I might be a weirdo (ok, I’m totally a weirdo) but I love to hear the history behind food and certain dishes. So often our cultures and traditions are built around the food we serve. Food can tell so many stories, like what was available back then, what types of jobs we were doing, if we were going through bad times or good times, or if we were celebrating a holiday. I just really geek out over how certain dishes came to be.
A few weeks ago I was trying to figure out what kind of soup to make. I wanted something new, but nothing too complicated. I have no idea how I stumbled upon it, but I found a soup called pozole. Pozole means hominy, which is a type of corn that has been treated with lime to soften the husk, and it is a traditional Mexican stew. When I think of Mexico, stew is not what comes to mind first.
After a little research, I found out that pozole had a ritual significance. Maize, or corn, played a huge role in the lives and culture of Mexicans. Ancient Americans believed that humans were made out of cornmeal by the gods. In a traditional pozole, prisoners were killed and cooked with hominy and seasonings and then served to the whole community as a form of communion. Once cannibalism was outlawed, pork was substituted for human because it tasted similar.
Aren’t you glad that I’m sharing this with you? Hungry yet?
Have no fear, I am not going to make this with human flesh (I’m not Sweeney Todd) and I’m not even going to make it with pork. I decided to do a vegetable pozole and make it a pozole rojo by adding a mole sauce. I did stick to the traditional hominy, which is really delicious and I had never had before, as well as traditional seasonings.
Pozole is still served today for celebrations like weddings, birthdays, and New Years. But you can make this pozole rojo anytime and it’s a great way to warm up on a cold night.
- 3 large dried ancho chiles
- 2 large dried pasilla chiles
- 2 cups hot water
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 4 to 5 cloves garlic
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 1 can of hominy, 28 oz (read the ingredients to check for preservatives)
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp Mexican oregano (regular would work too)
- 3 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 lime
- Get a large skillet and heat it over medium-high. Toast the chiles until they are a little soft and bendy. About 5 minutes. Place the chiles in a large bowl and cover the chiles with hot water. Let them sit for 15 to 20 minutes until they are totally soft.
- Once the chiles are totally rehydrated, take them out of the water and save the water. Cut off the tops and remove the seeds and place into a blender. Add the water they were soaked in, the cocoa powder, and the garlic cloves. Blend until you have a smooth paste.
- Heat a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add a little olive oil and saute the onions until they are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add in the hominy, cumin, and Mexican oregano and stir to combine everything.
- Pour in the vegetable broth and salt and bring everything to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook covered for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust any seasonings and squeeze in the lime juice.
I served this topped with guacamole, but you could also use cilantro, radishes, or even sour cream if you were so inclined. If you want a more traditional pozole with pork, check out this recipe here.
What are some of your favorite meals with some history? Any dishes that your family has always made for a special occasion?