Pozole Roja is a traditional pre-Colombian stew, adopted as the local cuisine of Guerrero, Mexico. In the US state of New Mexico, pozole (from Spanish pozole, from Nahuatl potzolli) is traditionally served on Christmas Eve to celebrate life’s blessings.
While it looks a little complicated, it really isn’t hard. As long as you have “mise en place” (everything in place) before starting, you’ll get through this fine, and be justly rewarded in the end.
Pork shoulder, dried ancho and guajillo chiles, garlic, achiote seeds, dark chocolate with chipotle, cinnamon and cocoa nibs, crema (think of Mexican crème fraîche), fresh cilantro, fresh mint, key limes, Spanish onion, Mexican oregano, olive oil, peppercorns and nixtamal (white corn/hominy).
Start by toasting the achiote seeds in a hot, dry skillet until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add good olive oil and infuse over low heat for about 20 minutes. Strain the resulting annatto oil through a coffee filter placed inside a funnel. Stored in a cool, dark place, annatto oil will keep indefinitely.
Trim the excess fat from the pork, but leave a little intact. In a Dutch oven, sear the pork in a little of the annatto oil. Add onions, garlic and oregano and cook another 5 minutes.
Add water (or stock, if you prefer) to cover, cilantro and mint (I’ve stuffed the herbs into a cheesecloth bag for easy removal) and S&P. Simmer until pork is fork-tender, about 2 hours.
Split the chilies and remove the stems and seeds. Place on a flat skillet and weight for about 20 seconds. Flip and repeat.
Transfer the toasted chilies to a bowl, cover with boiling water and let stand until soft, about 1/2 hour.
Gather up the ingredients for cornbread. Coarse-ground yellow cornmeal, all-purpose flour, milk, baking powder, butter, egg, chiles and salt.
Lightly toast the cornmeal on a dry skillet to bring out the flavor, then add it to the bowl with the other ingredients (I’ve added a little shredded cheddar cheese). Mix until just combined, about 1 minute. Do not over mix.
Blend the re-hydrated chiles with 1/2 of its soaking water until smooth. Transfer to pan and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the hominy and simmer another 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the cornbread mix into a pre-heated iron cornstick pan (or muffin tins or 8×8 glass baking dish) and bake at 450 degrees until golden brown, about 25 minutes.
Serve in a bowl garnished with crema, chopped mint and cilantro, and shaved chocolate.