I was on set a few weeks ago when a crew member brought me some of his mother’s home made Posole (or Pozole? The spelling seems interchangeable) and asked me if I could warm it up to share with the crew. It was delicious. Succulent chunks of tender pork floating in a broth with hominy. Truly soul warming. It was comfort food of a different culture.
Of course, I immediately asked for the recipe. While my colleague, Flavio, tried his best to recall what his mother’s recipe was for me, we were overheard by one of the show writers who immediately commented, “leave the Posole to Flavio’s mom, Ed. These Mexican grandmothers have been practicing these things for years.”
At first I didn’t think much of it. But then I realized that this was a person who had tried, complimented me on, and had thirds of my pineapple salsa, watermelon salad, curry chicken salad, bruschetta, and Thai mango sticky rice. Goodies from all different ethnic cultures. Why in the world was she comfortable with my making traditional Thai recipes, but not Mexican recipes? It’s possible that it was because she is Mexican herself and it felt as though I were stealing part of their cultural heritage. Or, more likely it was meant mostly in jest and she didn’t really mean anything by it, but to tease me.
I don’t want to give the impression that I was offended. Because I was not. Perhaps, I felt challenged to make a go of making my own Posole that was as good as Flavio’s mother’s, but I wasn’t offended.
I want to be clear that I am not calling out any kind of reverse racism here. I am a Caucasian male. I have every opportunity at my fingertips while others are not so lucky. Many people out there have restrictions on opportunities based solely on the color of their skin, gender or sexual preference. I think I can endure some doubt on my ability to cook other ethnicity’s cuisine.
I was reminded of Tali, part owner of Sushi Central restaurant here in Los Angeles. Tali is a sushi chef. She also happens to be a woman and of Isreali descent. She had to struggle just to find a chef willing to train her. She was told that women couldn’t be sushi chefs because their body heat runs a few degrees warmer than a man’s and therefore can ruin the taste of the fish. (Which is one of biggest loads of… I’ll politely say bull that I have ever heard.) Plus, she has to convince new customers every day that, yes, she is a sushi chef, even if she isn’t Japanese.
I regularly hear jokes and complaints about the ‘Mexicans’ in the kitchen making your Italian food. If I am being honest with myself, I’ve probably unconsciously made judgements about what Chinese restaurant to eat at because it was run by actual Chinese owners.
My point is simple. While some people have more practice at certain recipes than others, there isn’t any reason that anyone can’t cook any type of food. So next time you see an Egyptian making gumbo, try it. Might just be the best gumbo you’ve ever had.
Now, if you’ll indulge me here is my attempt at Posole. While there are a few things I’ll change the next time I make this recipe (which I will note in the recipe as I go,) it really came out amazing. I put my own twist on things, so it’s not exactly as Flavio’s mother used to make, but I humbly think it is as good.
Bacon ends, or several slices of bacon, or, more traditionally, pig’s feet
1 (preferably bone-in) pork shoulder or butt roast around 2 to 3 pounds
1 1/2 onions (white onions are best, but I used red because they were on sale)
8 to 12 cloves of garlic
1 of 2 jalepenoes
1 tablespoon Cayenne pepper
1/8 cup dried oregano
2 Tablespoons cumin
2 16 oz. cans of Mexican style hominy
1 radish for bowl of soup, slice very thinly
1/2 avocado, sliced for each bowl of soup
1/2 onion (The second half of your second onion,) diced very finely
shredded lettuce or cabbage
tortilla chips or rounds
hot salsa or hot sauce, such as tapatio
First, you need to make the pork broth for the soup. This is done by simmering the pork roast, aromatics, and seasonings in water together for an hour and half, until the water is a rich flavorful spicy pork broth. To pump up the pork flavor, however, it is traditional you need to cook the roast with pig’s feet. I used Bacon Ends & Pieces from Trader Joe’s. It gave the soup a smoky wonderfully porky flavor. I would not cut the bacon up and add it back into the soup later as I did. It was just too fatty. Just yse the bacon to help create the broth.
- Make the pork broth. Chop an onion very coarsely. Halve 4 to 6 garlic cloves. If using bacon, brown the bacon in the bottom of a dutch oven. Add the pork roast, cut in half or quarters. Add the onion and garlic, cayenne, oregano, and cumin. Cover the roast with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour and a half.
- Remove the the pork roast, cut into 1″ cubes and set aside. What remains is your pork broth. Strain out the bacon and vegetables. Retain the broth for use in your soup.
- Chop 1/2 of an onion, 4 to 6 more garlic cloves, and a seeded jalepeno (or two.) Saute these in a small amount of olive oil.
- After the vegetables have softened return the pork cubes to the pot followed by most of the pork broth that you made. (Add according to how thick you want the soup to be. You can always add more broth later.)
- Drain and rinse the hominy and add it to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 1 to 2 hours. Serve, topped with the garnishes.