day of the dead :: red pozole with chicken

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it is a national holiday, and all banks are closed. The celebration takes place on November 1. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.

Mexican stew that features chiles and hominy is the perfect party food: it feeds a crowd and the toppings passed around the table add to the festive nature of the dish. Try a pork pozole, such as the delicious recipe from Notes from Maggie’s Farm, Rustic Red Chile Pork Pozole  {featured image} or opt for this chicken version by Roberto Santibañez:

Red Pozole with Chicken (Pozole Rojo Con Pollo)

It’s traditional to serve the chicken in whole pieces, but you can also pull the cooked chicken off the bone and add the meat back to the stew, as you might for a chili. Serves 6 to 8


For the Chili Sauce

  • 2 large beefsteak tomatoes, cored (about 1 lb.)
  • 8 large (5- to 6-inch) dried guajillo chiles (1-1/2 to 2 oz.), wiped clean with a damp paper towel
  • 20 medium cloves garlic, peeled (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small white onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. whole allspice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbs. distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt

For the Pozole

  • 2 large fresh poblano chiles (about 3/4 lb.)
  • 6 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
  • 6 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 1 quart lower-salt chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro (2 to 3 oz.)
  • 5 6-in. fresh mint sprigs
  • 4 15-oz. cans hominy, preferably white, drained and rinsed

For the Toppings

  • 1/2 head romaine lettuce, cored and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 6 to 8 medium radishes, trimmed and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 2 limes, cut in thirds
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 3/4 tsp. chile de árbol powder or cayenne
  • Kosher salt

Make the Chile Sauce

  1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat the oven to 500°F (or heat a toaster oven). Cut a small X through the skin on the bottom of each tomato. Put the tomatoes on a small, rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and roast until tender and well charred, 20 to 25 minutes. When they’re cool enough to handle, pull off and discard the skin.
  2. Meanwhile, stem the chiles and cut them open lengthwise with scissors or a knife. Remove the seeds and any large ribs.
  3. Heat a comal, a griddle, or a heavy-duty skillet over medium-low heat until hot. Toast half of the guajillo chiles, flipping and pressing them down with tongs or a spatula until fragrant and slightly darkened, about 1 minute. Transfer to a medium bowl. Repeat with the remaining chiles. Cover the chiles with cold water and soak until softened, about 30 minutes.
  4. While the chiles soak, toast the garlic and onion on the comal over medium-low heat until just tender, turning the garlic as needed and flipping the onion slices once, until golden-brown with some blackened spots, about 8 minutes for the garlic and 15 minutes for the onion.
  5. Drain the chiles and put them in a blender along with the tomatoes and any juice, the garlic, onion, cloves, and allspice. Purée, adding up to 1/2 cup water a little at a time as necessary, until very smooth, about 2 minutes.
  6. In a 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the purée (it will splatter), reduce the heat to low and fry, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula, until slightly thicker, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup water, raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil. Stir in the vinegar, sugar, and 1 Tbs. salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding a little water as needed to keep the sauce more or less at the same consistency, for 30 minutes.

Make the Pozole

  1. If you have a gas stove, turn two burners to high and char the poblanos directly over the flame, turning them with tongs as soon as each side becomes fully blackened, about 6 minutes. If you don’t have a gas stove, char the poblanos on a foil-lined baking sheet under the broiler. Immediately put them in a bowl, cover, and let steam for 15 minutes to loosen the skins. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel, seed, and slice them into 1/4 x 2-inch strips.
  2. Add the chicken, chicken broth, oregano, and 1 Tbs. salt to the pot of chile sauce and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Tie the cilantro and mint together with kitchen string. Add the herb bouquet and the hominy to the pot and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through (cut into a piece to check), about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the herbs, then stir in the poblanos and cook until just heated through, about 5 minutes.
  3. To serve, divide the chicken legs and thighs among warm, large bowls. Ladle the pozole over the chicken. Garnish with the toppings or pass them at the table.

Make Ahead Tips

The chile sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat gently before proceeding.
You can also make the stew start to finish the day before and reheat it just before serving.

Serving Suggestions

To add to the feast-like feel of the dish, serve with tostadas topped with mashed black beans for munching on between bites of pozole.

{history and image via Wikipedia; recipe via Fine Cooking; featured image via Notes from Maggie’s Farm}

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Categories: History, Recipes

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