Posole Rojo – A Christmas Eve Tradition
Today I want to share with you a delicious soup that our family eats on Christmas Eve, but would be wonderful anytime you want a flavorful soup reminiscent of the spices in a tamale. It is called Posole Rojo. It is often served on Christmas Eve in Mexico. Many families in Arizona eat Mexican food on this night, I think due to the fact that we are neighbors with Mexico. When I first started having Christmas Eve dinner at our house it seemed the only logical thing to serve as everyone in our family loves Mexican food. I think I could eat it every day, and we do eat it often. But I wanted our Christmas Eve dinner to be a little more special and not something I fix all the time. Once I came across this recipe, I have been serving it ever since, as part of our tradition.
Posole is a hearty, spicy soup, full of shredded pork and hominy.
There are also traditional toppings or garnishes that accompany the soup which are limes, radishes, cilantro, and cabbage. I think I eat soups for the garnishes that you put on them. That is my favorite part. I have always liked to decorate!
The ingredients that add spice and amazing flavor to this recipe for Posole are dried Ancho Chiles (left) and dried Chiles de Arbol (right). I did have to go to a specialty Mexican grocery store in order to find these chiles. We are so fortunate to have several of those near where I live. If you live in the area, I found the chiles at Rancho Market, but Food City would probably have them as well. It is amazing how many different kinds of chiles there are, but the cashier said these types are very common.
After removing the seeds from the chiles (due to their extreme heat), you steep them in boiling water for a brief time to soften them. Afterwards, the softened chiles and the chile water are placed in a blender to be turned into a chile smoothie. I may have to try that for breakfast sometime. I bet it would wake me up very quickly!
The result is a concoction that is liquid gold. It doesn’t taste good by itself, because it is very concentrated, but takes this soup over the top with richness and complexity. You add more or less depending on how spicy you like it. We love spicy so I add almost all of it.
If you are trying to figure out what to fix on Christmas Eve or if you are a fan of Mexican food like we are, try this soup sometime. It takes a little bit of time, but isn’t difficult at all and is definitely worth it for a special occasion or to make on the weekends when you have a little more time. Serve it with some warm, buttered flour tortillas, and it will be a meal fit for a king. Another reason it’s perfect for Christmas. I would love to hear what your family’s food traditions are for the holidays. Whatever you do, I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends!
- 3/4 c dried chiles de arbol (you may need to go to a Mexican specialty store)
- 5 dried ancho chiles (can also be called dried pasilla chiles)
- 6 cloves garlic (2 smashed, 4 minced)
- 3-4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut in quarters
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 8 c chicken broth
- 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 3-4 cans (15-ounce) white hominy, drained and rinsed (you might not want to get the store brand for this as they seemed mushy)
- diced avocado, shredded cabbage, diced onion, sliced radishes, and/or fresh cilantro, for toppings
- Cut the ends off the chiles de arbol and ancho chiles, and shake out the seeds. Measure the 3/4 cup after you do this for the chiles de arbol. This takes awhile. Be sure to use gloves as the oils will stay on your hands even after you wash them, and can hurt if you touch your eyes later.
- Put the chiles in a bowl and cover with approximately 3 cups boiling water, making sure chiles are submerged and using a bowl or plate to weigh them down if needed. Soak about 30-45 minutes until soft.
- Transfer the chiles and 1 1/2 c of the soaking water to a blender. Add the smashed garlic, and 1/2 tsp. salt and blend until smooth.
- Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pushing the sauce through with a spoon. Discard the solids.
- Rub the pork all over with the cumin and 1/2 tsp. salt; set aside.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the pressed garlic, and cook 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds to 1 minute so it doesn’t burn. Take out the onion garlic mixture, place in a bowl, and set aside.
- Increase the heat to medium high. Add the pork pieces to the pot and brown on both sides, by leaving them unmoved on each side for 3-4 minutes before turning.
- When pork is browned, stir in 2 c water, the chicken broth, oregano, bay leaf, 1/2 tsp. salt, the onion/garlic mixture with all of the drippings, and 3/4 c of the chile sauce. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook, turning the pork a few times, until tender, about 3 hours.
- When meat is fork tender and can easily be shredded with a fork, take the meat out of the pot and transfer to a cutting board. Roughly chop into bite size pieces and return to pot.
- Remove the bay leaf and add the hominy which has been drained and rinsed. Add salt to taste (I started with 1 tsp. and went from there).
- If you like your posole spicier, add 1/4 c of the chile paste at a time until desired heat is achieved. I ended up adding another 1/2 cup because we like a little heat. Serve with assorted toppings if desired and the remaining chile sauce.
- Refrigerate any leftovers. This will keep in the refrigerator up to a week if you want to make it ahead of time and reheat when needed.
Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine, January/February 2012, page 93