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I’m not entirely sure when the recipe for chicken posole hit my rotation, although I can recall it being a New Years day tradition for the past few years. This hearty Mexican soup is Aztec in origin with a quite, well, disgusting history, which can be explored into detail in what’s known as the Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, written around 1529.
Historically, posole was a byproduct of a sacrificial offering
In that text, he describes a ceremonial stew consisting of corn, a sacred plant to Aztecs and the other indigenous people of Mesoamerica, and human flesh being consumed. The human flesh was a byproduct of human sacrifice, where the heart of the sacrificial subject was removed and offered to their gods and the bodies chopped up and served as the protein of choice in this special stew. The Spanish quickly put an end to that practice by banning cannibalism shortly after their arrival, after which pork was made the meat of choice. Pork was allegedly chosen because it tasted the most similar to human flesh. Um…ew? Thank goodness my recipe is kosher, amirite?
Don’t let that little historical tidbit turn you off, however (Wait, where is everybody??!), as this soup is quite delicious–it’s thick and hearty, with complex flavors that warm and comfort. It’s still served traditionally as a festive food, but no longer with the same historical significance of years past.
So the history doesn’t turn me off of chicken posole and I hope it doesn’t turn you off either because I am certain you will love the flavor explosion of the roasted chilies, tomato, garlic, and onion married with the fresh accompaniments of radish, cilantro, and lime. Modern tradition would call for cheese or crema to accompany chicken posole–which you could do and stay kosher if you chose to omit the meat–but since we are including chicken here, we’ll leave out the dairy.
You have two options: you can make a homemade chile sauce as I did this year, or you can buy your favorite red enchilada sauce. Neither option is truly better than the other, as it all comes down to whether you want to have a) more control over the sauce or b) convenience. For the sake of this post, I decided to make the sauce from scratch, but honestly I usually just buy the sauce…I’m lazy.
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Preheat the oven to 500°F with a rack positioned in the upper third of your oven. Cut a small x on the bottom of each tomato and place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast until charred, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool, then remove the skins.
Stem and seed the chiles.
Heat a heavy-duty skillet over medium-low heat and toast the guajillo chiles in two batches until fragrant and slightly darkened, about 2 minutes. Move the chiles to a medium bowl and soak in cold water for about 30 minutes.
Toast the garlic and onion in the same skillet, until golden with some charring.
Drain the chiles and combine with the garlic, onion, cloves, and allspice in a blender. Blend until very smooth, adding a small amount of water if necessary to ensure the mixture is smooth.
In a medium Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and add the chili mixture. Reduce the heat to low and stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add the water and raise the heat to medium-high to allow the mixture to boil. Stir in the vinegar, sugar, and one tablespoon of kosher salt. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook partially covered, checking back to stir here and there for about 30 minutes. Add water as necessary to keep the sauce consistency.
After 30 minutes has passed, either move on to making the posole or let cool & transfer to a small container to refrigerate if making ahead of time--use a glass bowl, like a Pyrex, with a lid or covered with plastic wrap to store this, as the tomato will stain your plastic containers.
Char the chiles either over your gas stove burner using tongs to flip until they're fully blackened or use your broiler, charring them under high heat on a foil-lined baking sheet. If you happen to have a bernzomatic torch (like the one I used to torch fish recently), you can, of course, use that! **Spoiler alert** I used my torch :). Immediately put the charred chiles into a bowl and cover to allow them to steam until the skins loosen. When they're cool enough to handle; peel, seed, and slice them.
To the pot with your warm chile sauce made above (if you made the sauce ahead, be sure to warm it up in the same dutch oven before proceeding), add the chicken, broth, oregano, and about a tablespoon of salt to the pot and bring to a simmer. Tie the cilantro with kitchen string and throw in the pot with the hominem and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add the poblano chiles and cook until heated through.
Serve! Chicken posole is traditionally served with shredded lettuce, sliced radish, and lime slices (to squeeze into soup). Cheese is also traditional, but not kosher to be mixed with the meat.
Happy New Years! Do you bother with resolutions or are you a realist like we are?
All photos are by Thirteenth Knight Photo © 2015