It was cool and rainy yesterday, when I decided I’d make chicken pozole today. I pictured cold rain slapping the roof, and a steamy kitchen, redolent with the soothing smell of garlic, chiles, and chicken. I didn’t consult the forecast. The steamy and redolent kitchen part was accurate, but it’s sunny and 85 degrees today. A crunchy salad and an iced drink would suffice. But never mind. Once the idea of chicken pozole got a hold of me, it didn’t loosen its grip just because the weather didn’t follow the script.
Pozole traditionally stars pork, not chicken. I think the authentic variety involves scary pig parts I don’t typically have on hand. I’m not sure. I’m not picky about authenticity. No sense getting inhibited by accuracy, right? Cooking is an art, not a science. At least, that’s whay I tell myself, because it makes my imprecision sound kind of virtuous.
The garnishes are key here. Offer lots. Pile them on. Cabbage and radishes bring crunch and zing. Avocado adds silky richness. The cilantro chimes in with some funk, and the lime shines a little light on the whole shebang. It’s actually a darn good salad in its own right, lively with textures and taste. But this stew and its toppings are the yin and the yang. They need each other. They love each other. It would be wrong to keep them apart.
Now or later, hot day or cold, you should try this pozole. There’s some chopping and shredding, yes. But go on. It won’t take long. You’ll understand when that first spoonful unfolds its flavors. The heat is balanced by the earthy depth of hominy and toasted pumpkin seeds. The stew lends a sturdy backdrop to the crisp garnishes. It would make great medicine for a friend with a cold. It offers all the salty comfort of chicken soup, along with a serious dose of flavor to keep things interesting. It seems made to order for a chilly gray day. I’ll have to get back to you on that. For now I can attest that it brought some extra sizzle to this already hot and sunny day.
P.S. You can feed this to people who don’t eat gluten, or eggs, or dairy, or soy. I did. I was kind of proud of myself for coming up with a recipe that met all those requirements. Little did I realize it would it would be so tasty I would feel compelled to shout it from the cyber-rooftops.
GREEN POZOLE WITH CHICKEN – adapted from this recipe in Gourmet magazine
makes four hearty servings
1/3 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 ½ jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound tomatillos, husked and chopped (If you don’t have fresh, you can buy canned in the Mexican food section of many grocery stores.)
¾ cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 15-ounce cans white hominy, rinsed and drained
Grind pumpkin seeds finely in food processor or spice grinder. Set aside.
In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, heat three tablespoons of oil. Sauté onion, garlic, and jalapenos until soft, three to five minutes.
Puree the sautéed vegetables, salt, oregano, tomatillos, and cilantro in food processor. Return the puree to the stock pot.
Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened, about ten minutes.
Add chicken broth and raw chicken. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a low simmer. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken pieces using tongs and place them in a bowl. When it’s cool enough to handle, shred the chicken meat, discarding any big blobs of fat or gristle you wouldn’t want to find in your mouth.
Add hominy and ground pumpkin seeds to the pot. Add the shredded chicken and its accumulated juices. Simmer on low heat for about 20 more minutes.
Serve with shredded cabbage, chopped radish, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, lime wedges, and whatever else your heart desires.