Pozole perfect for big parties, celebrations
Pozole may be the perfect antidote to a stressful October plagued by dry winds, power outages and fires.
The traditional stew of Mexico offers a simple bowl of comforting broth, flavored by hearty protein, chile paste and hominy corn, surrounded by a rainbow of tasty and vibrant garnishes.
It’s also the consummate party dish, engineered to feed a crowd while leaving the host and hostesses free to enjoy their own party once the broth has simmered, the toasted chiles are ground and the garnishes are chopped.
“The beautiful thing is you do all the work, and then you have the party,” said Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food of Napa. “It’s also relatively inexpensive to make, and with all the chopped garnishes — the lettuce, cabbage and radishes — the table looks like it’s aching with tons of good food.”
In other words, you get a big bang for your buck, and everyone leaves the party thinking of you as the most generous, hard-working host they’ve ever known.
For Sando, the simple stew rates up there as one of the “great iconic dishes of the world.”
He loves it so much, in fact, that he decided to write a book about it, “The Rancho Gordo Pozole Book” (Rancho Gordo Press, $22.99.) It will be released Thursday at a party at the Rancho Gordo storefront in downtown Napa.
“I believe it to be on par with paella, cassoulet, pho and chili con carne,” he wrote in the book’s introduction. “It can be made modestly for a weeknight dinner, with enough leftovers for a terrific lunch. But it’s really a showstopper, designed to be enjoyed with a crew of people you love. For some of us, the mere idea of pozole puts us in a good mood.”
In his book, based on years of cooking and traveling throughout Mexico, Sando shares the history of the delicious dish, along with more than 20 traditional and non- traditional recipes for red, green and white pozoles from all over Mexico and the American Southwest. There’s a Shrimp Pozole from Jalisco, a Pozole Mixteco from Oaxaca and even a Mushroom Pozole for vegetarians.
Sando doesn’t claim to “own the story” of the dish, but rather describes his research and the resulting tome as “one obsessive footnote.”
“This is what I found, and it’s pretty cool, and I wanted to share it,” he said. “I’m a tourist — I’m not the last word on it.”
Sando had his first taste of pozole one warm evening in the early 1980s in Guadalajara, where a chile-red, pork-rich pozole is commonly served at local pozolerias. The native Californian had never heard of the dish before, and it was a revelation.
“For me, the appeal is that it’s like a secret revealed,” he said. “A lot of Mexican food is really regional, and this is really a universally loved dish. And people here have a warm and fuzzy feeling about it. This is a great food. Why isn’t this in every taqueria?”
Like red beans and rice and cassoulet, pozole is a celebratory food that requires an investment of time and a loving touch, both in sourcing the ingredients and in preparing them. It is often served at Christmas and other festive occasions in Mexico.