I was in High School when I first encountered Pozole. Shortly after my Grandmother died, my whole family spent the holidays in Tucson, where my father grew up. Though I’d been exposed to Mexican foods my whole life, my mother and local restaurants had made do with what was available in Ohio. I was fascinated by the sheer number of unfamiliar ingredients available in the local market. I piled our cart high with dried chilies, sauces I’d never seen, and a bag of Mexican style hominy – nixtamalized corn kernels – which I had never seen before and frankly had no idea what to do with.
Back at my grandfather’s house, I dug into a pile of Mexican cookbooks, asked anyone who would listen, and eventually got an answer of what to do with the hominy: Pozole
I don’t know where I got my first pozole recipe. I either pulled it out of one of the countless Mexican cookbooks split between my parent’s and grandparent’s houses, or even by word of mouth from my Grandparent’s neighbor, Maria, who also taught me how to properly cut peppers with as little waste as possible.
However, I started cooking it, the warming stew of chilis, pork, and hominy became a winter staple for whatever house I was living in at the time. Cooking for friends who didn’t eat pork, I modified the recipe to use chicken thighs. It’s an easy substitution, as chicken thighs have similar flavor and fat content to the shoulder pork I generally used for the dish.
The dish I learned to cook was different from the dish I later encountered in restaurants. It’s less refined, more rustic, a long slow cook breaking down pork and chilis and onions into a soft stew, the hominy – after a soak overnight – slowly hydrating and softening in the flavorful broth.
The dish as I’ve encountered it elsewhere is based on a chili broth, the hominy and meat cooked separately, each component standing alone and contrasting each almost a deconstructed version of the rustic stew I’d been making for years.
Honestly, I don’t know if my version was even slightly authentic, or if it was a young cook misunderstanding a recipe. Regardless, I love both versions. So I’m posting recipes for both. Enjoy, find your favorite, and build on it.
Be sure to check out my other food project, The Weekly Menu!