Pozole Verde (Green Pozole)
Guerrero - Señora Carmen Villalba

This is one of those rare recipes, surprising in its flavors and wonderful in its simplicity -- an out-and-out favorite of mine. I found it in a little book dedicated to the cooking of Chilapa, in the state of Guerrero, where I have eaten it very often. It calls for 20 leaves of axoxoco, an intriguing name that turns out to be a wild sour-grass, also called lengua de vaca (cow's tongue) or oreja de liebra (hare's ear) or more prosaically in the state of Mexico, vinagrera, describing its sharp acidity.

During the rainy season I can find this wild green growing alongside the irrigation ditches, but since it wasn't raining when I was cooking this recipe, I substituted sorrel.

The toppings or garnishes for pozoles in Guerrero are different from those of other regions; while they call for finely chopped onion and dried oregano, which are normal, they also include cubed avocado and small pieces of chicharrón (fried pork skin), all of which provide a wonderful contrast to the soup. Chopped chiles serranos and limes are also part of it, but I think they tend to exaggerate the heat and acidity of this particular pozole. I have listed them as optional.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup hulled, raw pumpkin seeds
  • 9 ounces (about 2 cups) tomate verde, husks removed, rinsed and quartered
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 10 large sorrel leaves, rinsed, stems removed, roughly chopped
  • Finely chopped chile serrano to taste
  • 2 tablespoons safflower oil or melted lard
  • 3 to 3-1/2 cups cooked corn, with 1/4 white onion and 2 peeled garlic cloves added
  • 1 pound stewing pork, cubed and cooked with the corn for the last 40 minutes of the cooking time
  • 1 quart cooking water
  • 1 large leafy stem of epazote
  • Sea salt to taste

The Toppings:

  • Finely chopped white onion
  • Dried oregano, Mexican if possible
  • 1 large avocado, peeled, pit removed, and cubed
  • Chicharrón, broken into small pieces
  • Lime quarters (optional, see note above)
Instructions

1. Put the pumpkin seeds into an ungreased frying pan and heat through over medium heat, shaking the pan from time to time, until they begin to pop around and swell noticeably; do not let them brown. Spread them out on a flat surface to cool. When cool, grind them finely in a coffee/spice grinder.

2. Put the tomate verde into a pan with 1/2 cup of the water. Cook over medium heat until soft and mushy -- about 15 minutes (there should be hardly any liquid in the pan; if there is, drain them). Transfer mixture to a blender jar. Add the chopped sorrel leaves, fresh chiles, and remaining 1 cup water and blend until smooth.

3. Heat the oil in a heavy pan and add the blended ingredients through a fine strainer, pressing down to extract as much of the juice as possible without the stringy veins, etc. Fry over fairly high heat, stirring from time to time, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the ground seeds and cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan until the broth has thickened slightly and is well seasoned -- about 10 minutes.

4. Add the corn, pork, and the 1 quart water in which they were cooked. Add the epazote and salt to taste and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Serve in deep bowls and pass the toppings separately in small bowls.

Recipe from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group). Copyright 1989, 2008 by Diana Kennedy).