The first time I ate posole, traditional Mexican soup with pork and hominy, it tasted like betrayal. Who had been keeping this delicacy from me? Until that moment—deep in my twenties—it had never occurred to me that crisp fresh vegetables could accessorize hot liquid. Until that moment, my repertoire of soup accoutrements had been limited to Saltines and oyster crackers that devolve into mush upon contact with the surface.
Yet here was posole, a tangle of pulled pork in steaming broth, topped with white onion, shaved radish, ruffles of cilantro and cabbage, and lime wedges—hot and cold in perfect harmony, a balanced yin and yang capable of restoring inner peace, beating a virus, staving off depression. With one fateful slurp, that pork-based elixir became the chicken soup for my soul.
(The first mind-altering posole I encountered was rojo. Later, I discovered verde. I’ve always assumed rojo and verde mean red and green, respectively, but, sadly, there’s no way I can know for sure, because I studied French—as if it were still a bonne idée to teach the language of cartoon skunks during the decades that the U.S. was becoming the second-most Spanish-speaking country in the world. I blame Jackie Kennedy, for setting our mothers on a fool’s errand of raising elegant little francophile diplomats … elegant little francophile diplomats who scattered Pepperidge Farm croutons across the surface of their Campbell’s. But, as so often happens in remembrances of edibles past, I digress.)
Meanwhile, in one generation, my family has evolved from French onion soup-sippers to posole people. Posole verde people, to be precise, because we prefer the tangy green tomatillo varietal to the more piquant red chile-tinged version.
That said, my family does not like hominy. I suspect it has to do with the similarity between chalky king-sized corn kernels and some teeth we once extracted from the jaw of a sun-bleached cow skull. So, we’ve adjusted our posole recipe to include quinoa, in lieu of bovine molars.
We’re not claiming that our posole verde, steeped in the belly of a Hamilton Beach slow cooker and topped with a handful of Fritos, is the soul of authenticity, but it is fast becoming a very real family tradition, owing to its complexity of flavors, textures and temperatures, as much as to its simplicity of preparation.
2 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
32 oz carton low-sodium chicken broth
2 cans (28 oz each) tomatillos (drained)
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic (4 tsp of jar-lic)
2 cans (4.5 oz each) diced mild green chiles
1 cup quinoa
Toss pork with salt, pepper and one-half of the cumin. In a skillet, heat oil on medium-high and brown pork on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer pork to slow cooker. Add 1 cup of broth to skillet to scrape loose any browned bits, pour into slow cooker.
Blend tomatillos in blender until smooth. Add to slow cooker, along with onions, garlic, green chiles, and the rest of the cumin and broth. Cook on Low for at least 6 hours. In final hour, stir quinoa into slow cooker.
Serve in bowls. Top with cilantro, cabbage, radishes, sour cream and lime wedge.