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Holiday Recipes: Pozole Rojo

From Alma Alcocer of El Alma

Although she’s the Culinary Director for El Chile Group overseeing menus and dishes for El Chile Group concepts, El Chile and El Chilito, Alma Alcocer is also executive chef of her namesake, El Alma, the Barton Springs hotspot known for authentic Central Mexican cuisine. A native of Mexico City and an alumnus of Le Cordon Bleu Paris, Alcocer’s Austin culinary career began at Jeffrey’s, where she started as pantry chef and worked her way up to executive chef. A stint at Fonda San Miguel reconnected her with her Mexico City roots, and she began exploring the flavors of Central Mexican cuisine. In 2011 she partnered with El Chile Group to open El Alma. Slurp your way into Christmas with her Christmas Eve pozole recipe.

Pozole Rojo

“Pozole is a classic Christmas Eve meal, but it’s perfect for groups all winter! It can be made in advance, it freezes well, and everyone makes their bowl exactly the way they want it,” says Alcocer. Photo by Tono Daal.

• 2 29 oz cans Maiz Pozolero (White Hominy for pozole) or 4 cups
• 3 1/2 to 4 pounds bone-in pork shoulder that will yield 2 1/2 pounds
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano, without stems
• 2 cups diced onion
• 5 garlic cloves
• 3 oz Guajillo chiles, stems removed
• 2 Ancho chiles
• 1/2 oz Arbol chiles, crispy fried or toasted
• 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
• 1 lime, cut into quarters
• 4 radishes, thinly sliced
• 16 tostadas

Take as much meat off the bone and cut into 1 1/2-inch-thick pieces, place all the pieces and the bone in a large stockpot, cover with 5 quarts of cold water or chicken stock, add 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook over medium-high heat, bring to a hard boil, skim off all the grayish foam that rises to the top, and discard. Add 1 cup of onion, bay leaves, and 1 tablespoon of oregano. Partially cover the pot and simmer over medium heat, cook until the meat is tender but not falling apart, about 60 to 80 minutes.

While the meat cooks, prepare the chile seasoning, remove the stems and seeds from the Guajillos and anchos, toast them in the oven at 375 or on a comal until lightly brown and fragrant. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil over medium-high heat, add the toasted chiles, half or less of the Arbol chiles, and garlic cloves. Turn the heat off and let them soak until soft and the water has cooled down. In a blender working in batches, puree the chiles and garlic with the cooking liquid, strain through a medium-mesh strainer. Set aside.

Open the maiz (Hominy) cans and place them in a colander, rinse out all the canning liquid and any extra starch there might be. Set aside.

When the meat is tender, remove it from the cooking stock, take all the meat off the bone and shred it, add it to the chopped cooked meat, set it on a baking pan to cool down if you are not serving the pozole immediately, or a bowl if you are. Add the chile seasoning, the maiz-hominy, the leftover cup of onions, and the oregano to the soup stock. Simmer until the soup is a little thicker and all the flavors have come together for about 20 to 30 minutes. Carefully add the cooked pork back in. Bring back to a soft boil, check for consistency; it should look hearty and brothy enough to be a soup or light stew. If it looks too thick add some water or chicken stock. Taste the broth for seasoning; you might need to add 1-2 teaspoons of salt to make up for what the hominy has absorbed. Let it sit off the heat for 10 minutes.

Crush the rest of the Arbol chiles in a Molcajete or chop them. Serve the pozole in a deep bowl, garnish with the cabbage, and a couple of slices of radish. Also serve with the limes, crushed chiles, and tostadas on the side, or let your family serve and garnish their own.

Serves 10-12 generous portions. If you are not going to serve the pozole right away, divide it into smaller containers, and cool it down immediately. You can freeze it once it is completely chilled.