Back when I used to live in San Antonio (yes, in Texas), the small Mexican restaurants in town would serve homemade menudo during brunch hours on the weekends. Once my family discovered this soup, it quickly became a weekend favorite. After all, what is not to love about a rich, spicy, warming soup of hominy and beef tripe? At the time, though, I had no idea that menudo is supposedly a great cure for hangovers … which begs the question: did my parents sneak out to some fun parties while my younger self was sleeping soundly??

Although I do have a soft spot for menudo, I’m also not prepared to mess with cooking tripe at home, so I’ve been searching for alternatives. Then one day, at a little Yucatecan restaurant, I discovered pozole, a hearty, warming, green soup full of hominy and chicken. A while later, Nathan and I randomly stopped into a different little Mexican restaurant for lunch and there was pozole on the menu there too! But theirs was a different version, a rich, spicy, red soup full of hominy and pork (menudo-esque, if you will), and that’s the one we’ve been obsessing over ever since.

After some research, we learned that there are many different regional versions of pozole, roughly categorized into the three colors of the Mexican flag: green (verde), red (rojo), and white (blanco). For our beloved rojo, we eventually dug up two different recipes: one from Señor Bayless himself and one posted on Chowhound. Being the most indecisive people in the world, we couldn’t choose so ended up using parts of both of them. In a moment of insanity, we also decided to double the recipe and ended up with way more pozole than we could handle or even store. But then, that’s when you can count on your sister, friends (like Ben and Erin), and neighbors for backup, right?

You know, with Thanksgiving only days away, you might actually hear your leftover turkey bones and meat whispering ‘pozole’ to you on Friday morning (but not in a creepy way). I know if I do, you just might find me back at the stove again working on another giant cauldron of pozole, a green turkey one this time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Adapted from this recipe by Patricia Quintana (via Chowhound), with some Rick Bayless-inspired changes.

Pork Broth:
3 quarts of water
2 lb pork butt, cut into large chunks
1 lb pork bones (ask the butcher to cut them into small pieces for you)
1 small head of garlic, halved
1 small onion, halved
a healthy pinch of salt
1 29-oz can of hominy, rinsed and drained

Chile Paste:
2 ancho chiles
2 guajillo chiles
1 tomato
1/2 onion
1 clove garlic
3/4 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp salt

Condiments:
shredded cabbage
thinly sliced radishes
finely chopped onion
crushed Mexican oregano
limes, cut into wedges
tortilla chips

Make the broth: This step takes the most time but you can (and should) do it the day before. Combine the water, pork bones, and pork meat in a big stockpot and bring to a boil. Skim off the foam that rises up. Once most of the foam is gone and no more is rising up, add the onion, garlic, and salt and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer covered for about an hour. Then uncover and simmer more until the liquid is reduced to about 2 quarts, which will take roughly another hour or two. Turn off the heat and cool the meat in the broth (we just left the pot on the stove overnight).

Once cooled, skim the fat off the top of the broth. Take the meat out, shred into small pieces, and set aside. Drain the rest of the broth using a colander to remove the bones and the leftover onion/garlic bits. Rinse the stock pot, then return the broth to the pot (or refrigerate if not using right away).

Make the chile paste: Boil a kettle of water. Remove the stem and seeds from the ancho and guajillo chiles. Toast them on a hot dry griddle (or pan) until you see little wisps of smoke. Immediately put them in a bowl, pour hot water over them, and weigh them down to let them rehydrate for about an hour. Once they’re soft, puree the chiles, tomato, onion, garlic, and oregano together in a food processor or blender. Season lightly with salt.

Assembling the pozole: Reheat the broth over medium heat. Add in the reserve pork meat and the washed+drained hominy. Using a fine-mesh strainer to eliminate big chunks of peel, add in the chile paste. (We do this by pouring in a portion of the chile paste into the strainer, then using a spatula or wooden spoon to push it all around.) Once you’ve added all the chile paste, taste the soup and season with salt.

Serving: Set out the shredded cabbage, lime wedges, radish slices, chopped onion, oregano, and tortilla chips on the table. Ladle out the pozole into large individual bowls and tell everyone to decorate their own pozole accordingly.

(Makes 6-8 servings)

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