It barely feels like winter has kicked in, but here we are waving goodbye to another National Soup Month. Lucky for us, Super Bowl is just a few days away so we can keep rocking the soup vibe without shame. This Posole Verde is so much more than a soup, perhaps a stew, and has all the personal choice condiments that are mandatory for serving a crowd. You could make this vegan by leaving out the pork (must you?) and swapping the stock. But the slow cooking required to pop the posole begs for pork to be front and center and turning into delicate strands, filling every bite.
Posole or Pozole?
I’m talking POSOLE, people!! Or is it POZOLE? It’s hominy or giant puffed-up corn. I first ran into posole while foodstyling a Today Show segment for Williams-Sonoma. Interesting that it was a first, because I grew up just down the street from Fuhrer Ford Mills, a hominy processing plant. As a result, our house always smelled of popped corn (kind of yummy), and there was a constant coat of silt on every surface (kind of crummy). But despite formative years in corn country, this most definitely was never ever on our table.
Pozole is the traditional Mexican spelling, though more commonly spelled posole here north of the border. Maize (maíz) was a sacred plant for the Aztecs and it was often a part of celebrations. To get from maize, to hominy or posole, the dried corn must be slaked with lime to create an alkali solution, called nixtamalization. This process loosens the hulls, makes them soft like beans, and then “pumps you up!” Remember Hans and Franz on SNL??? The lime used here is not from fresh citrus; rather, it is a food-grade calcium hydroxide. If you have ever turned cucumbers to pickles, perhaps you used “pickling lime” to crisp up the vegetables before canning. Luckily for us, by the time you find dried white corn on the shelves (in the dried bean section), this has already been done and is ready for use in soups and stews.
Another benefit of cooking or soaking in slaked lime and ash (an alkaline process) is that the nutritional value is bumped up (making it niacin-rich), it becomes easier to grind (resulting in masa, the main ingredient in tamales), and flavor and aroma are improved. In addition to dried posole – sometimes labeled as Giant White Corn or Maíz Mote Pelado – you might see canned hominy at your store. It’s a much faster solution, but to my taste NOT nearly the no-brainer substitution as canned-for-dried beans. The texture of posole prepared from dried kernels is unlike anything else – chewy, toothy, satisfying – and is totally lost in the canning process. Canned hominy is much like the soft texture of a canned bean and tastes like disappointment. It’s slightly metallic and oh so mushy. I’m so keen on dried posole texture that I have never made the substitution since I once sadly tried canned.
The traditional Mexican preparations for posole are blanco, rojo or verde. The first (blanco) is unadorned and has no green or red ingredients added, and the latter two rely on chilis (rojo), such as Guajillo or Ancho, or tomatillos, lime, cilantro and jalapenos (verde), as I am sharing here. Adding the green things at the very end of your simmering keeps them from overcooking, leaving the flavor bright and a bit spicy.
Preparing the Posole
If I have the time, I like to prepare the posole the same way I would prepare dried beans. Rinse the posole under cold water, and transfer to a stockpot. Cover with 1-inch of water, bring to boil, and turn off the heat. Let the posole soak overnight. When ready to use, drain and rinse again. If you are pressed for time, you can skip this step or just shorten it to the time you prep the remaining ingredients.
The verde recipe I share here calls for a late stage addition of a puree of lime juice, jalapenos, cilantro (stems and all) and tomatillos. It kicks up the flavor profile like 100000%. This is the kind of dish you can just plop on a back burner and walk away, passing every hour or so to check on the liquid level and adding more stock, as needed. I am not an instant pot or slow cooker “cooker”, but I bet/know in my heart they would drastically reduce the time. I happen to have a few followers who are, and I’m counting on you to comment below. The big reveal comes when the posole starts to pop and look like a flower or popcorn, depending on your vision. I’ll admit it – it can take from 3 to 5 hours to pop (longer if the dried corn has been around for years and if you skip the soaking step), but it’s very low maintenance and for me a bit satisfying to have something cooking for the afternoon that really doesn’t cry out for attention. It’s like I’m cooking, and I’m not. Once it’s getting close, just toss the lime juice et al. in the processor, and give it a whirl. Add this to the pot and cook a few minutes more.
In Mexico, this dish is usually served with an array of toppings, including limes, cheese, sour cream, avocados, and radishes. Who doesn’t love to dose their own dinner? All those garnishes make it the perfect football afternoon kind of centerpiece. Add a few chips or warm tortillas, maybe a big salad or some cornbread….. and a nice frosty beer. You will not be sorry!
If you have a big enough pot – or want to use two – double up on the recipe. It freezes really well and then you will have a souvenir of the day you turned your kitchen into the most fragrant cantina in town. I added some notes below on how best to freeze. And while you are scrolling down, check the bottom of the post for some delicious additions to your soup repertoire.
Super Bowl is just a few days away so we can keep rocking the soup vibe without shame. This Posole Verde is so much more than a soup, perhaps a stew, and has all the personal choice condiments that are mandatory for serving a crowd. Put down a feast of toppings, a crunchy salad, and some cornbread, and sit back and watch the half-time show!
1 pound dried posole, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 pounds pork loin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1″ cubes (about 3 1/4 pounds pre-trim)
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4–5 quarts chicken broth
1 pound tomatillos, husked removed and rinsed (about 10 medium)
2 jalapenos, stems removed and sliced in half
1 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves (reserve a few sprigs for toppings)
Juice of 2–3 limes
Grated Monterrey Jack
The night before, prep the posole:
Rinse the posole and transfer to a stockpot, covering with 1-inch of water. Bring to boil and turn off the heat. Let the posole soak overnight. When ready to use, drain and rinse again.
To make posole:
Heat oil over high heat in an 8-quart stockpot. Add pork, cumin, salt, and pepper. Sauté until pork is browned, about 10 minutes.
Add onion and garlic, and cook until softened and excess liquid has cooked off, about 6–8 minutes. Add soaked posole and stir to combine. Add 2 quarts of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the liquid and when getting low, add another quart of stock. I tend to add the third quart around 90 minutes and the 4th quart around 3 hours. Altogether, this will simmer a total of 3, 4 or maybe even 5 hours. It will depend in part on the age and dryness of the dried product. To be safe, give yourself enough time for a 5-hour simmer.
The pork will fall apart and shred, and you will know the posole is done when the posole kernels have popped. The kernels will puff and pop, and look a bit like a flower (if you squint and have been hitting the cerveza during the last five hours). They burst open joyfully as if they want to become popcorn! Taste them periodically for doneness. Before they “blossom”, they will be quite starchy, fiber-full, and too chewy. Once sufficiently stewed, they will remain a bit chewy and toothy, but not woody.
Thirty minutes before the end:
When the kernels are starting to pop and getting close to the desired texture, toss the tomatillos, jalapenos, cilantro and lime juice into a food processor and puree. Add to stockpot and simmer for the final 30 minutes until the posole is tender. 30 minutes is plenty of time to simmer for this last step, but see note below.
Pressed for time? You can skip the soaking stage, or reduce it to the prep time for the rest of your chopping. That will likely lengthen the cooking time however.
Never add an acidic ingredient when cooking beans, or in this case, posole until the end. The acid binds with the outer structure and toughen it ups. No amount of additional cooking time will allow it to break down. Additionally, you want the fresh vibrant flavor from the green ingredients, which will dissipate if added too early in the cooking process.
If you are serving the posole later: Add the green mixture as you take the stew off the heat. The hot stew will cook sufficient “heat” out of these spicy and tart ingredients. To reheat, I also use some of that 5th quart to add to the pan. The posole will have continued to soak up broth as it sits in the refrigerator overnight, and you will need to loosen it a little with more stock.
Serve with bowls of the toppings, a crunchy salad and some cornbread!
Freezing? This stew is a fantastic freezer staple, but make sure to cool completely before transferring to freezer containers. I called for a 5th quart of stock so that you can top off the stew with liquid. Since there are a lot of chunky pieces, you want to make sure that they are all submerged in liquid before freezing.
Prep Time:30 minutes
Cook Time:4 hours
Keywords: posole, posole verde
It’s #NationalSoupMonth – so shout it out!
Here are some other ab-del (absolutely delicious) soups for your winter blues.
So many plums, so little time. The countdown is on for the end of the stone fruit season, but right now you can find perhaps a dozen plum varieties at both your local farmers’ market or supermarket. A recent stroll down the grocery aisle revealed Pluots of the red, green, and dinosaur varieties, as well as Sunrise Reds, Midnight Moons, Damson, Greengage, Mirabelle and Stanley Rubies. The colors both outside and in reflect the rainbow. I love buying a few of each so that chopped and mixed you can create a colorful salsa with tastes that run from tart to sweet, then pump that flavor further with fresh lime, crystallized ginger and loads of fresh mint.
Plums are an essential flavor in many Asian cuisines, but especially Japanese and Chinese. While neither the salsa nor the pork marinade are authentic, they reflect my modern update on classic cuisines using the palate of flavors and pantry staples that represent their birth regions. I first traveled to both Japan and China shortly after my year-long stint in four kitchens in France, where I drilled down on classic techniques. That travel, more than anything else in my life, transformed both my palate and thoughts toward technique, opting for less reliance on fat-first flavor and relying more heavily on quick cooking techniques and bold aromatics, like ginger. It has been said I am a fiend for ginger. That is no lie.
I found this bamboo ginger grater on one of my trips, and it is much easier to clean and gives a higher yield of grated ginger than a microplane. If you ever see one, snag it. The two recipes in this post rely on crystallized ginger for the salsa (love the little texture contrast that crystallized gives when mixed with fruit) and fresh for the marinade. Fresh ginger is also a terrific meat tenderizer, so this marinade works well with less primo cuts of meat.
Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin
This marinade recipe in its first iteration came about from a bet with the great Josh Wesson, lord of all things food and wine pairing. Once during Aspen’s Food & Wine Classic, he smugly dared me to serve up blue fish in any possible way that would EVER pair with a wine. Once thought to be too oily to be wine-friendly, the pesky poisson was handily tamed by this robust marinade. I WON. I don’t remember where we landed for the wine, but believe it was a Gewurztraminer or something in the Alsatian family. The marinade went on to earn me a spot in the Gourmet Magazine Healthy Menu Awards final round, and in yet another reboot it was featured in Great Women Chefs. Until I saw the parade of plums this week, I had not thought of the marinade in quite a while, but dusted it off and tweaked a few ratios and ingredients, and it’s just as full of flavor (and simple to prepare) as I remember. And as is required to qualify for my list of favorite “dump and stir” recipes, this Asian marinated pork lets some of the store-bought ingredients like black bean garlic paste and hoisin do the heavy lifting, flavor-wise.
With all the plums in season right now, it’s the perfect time to whip up a little Asian-inspired Ginger Plum Salsa. And what could be better than serving that with this flavor-rich and a snap to prepare Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin?
Ginger Plum Salsa
2 cups pitted and diced plums (assorted varieties, about 4 or 5 plums)
1/2 cup diced, peeled cucumber
2 Tablespoons minced red onion or 1 scallion, thinly sliced
Juice of one lime (about 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice)
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons chiffonade (thin ribbons) of fresh mint
2 1-pound pork tenderloins, trimmed of silver skin and fat
Make Ginger Plum Salsa
Combine the plums, cucumber and red onion (or scallions) in a small bowl.
In another small bowl, whisk together the fresh lime juice, honey, crystallized ginger and red pepper flakes. Pour over the fruit and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Add the mint just before serving.
Makes 2 1/2 cups
Make Asian Marinade
Combine all marinade ingredients and marinate the pork at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. If you are marinating for more than 1 hour, refrigerate, covered.
Grill Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin
Remove meat from marinade and pat dry. Start over a hot grill to mark, then cook on a cooler part of the grill (with the lid down) about 20-30 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 145oF. Alternatively cook in a 425oF until meat reaches temperature, 20-35 minutes.
Remove from the grill or oven and let rest 10 minutes before carving.
Serve alongside ginger plum salsa.
Prep Time:20 minutes (plus marinating time)
Cook Time:25 minutes
Fresh mint and lime juice really elevate the flavors in the salsa and brighten the whole plate.
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