The first time I had pozole was on a Texan ranch with my grandma.
It was a cold, windy day in March. My grandma and I were spending the afternoon at George Ranch in Richmond, Texas. We didn’t expect the cool temperatures and overcast skies, so we walked around the ranch quickly in hopes of warming up a bit. We had plans for lunch – a chuckwagon lunch in true southern cowboy form.
When the men behind the steaming pots of food uttered the word “pozole” I was a little confused. I had no idea what that meant, or what hominy was for that matter. If you know me at all, you know my foodie heart began to flutter at the very thought of trying something new.
And then I fell in love.
Hominy is tender and chewy with a subtle flavor. It’s dried corn that’s been soaked through an alkaline process. It’s often used in Mexican dishes and is ground to make tortillas (masa), grits, and tamales. Hominy is perfect in soups and stews because it adds starchy substance and a bit of corny sweetness.
Hominy is great, but it’s the tomatillo sauce (the “verde” in this dish) that really makes me swoon.
Tomatillos are now quite easy to find in your regular super market. Once you take them home and remove the papery husk, you’ll uncover a green gem that favors an underripe tomato.
Unlike a tomato, however, tomatillos are not juicy and they have a much different flavor profile. They pack a bit more sweetness and a unique tangy bite. Blended with smoky heat from peppers, sweet layers of caramelized onions and garlic, and freshness from cilantro, the tomatillo sauce is the perfect base to this dish bringing together an irresistible combination of flavors that will warm and wow your tastebuds, especially on these cool October nights.
Here’s what you’ll need:
For the tomatillo sauce
8-10 medium to large tomatillos
1 serrano pepper, halved with seeds and ribs removed
2 jalepeño peppers, only top stem removed
1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt
1 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 cup of fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt
For the pozole
1 pound of skinless chicken breast (about 2 large breasts)
4 cups of organic chicken stock
2 cups of water
2 dried bay leaves
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 whole yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 (25 ounce) cans of Mexican hominy (I used Juanita’s brand), drained and rinsed
1 (7 ounce) can of chopped green chilis
1 tablespoon of coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
Juice from 1 lime
Remove coating from the tomatillos and rinse them well. Add them to a medium sized pot with the poblano pepper, jalepeños, and salt. Cover with water and bring to a boil.
Once the pot is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 5-8 minutes.
Add the tomatillos, peppers, onions, and garlic to a blender with the cilantro and salt. Don’t add any water from the pot. Allow the contents to cool for 5 minutes before blending. Once cooled, blend until mostly smooth.
Add the chicken, stock, water, bay leaves, garlic, onion, hominy, green chilis, salt, pepper, cumin, and tomatillo sauce to a crock pot. Stir everything together. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or high heat for 3-5 hours. I experimented with both bone-in and boneless chicken breast. I think bone adds a little more flavor, so bone-in, skinless chicken breast would be my preference for this dish, but it’s completely fine to use boneless.
Before serving, remove the chicken and shred with two forks. Remove any bones if necessary. Also remove the onion quarters, garlic cloves, and bay leaves, and discard. Add the shredded chicken back to the crock pot and stir in the lime juice. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as desired.
Serve the pozole hot with optional garnishes such as diced avocado, fresh cilantro, sliced radishes, plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, queso fresco, or corn tortilla chips.
This recipe makes a big batch of pozole. I kept half in the fridge for the week and froze the other half. It will keep for about 6 months in the freezer.
Enjoy, and live well!