With the Christmas season approaching, I was looking for something a little different to serve for holiday dinners.
My good friend Chef Tom made an interesting suggestion: the traditional Mexican stew pozole. He told me that it is commonly served on special occasions in Mexico, including Christmas, and it sounded like the perfect meal to change up our holiday menu.
As I looked into the history of the dish, things got fascinating, and then a bit dark.
Pozole comes in three varieties — red, green and white — and the two main ingredients are hominy and pork. But this wasn’t always the case.
Pigs are not indigenous to the Americas. Instead they were brought over by Europeans who conquered ancient empires such as the Aztec who served Pozole on special occasions. The reason pozole was considered special is that early Mesoamerican cultures believed that the gods created humans from masa, so their corn crop was sacred to them. Dishes made with corn were considered important and were commonly shared in large gatherings after a major harvest.
But there is something darker about pozole’s origins, and that is the meat used in the dish. Anthropologists have debated ritual cannibalism in Aztec culture for generations, but only on the issue of how often it was done. There is no doubt that cannibalism was part of their religious ceremonies, and the original pozole was no exception.
After the Spanish conquered the Aztec, cannibalism was outlawed, and the meat in the dish was replaced with the pork the Spanish had brought with them.
On this episode of Cooking with Fire, Josh Cary and Chef Tom Jackson take a deep dive into pozole.
- 1 (5 lb) whole chicken
- 1/4 cup Cattleman’s Grill 8 Second Ride Carne Asada Seasoning
- 1/4 cup Cattleman’s Grill Steakhouse Seasoning
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 lb tomatillos, husks removed
- 3 jalapeño peppers
- 3 poblano peppers
- 1 large yellow onion, quartered
- 1 bunch cilantro. chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed
- 3 (25 oz) cans hominy, drained, rinsed
- 2 qt chicken stock
- limes, sliced, for serving
- queso fresco, (optional) for garnish
- sliced avocado (optional), for garnish
- chopped purple cabbage (optional), for garnish
- Preheat your grill to 500ºF, set up for direct grilling. Place the grill grates on the lower level of the divide and conquer system. Place the tomatillos, jalapeños, poblanos and onion quarters on the grill. Blacken all sides of the peppers, then transfer to a plastic zip top bag. Grill the tomatillos on all sides until the are softened and you have nice grill marks. Grill the onions on all sides to get some char and slightly soften. After removing all veggies from the grill, place the diffuser plates in the grill, setting it up for indirect cooking. Stabilize the temperature at 325ºF-350ºF.
- Spatchcock the whole chicken, remove the backbone with poultry shears, and pressing the bird flat. Loosen the skin from meat, but do not remove. Mix the Cattleman’s Grill 8 Second Ride Carne Asada Seasoning, Cattleman’s Grill Steakhouse Seasoning and ground cumin. Season the flesh of the bird, under the skin, with the rub. Lay flat, skin side up, on the grill grates. Cook until the internal temperature in the breasts reaches 160ºF. Remove from the grill and rest.
- While the chicken roasts, remove the peppers from the bag. Peel the skin off. Remove and discard the seeds. Trim the root end of the onions and discard. Place the peppers, onions, tomatillos, garlic and cilantro in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
- Pull the meat of the chicken from the bones and shred by hand. Place the chicken in a 7 quart dutch oven. Add the rinsed hominy, tomatillo salsa and two quarts of chicken stock. Simmer for 20 minutes to marry the flavors. Serve with your choice of garnishes.