Pozole, a spicy soup with hominy as the main ingredient, has been around for a long time-- well before any Europeans set foot in the Americas. In addition to hominy, the soup is made with chilis and meat-- the most well-known version with pork. There are lots of variations on the theme: white or clear pozole, spiced with garlic but no chilis; green pozole, featuring tomatillos, green chilis and ground pepitas (pumpkin seeds); red pozole, made with ancho or guajillo chilies; and elopozole, which substitutes fresh sweet corn for the hominy and adds squash.
Hominy is dried corn kernels which have been treated with an alkali (usually lye) to remove the germ and the hard outer hull. Each kernel is quite large with a chewy texture and mild distinctive taste perfect to carry other flavors. The earliest known usage of hominy was about 1500 BC, in what is now Guatamala. Interestingly, hominy has a few nutritional advantages over untreated corn products. Niacin and amino acids are more available and easier to absorb. Hominy is surprising low in calories and fat and high in fiber.
This particular pozole recipe is one I developed a few years ago whilst dieting. A single large serving is under 400 calories and provides over a third of your daily protein needs. But let's forget for a moment how healthy it is and think about taste. It's bright and fresh, marrying classic Mexican ingredients-- tomatillo, cilantro and chilis, with the mild hominy and chicken. And, in spite of the low amount of fat and oil in the recipe, the finished soup is not "thin" but rather thickens a little and leaves a lovely, unctuous mouth feel. Squeezing a little lime juice over your bowl of soup takes it right over the top.
You can poach the chicken a day ahead, and make the tomatilla salsa ahead, too, for a very quick assembly right before you want to serve the pozole.
Green Chicken Pozole
4 - 6 servings
9 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 large white onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 skinless boneless chicken thighs
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon pepitas (ground pumpkin seed)
2 - 3 cups of tomatillo salsa
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon dried epazote or oregano (preferably Mexican), crumbled
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 (15-oz) cans white hominy, rinsed and drained
Accompaniments: diced radish, lime wedges, shredded romaine lettuce, and chopped white onion to be added "al gusto" or as preferred.
Simmer 8 cups of the water, the bay leaf, the onion, garlic, and salt for about 10 minutes. Add the chicken and poach at a bare simmer, skimming off any foam, until just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool and pour the broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, Reserve. When chicken is cool enough to handle, coarsely shred with your fingers.
Heat oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add the tomatillo salsa, pepitas, and epazote. Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the reserved chicken broth and simmer 5 minutes. Add the shredded chicken, hominy, and the rest of the reserved broth and simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes.
Stir in the cilantro and serve pozole in deep bowls with accompaniments.