Last February I was lucky enough to spend a few days at the most amazing resort in Arizona with my mom, sister, and sister-in-law. We stayed in a five star villa, practiced yoga every morning in a studio overlooking the desert and the mountains, took amazing classes, got massages each afternoon – and yet somehow one of the best parts of the trip was the food. Everything was fresh and healthy and seasonal and beautifully prepared, and pretty much made me wish that I was Oprah so that I could go home and immediately hire the chef to come work for me (or maybe just move to Miraval permanently). Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style, and we ordered off of a menu at dinner. This is one of those times where I wish I kept a diary so that I could better remember all of the meals we had, because they were all pretty incredible (I took a lot of pictures, but they’re all on my old phone). There were usually four entrée items on the dinner menu every night, as well as four (teeny tiny) desserts, and our foursome had so much fun ordering one of each and trying everything – and it was all so good we could never pick a favorite. I ordered both cookbooks as soon as I got back, and have made quite a few things from them since (including a delicious arugula salad, raspberry lemon cookies, and chocolate peanut butter meringues). However, everyone’s* hands down favorite meal was the green chili posole we had one day at lunch.
There’s an asterisk after “everyone” because I never actually ate the posole – it was made with pork, and I don’t eat pork so didn’t even try a bite. But my mom, sister, and sister-in-law all went back for seconds and then thirds – which is kind of funny since Miraval is big on small portions and “mindful eating.” They made an exception for the posole, though, and have talked about it ever since (and in their defense, the bowls they give you in the buffet line are really small). The posole recipe is in one of my cookbooks, so I’ve been meaning to make it for some time. I finally got motivated the other weekend, and I made a double batch – one pork (which I promptly delivered to my sister’s house as a thinly veiled excuse to see my baby nephew), and one chicken so that I could try some too.
Posole is a Latin American soup or stew made with hominy, chili peppers, onion, and garlic. It’s traditionally made using pork, although – fun/terrifying fact – per Wikipedia, the Aztecs used to use meat from humans killed in ritual sacrifice. Once cannibalism was banned, however, they switched to pork. How lovely. I’m sure anyone who tried both of my versions would tell you the pork was their favorite, but since I don’t know any better I thought the chicken was delicious. I used fresh tomatillos, but they can be hard to find (especially now that the farmers market season is mostly over) so you could use canned tomatillos as well. If using fresh, you need to husk them and then rinse them really well as the husks leave a sticky residue. The poblano peppers gave the soup a bit of a kick, but if you can’t find poblanos I think green bell peppers would work fine too. I’ve only ever seen hominy canned (although to be fair, I’ve never looked for hominy until I made this), but I’ve heard you can find it dried in Mexican specialty stores. If you’re just going to a regular market, you can find both canned hominy and canned tomatillos in the Mexican food section (or “international foods” aisle), although it can be hard to find so you may have to really search for it.
Aside from hunting down a few ingredients, posole is pretty easy to make. Sauté your onions, celery, garlic, and peppers in olive oil (note: it seems like this recipe calls for a lot of garlic, which made me nervous, but it somehow turns out not too garlicky at all), dump everything else in, and simmer for 40 minutes. While the soup simmers, prepare your toppings – all of my google research said the toppings are the most important part of posole. This recipe called for red cabbage, cilantro, cojita cheese, and lime zest and wedges, but I also saw recipes that suggested avocado, radishes, oregano, grated cheddar – basically anything you can think of that sounds good. I think fresh cilantro adds so much to soups, and I also loved the lime zest and juice. A couple recipes I came across also suggested serving the posole with flour tortillas or tortilla chips. Just make sure to eat your tortilla chips mindfully.
One year ago: curried butternut squash soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup garlic, minced
1 cup poblano pepper, diced
1 lb. lean boneless pork loin, cut into 3/4″ cubes (can also use chicken breast)
1 1/2 cup fresh tomatillos, chopped
1 cup canned hominy, rinsed well and drained
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (plus extra for garnish)
4 teaspoons chili powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Red cabbage, thinly sliced, for garnish
Cotija cheese, crumbled, for garnish
Lime wedges and freshly grated lime zest, for garnish
Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-high, add the onions, and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add the celery, stir, and cook for 45 seconds. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 45 seconds. Add the poblano pepper and cook one minute longer.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and stir well. Add the pork (or chicken) and cook, stirring to sear on all sides, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatillo, hominy, two tablespoons of the cilantro, the chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper; stir well and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, stirring to scrap any bits from the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat and bring soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until meat is tender and cooked through, 40 minutes.
Remove posole from the heat and stir in the remaining two tablespoons cilantro. Garnish with more cilantro, the cabbage, cheese, and lime zest; serve with a lime wedge.