I understood who Cary Grant and John Wayne were, I would’ve been oohing and ahhing too. After somehow managing to communicate to la recepcionista that we were trying to reach the restaurant, my parents and I were directed up a steep path of stone stairs with flimsy wooden guard rails to protect us from the immense flowering vines which line virtually every path in Acapulco.
As we watched the sun from our small wooden table, my parents enjoyed drinks, and six year old me became antsy—where was the food? Where were the menus? How could I pick out what I wanted to eat? The waiter brought me a virgin piña colada to calm my nerves. Finally, when the sun was sufficiently faded and the string lights in the restaurant had come on, the waiters began bringing platters of toppings to our table. I was confused. No one had ordered yet, so why were they bringing us food? The waiter asked, “Quieren rojo, verde o blanco?” My dad shot my mom a confused look and dad asked to waiter for his suggestion. The waiter replied, “Well, it’s Thursday so verde!” My parents nodded and laughed in confused agreement.
Finally, the pozole arrived. Made with hominy, shredded chicken, and a sensuously seasoned broth, the pozole was served in hand-crafted clay bowls, painted with little flowers on the side. Steaming hot, it smelled better than any soup I had ever tasted. My first bite was delightful. Pleasantly spicy with notes of cilantro, oregano and cumin, I shoveled more spoons into my mouth until the spiciness became too much. Then, I crumpled tortillas into my bowl and kept devouring.
This experience was the start of a 15 year journey to find a duplicate dish in the U.S. After little success, my mom eventually found a recipe which got us close. It was delicious, but I wasn’t quite satisfied. Now a fluent Spanish speaker, I searched through recipes that my mom wasn’t able to translate, until I reached the one.
The following pozole verde recipe is adapted from Viva La Cocina. You’ll notice that I made a few changes to accommodate my semi-limited budget, but the end result was absolutely delicious.
For the Pozole:
2 lbs large dried corn kernals
1 whole chicken
1 small white onion
3 cloves garlic
salt to taste
For the Pozole Broth:
3 cloves garlic
1 white onion
½ cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
1 cup cilantro
1 cup iceberg lettuce (chopped)
½ cup radish greens
1 poblano pepper
2 jalapeño peppers
1 habanero pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons cumin
salt to taste
The first step is to begin hydrating the dried corn kernels so that they transform into delicious, fluffy hominy. My advice is to do this about 3 hours before you plan to make pozole. Place two pounds of the dried corn into a 4 quart pot and cover with about three inches of water. Slice an onion in half and drop it into the water. Crush three cloves of garlic with the back of a knife and toss them into the water.
Boil the corn for about two hours, and then allow it to sit in the warm water for about an hour.
As the hominy soaks, it’s time to cook the chicken.
Be sure to check the inside of the chicken for any plastic pieces that remain from the packaging, then place the chicken into a large 4 quart pot. Fill the pot with just enough water to cover the top of the chicken.
Heat the chicken on medium-high heat until the water begins to boil, then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken.
Allow the chicken to cool for 15 minutes, then strip the meat and place it in a bowl, shredding larger chunks with a fork as you go.
Once the chicken is done, go ahead and add the shredded chicken to the hominy and pour the chicken broth into the pot as well—this mixture serves as the base for the broth. Let the hominy, chicken, and broth mixture simmer on very low heat.
Next, you’ll prepare the ingredients which give pozole verde its signature green color and fresh flavor.
Start by slicing the tomatillos and onion into quarters.
Then, slice the poblanos, the jalapeños, and the habanero. It’s up to you whether to keep the seeds—I kept the seeds of just one jalapeño, and the heat was slightly too mild for my taste, but beware the habanero seeds as they are significantly spicier.
Then, wash the cilantro and radish greens gently, and place them aside to dry. If your pumpkin seeds are untoasted, toss them in sauté pan until they get a nice, even roast.
Add the tomatillos and onion to the sauté pan and cook on medium heat until they begin to soften.
Then, add the chiles and cook them for about the same length of time as the tomatillos.
Add the greens and sauté gently until they become soft.
Once the greens are well integrated, add the spices and
allow them to cook until aromatic—or about five minutes.
Next, move the mixture from the sauté pan into a food processor or blender, and process until the mixture is completely smooth, and looks almost like salsa verde.
Once you’ve pureed the mixture, return it to the sauté pan and allow it to cook down even further—until it comes to a simmer.
Now, add the pureed mixture to the pot with the hominy and chicken. The broth should begin to have a green color.
Stir the pozole thoroughly to ensure that all the flavors are evenly distributed.
You may want to add some additional oregano or cumin to taste, if you find the broth to be too bland.
Allow the pozole to cook on medium-high at a rigorous boil for about 30 minutes prior to serving.
As the pozole cooks, chop up some radish slices, lime, avocado, onion, lettuce or cilantro to garnish each serving. You might also heat some corn tortillas to crumble into the pozole to add a bit of crunch.
Once you’ve garnished your pozole verde, enjoy!