I know I say this often, but posole is hands down my all-time favorite Mexican soup. And I don’t care whether it’s a chicken posole, pork or even the vegetarian varieties I have prepared. There's just something about that wonderful corn flavor that comes from the hominy, combined with the red chile broth and hints of Mexican oregano, that I really love.
And you can't forget the garnishes, of course! Many of my favorite Mexican soups are all about the fresh garnishes. The soups would just not be the same without them. For this variation, I found myself with a basket full of garden tomatoes and peppers that I had to use up. One of my favorite ways to enjoy those tomatoes is to slow roast them in the oven. I will warn you that if you have any crusty bread lying around, the tomatoes may not make it to the soup. They are that delicious on their own, but they do add great flavor to this chicken posole recipe.
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Add the guajillo peppers to a pan of boiling water. Reduce heat and cook fo another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep.
Transfer the tomatoes and fresh peppers to a lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt, pepper and oregano. Roast tomato mixture for 1 hour, rotating pan halfway through cooking time.
While tomatoes are roasting, transfer the chicken to a large, dutch-oven style pot. Add the onion, celery, garlic, chiles de arbol, bay leaves, cilantro, pepper, 1 teaspoon of oregano, crushed, bouillon and ham hock, if using. Cover with about 6 to 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue cooking for 40 minutes. Skim off the top as it cooks, when needed. Taste for salt.
Drain the guajillo peppers and transfer to the blender, along with the roasted tomatoes with all their juices. Blend on high until smooth and strain through a wire-mesh strainer, set aside.
Remove the chicken pieces from the soup base. Strain out all of the solids from soup. Transfer stock back into the pot, stir in the strained chile/tomato mixture. Add the hominy and chicken back into the soup. Shred the meat off of the bones before adding it back into soup. Add another 1/2 teaspoon of crushed oregano, 2 cups of chicken broth and salt, if needed. Continue cooking at a low simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Garnish to taste, serve with corn tostadas.
I learned to cook my own hominy when I could not find it in my local market one day. It’s very easy! Soak 1 to 2 cups of the dried hominy overnight. Drain and rinse. Cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Continue cooking for about 2 hours or until tender. Drain and rinse well before adding it to your favorite recipe.
The chile New Mexico, Chile California and Chile Guajillo are very similar in flavor and heat level. Any of these can be used when a recipe calls for dried red chiles, such as posole, menudo, enchilada sauce…. Remember to store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry space.
Posole is one of those recipes that improves with age. And posole is great for storing in the freezer when you find yourself with leftovers – if there are any!