The holidays are coming soon, and here in New Mexico, posole is traditionally served from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. Posole is one of the easiest and most basic methods of preparing corn and chile. This ancient dish is probably the earliest form of stew developed in the New World and is an ancestor of the chile con carne we know and love today. The name seems to be a variation of pozo, Spanish for “puddle,” and in Mexico the dish is spelled “pozole.”
One of the more interesting aspects of its history is the fact that posole prevents the disease pellagra among people who are heavy corn consumers. After corn was transferred around the world, many cultures became dependent upon the grain as a major food source. Unfortunately, such dependence resulted in the onset of pellagra, a disease that causes skin lesions and mental and physical degeneration because of protein and niacin deficiencies. But in the Americas, where corn originated, there was no pellagra because the corn was treated with ashes to remove the tough outer skin of the kernels, and the lime contained in the ashes released the needed nutrients.
Posole with Chile Caribe
Here is the classic version of posole as prepared in northern New Mexico. Serving the chile caribe as a side dish instead of mixing it with the posole allows guests to adjust the heat to their own taste.
2 dried red New Mexican chiles, stems and seeds removed
8 ounces frozen posole corn or dry posole corn that has been soaked in water overnight
1 pound pork loin, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cups water
Minced cilantro for garnish
Chopped onion for garnish
The Chile Caribe:
6 dried red New Mexican chiles, stems and seeds removed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
To make the posole, combine all the ingredients in a pot except the pork and boil at medium heat for about 3 hours or until the posole is tender, adding more water if necessary.
Add the pork and continue cooking for 1/2 hour, or until the pork is tender but not falling apart. The result should resemble a soup more than a stew.
To make the Chile Caribe, boil the chile pods in two quarts of water in a pot for 15 minutes. Remove the pods, combine with the garlic powder, and puree in a blender. Transfer to a serving bowl and allow to cool.
Note: For really hot chile caribe, add dried red chile piquins, cayenne chiles, or chiles de arbol to the New Mexican chiles.
To Serve: The posole should be served in soup bowls accompanied by warm flour tortillas. Place all the garnishes in bowls so guests may help themselves. With the Chile Caribe, each guest can then adjust the pungency of the posole according to individual taste.
Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Medium, but varies according to the amount of chile caribe added.