The Scoop on Posole–WHAT IS IT?
Posole, a traditional Mexican soup, is such an integral part of Mexican cuisine, some consider it the country’s national dish. If you’re in Mexico on a Thursday, you might enter a restaurant and see nearly everyone dipping their spoons into bowls of posole.
Where posole really shines in Mexican households is on Christmas Eve. For several nights before Christmas Eve, Las Posadas is a fun family tradition in Mexican households. With traditional songs and a bit of play-acting, family members retell the story of Mary and Joseph on their journey to find shelter before Jesus is born. Those playing Mary and Joseph knock on the door and sing their request for shelter and are told several times there is no room. On Christmas Eve, they are welcomed in, resulting in a happy celebration and a hearty meal of posole and all the typical accompaniments added to the soup.
Because posole is such a delicious soup made with ingredients available year ’round , it’s an ideal make-ahead hot meal any time, but becomes extra celebratory at Christmas time. The real fun with posole is the variety of add-ins typically spooned into the soup, creating interesting textures for the soup adventure.
Where did the name posole come from?
Taken from the Aztec Nahuatl language, “posole” means foam. Apparently the Aztecs thought the voluptuous posole, or hominy kernels, resembled foam and named the soup potzolli. The soup dates back to the pre-Columbian era. In the true Mexican tradition, posole is actually made with pork and, sometimes, chicken, but this version is strictly vegan. Typical Mexican seasonings include garlic, onions, cumin, oregano, and red or green chiles, depending on regional preferences.
Posole corn, prepared from field corn, was made by the ancient Aztecs in limestone caves. Today’s process of soaking the corn in powdered lime and water results in the familiar puffed, chewy kernels known as hominy. The actual posole corn, which might be white, yellow, or blue, is sweeter and tastier than hominy but is not readily available in chain groceries.
Is posole a cure for a hangover?
If you think posole has curing powers, you head for a big bowl of it. In some regions of Mexico people think it’s the hot chiles that have given posole its reputation for curing hangovers. Because of this notability, posole is often served on Saturday and Sunday mornings to aid recovery from the past night’s revelry.
Posole waves the colors of the Mexican flag
There are many variations of posole. The soup can be red, green, or white, like the colors of the Mexican flag. Red posole gets its bright color from roasted red chiles. The green posole is made from tomatillos and thickened with ground pumpkin seeds, while the white posole contains hominy in a clear broth with chiles served on the side.
Posole, a festive meal in a bowl, makes a hearty main-dish soup served on special occasions throughout Mexico and is frequently served on Christmas Eve to recognize life’s blessings. When served on New Year’s Day, posole is thought to bring good luck. One of the main ingredients that give this dish distinctive character is hominy, a specially treated white or yellow corn with a pleasantly light flavor and chewy texture. The soup is more festive when accompanied by a banquet of add-ins served on the side, along with corn or flour tortillas.
Add-ins to enhance the soup
The long list of Add-ins I’ve included in the recipe represents all the regional preferences throughout Mexico. Rarely do people serve all of these at the same meal. Choose your favorites and enjoy a delicious bowl of green posole. It makes Christmas Eve dinner a hearty, jubilant meal.
HOLY MOLY GREEN POSOLE
Yield: 5 to 6 servings
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 1/4 pounds fresh tomatillos, husks removed
3 cups vegetable broth or water
1 (14-ouncew) can diced tomatoes
2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 to 2 jalapeno chiles, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 large zucchini, chopped, or 4 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 red bell pepper, or 1 carrot, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (1 pound, 13-ounce) can hominy, undrained, or 1 (15-ounce) can corn kernels, undrained
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups Tofu Sour Cream (recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a 17 1/2 x 12 1/2 inch rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes or until toasted. Alternatively, toast the pumpkin seeds in a skillet over high heat, stirring constantly for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a plate to cool. Put the seeds in a blender or food processor. Process until ground to a fine meal.
Wash the tomatillos under running water. (They will retain their somewhat sticky surface.) Slice them into quarters and put them in an 8-to 10-quart stockpot.
Add the vegetable broth, the canned and fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, oregano, and chili powder. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium, uncover, and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.
Add the zucchini and bell pepper and cook 5 to 8 minutes. Add the black beans, pinto beans, hominy with liquid, salt, and the reserved ground pumpkin seeds and cook another 5 minutes to thicken the posole.
Before serving, add the lemon juice and adjust the seasonings. Ladle the posole into large soup bowls, and place a dollop of Tofu Sour Cream into each serving. Serve the add-ins of your choice on the side.
Add-ins: Sliced radishes, chopped onions, shredded lettuce, shredded green cabbage, diced avocados, sliced green or black olives, crushed baked tortilla chips, steamed or mashed chopped chayote squash, hot sauce, shredded vegan Jack, Cheddar, or nacho cheese, lime wedges, dried oregano, chopped cilantro.
Tofu Sour Cream
1 (12.4-ounce box extra-firm silken tofu, drained
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Use immediately or refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours to thicken. Stored in a tightly covered container and refrigerated the Tofu Sour Cream will keep for 1 week.