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Friday, January 29, 2016

Una Pozoliza--A Pozole Birthday Party!

Una Pozoliza--A Pozole Birthday Party!
By Victoria Challancin

Whether spelled pozole or posole, the word refers to something utterly delicious.  Just like the word hummus simply means "chickpea" in Arabic, but denotes so much more, the word pozole means "hominy" in Spanish, yet it conjures up far more to those who know and love it.  Exactly what, you ask?  Well, let me wax poetical on a dish that I adore.  First of all, I need to start with the chemical process that renders dried field corn into a little piece of magic, as well as a more nutritional food item.

Nixtamalization--an Ancient Process

The word pozole simply denotes hominy, or dried field corn which has been treated by soaking it in a solution of lye, slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) or wood ash and then cooked.  Called "nixtamalization," this process of soaking hard field corn in an alkaline solution has multiple benefits:  it makes the corn easier to grind and transport, increases the flavor and smell, reduces mycotoxins, and releases niacin which helps prevent the often fatal pellagra disease.  And the ancient Mayans and Aztecs knew and utilized this important process thousands of years ago!  When Europeans eventually integrated New World corn into their diets and introduced it into Africa, they failed to understand the importance of nixtamalizing the corn, resulting in serious niacin deficiency and death to many who came to depend on corn as a staple.  Yet the ancients in the Americas fully understood its importance. Even my grandmother from Georgia slaked her corn in a large bucket with wood ash before making her hominy grits!

Have you ever smelled a really fresh corn tortilla or a tamal?  Well, it is the slaked corn that gives it its heady aroma. In fact, I smilingly recall a Mexican friend who was helping me cook for a fiesta sighing when I brought in a bucket of tortilla dough (masa) I had bought at a local tortilleria  and saying, "Ahhhhhh.....nixtamal!"  Indeed, it is a smell that warms the heart of all Mexicans and those who love its cuisine.

The difference in the end product of nixtamalized corn is the difference between a corn tortilla and Southern cornbread made from untreated ground corn:  both delicious, but one significantly more healthy than the other.


So if the word pozole simply means "hominy," why, you ask, am I so ecstatic about such a humble food?  Because although simple hominy is delicious on its own--and don't get me started on my love of grits-- the pozole that I am referring to is that incomparable Mexican soup of the same name which makes me weak in the knees.  So weak, in fact, that wherever I travel in Mexico, I seek out the pozolerias that serve it.  

Served at quinceañeras, weddings, birthdays, and New Year celebrations, pozole is a soup typically made with rich pork broth and hominy, although countless regional variations exist (my good friend Alfredo Castrejón, who is from the state of Guerrero, tells me that sardines are popular in one local version).  Traditionally, pozole comes in one of three colors:  red, white, or green.  And while red is the most typical type found here in the Bajio of Mexico, where I live, white (or green even) is my favorite.

Although the basic hominy/meat or chicken soup base is delicious on its own, it is the accompaniments that make the dish come to life.  These, too, vary a bit from region to region, but the most common are shredded lettuce or cabbage, avocado, radishes, Mexican limes, and dried oregano (a must!).  I have most commonly eaten (and made) it using chicharron, or fried pork skins, as one of the garnishes, but the version I will show you here was made by Alfredo, who serves his chicken version with corn tostadas, black beans, sour cream, and fresh farmer's cheese (queso fresco or queso ranchero)--delicious!

On my son's 26th birthday on January 19th, his girlfriend and her family hosted a pozoliza, or posole party for him--and my mouth is still watering.  As far as I am concerned, this is a perfect party dish. Or maybe just a perfect dish in general!

The Garnishes
Thinly sliced lettuce

Chopped white onion (the sharp-tasting variety--the only one to use in Mexican cooking!)

Chile, of course!


Limes...never lemons here!

Sliced radishes

The obligatory Mexican oregano

The Black Bean Tostadas
A tostada is simply a fried, crispy corn tortilla used as a base on which to pile other layers of deliciousness.  Notice that there is no grease!


Black beans

Mexican sour cream or crema (much like crème fraîche) and queso fresco (also called queso ranchero--fresh farmer's cheese)

 More tostadas...beautiful tostadas

The Finished Soup with Tostada

I loved eating pozole with a black bean tostada--a nice change from using chicharron, or fried pork skin, which is often served with the pork version of this dish.  Here I have a corn tostada smeared with refried black beans, a dollop of Mexican sour cream, and a sprinkle of farmer's cheese and chile

The naked, unadorned soup (unfortunately the hominy has sunk to the bottom!)

My dish of pozole...ready to eat

The Birthday Boy with his Mum

The Birthday Boy with his Love, Isabel

Cake and wine?  Well, yes.

Parting Shot:  The Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

Purchased, but still delicious...

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Flavors of the Sun International Cooking School
San Miguel de Allende, Mexíco


jennifer rose said...

I was served pozole with finely chopped celery in lieu of lettuce as the garnish. It works!

Dizzy Blonde said...

Wonderful to see you and your's. Last time I saw the Birthday Boy he was 7 years old = 25 years ago? Three of us signed up for Wild Women Tours and had the best time ever cooking and EATING! I've followed you since - but you're not aging. What's the secret?

Victoria Challancin said...

Thanks, Jennifer, for a new idea for pozole. Oh, I do love this dish. And Dizzy Blonde, please email me!

Hotly Spiced said...

Happy birthday to your son. His birthday is the day before my son's birthday. The cake looks so beautiful and what a lovely photo of the two of you. Those tostadas look really good - very authentic Mexican food that's a challenge to find here. Thanks for the description and info on pozole - I hope to try it one day xx

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I've never had pozole but it sounds delicious! A very Happy Birthday to your son too. I love the family snaps!! :D

Eha said...

Even if late it is wonderful to be able to say that as yet again you have been a wonderful teacher . . . the word 'pozole' meant nought to me and now it certainly does! Love all the photos and do wish you and yours all happiness in the forthcoming year . . .

Nagi@RecipeTinEats said...

Happy Birthday to your son! The pozole sounds tempting. Thanks for the information about pozole. Hopefully, I'll be able to try it soon. I love all the photos!

Summer said...

Drooling! And I am now wishing I could have a slice of that avocado ♥

Unknown said...

Pozole Birthday Party! It looks very special and interesting. The theme you chose for the party was just perfect my friend. My daughter’s birthday was in winter. So we had arranged a cozy indoor party at one of the best Chicago event venues and had a lot of fun!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

A belated birthday wish to your son. It sounds like he had a very nice party with lots of delicious food. I like pozole and have made both green and red but not the white. I like the idea of serving black bean tostadas with with dish…delicious.