Pozole is a a rich, brothy soup characterized by the puffy limed-corn that we norteños know as hominy. Pozole, hominy and nixtamal all refer to whole kernel flour corn that has been boiled with lime in order to dissolve the clear shell that envelopes the corn kernel. The process results in a tastier, more digestible and softer-textured corn. Lime does not refer to the citrus fruit but to calcium carbonate, a white powder produced from limestone or seashells. When the limed-corn, called nixtamal in Mexico, is ground it is referred to as masa (dough) which is used to make tortillas, tamales, gorditas, sopes, and dozens of other Mexican staples.
In the Mexican state of Guerrero there is a tradition of eating pozole on Thursdays. One Thursday Sara and I went to La Mexicana, an open-air restaurant in Troncones, Guerrero, to try the famed Guerreran pozole. Two versions of pozole are offered at La Mexicana:
1. Pozole Verde: made from a green stock of whirled tomatillos, onions, garlic, cumin and chicken stock served with shredded chicken
2. Pozole Rojo made from a red chile stock (pictured above) of guajillo peppers, onions and garlic whirled with seafood stock and served with lobster, fish, shrimp and octopus
¡What in Garnations!
As vital to the meal as the pozole itself is the garden of guarniciones, or garnishes that accompany the bowl of soup. As with many Mexican meals, abundant garnations bring festivity, choice and pleasure to the table elevating the meal to a culinary event of colors, crunches and aromas. The platter of garnations may include ribbons of cabbage, sliced radish, chopped onion, avocado, flautas (little fried tacos), oregano, corn chips, chicharón (pork rinds), various salsas, and most importantly slices of lime (the citrus not the stone).
I arranged with the owner of La Mexicana, Isabel, to return the following Thursday to learn to make pozole and to photograph the process. All of the cooking was done with wood in an open air thatch-roofed kitchen where a turkey roamed freely and the smell of roasting chiles and wood smoke perfumed the air. A large horno, wood-fired clay oven, dominated one side of the kitchen and was surrounded by a large tortilla press, stacks of vegetables, and simmering pots of stock. I spent the afternoon learning the art of pozole, basking in this bastion of Mexican culinary history and swapping kitchen stories from both sides of the border.