fall dinner party in the Land Park backyard of
Bernadette Gutierrez showcases posole, surrounded by a
variety of garnishes and Dia de los Muertos holiday
smell wafting through Bernadette Gutierrez’s Land Park
home signifies a change in seasons. It’s the comforting
aroma of hominy slowly simmering in a pot with savory pork
and a deep red broth that’s ready to be sopped up with a
arrival of fall means it’s time for posole. This Mexican
soup ranks as a go-to meal as the weather cools and an ideal
dish for holiday entertaining. Posole is meant to be cooked
in large amounts, the foundation for many a Mexican family
meal on New Year’s Day, or for grubbing down with the bros
while watching football on a chilly Sunday.
you want to invite a lot of people over and get together, it’s
just a great food," said Gutierrez, as wisps of steam
escaped from the pot. "You get all these great kinds of
flavors. It’s a celebration food."
is known locally as a kind of Mexican-American version of
Martha Stewart, given her expertise in Mexican cooking and
home entertaining. She’s studied culinary methods in
Mexico and also teaches cooking classes around town. When
Darrell Corti is hankering for a home-cooked Mexican meal,
he’s known to turn to Gutierrez.
to say, Gutierrez makes a mean pot of posole. The
hominy-based soup, sometimes spelled "pozole,"
developed in Mexico during Mesoamerican times. Corn was not
only a food staple of the Aztecs and other pre-Columbian
peoples, it was a sacred symbol of fertility. Pots of posole,
which were often consumed for celebrations, are pictured in
Aztec codices from the 16th century.
centuries later, posole remains a prized Mexican food. The
hominy gives this soup plenty of heft. Combined with a
chili-infused broth, and chunks of pork or chicken, a bowl
of posole is the perfect cure for hunger pangs — and
hangovers, in some circles. Even without meat, vegetarian
versions of this soup still satisfy.
making a pot at home, the question becomes, "How much
time do I have?"
posole purists, making a batch requires many steps and an
array of ingredients. Gutierrez generally dedicates two days
to making posole.
day is spent constructing a pork-based broth and preparing
her hominy. She uses French techniques of browning meat and
bones to build a soup stock, which is cooled overnight so
the fat can easily be skimmed.
can be especially high maintenance if prepared from scratch,
and the process can take hours. It requires cleaning the
dried corn kernels, soaking them in lime (calcium oxide, not
the fruit) to remove the outside hull, and then simmering
them to the point of tenderness.
spicy red sauce that Gutierrez adds to the broth on day two
requires three different chilies as well a number of toasted
herbs and spices.
and herbs are the most essential part of making a good soup,
and using the meat and fond (bits from the bottom of the
pan) to build the broth," said Gutierrez. "If I
have the time and luxury, I like to do everything from
easiest way to trim posole-cooking time is to opt for canned
hominy, which is easily found in Mexican and American
markets. Or home cooks can opt for an excellent prepared
hominy from Rancho Gordo, a Napa-based retailer of heirloom
beans and specialty Mexican foods. Rancho Gordo’s dried
hominy has already been prepared with lime. After soaking
for a few hours, the hominy is ready to be simmered in water
with onion for about 90 minutes. The hominy blooms during
that time into chunky kernels that make for a hearty and
texturally pleasing bowl of posole.
hominy has the romance of chicken cartilage in the mouth,
and practically no flavor," said Steve Sando, founder
of Rancho Gordo. "If you’re using real (hominy), it
smells like this giant, wet tortilla. You can’t help but
stick your head in the pot and take it in."
cooking up the optimal batch of Rancho Gordo’s hominy,
Sando offers these tips.
need a six- to eight-hour soak, or else they will split too
fast and fall apart," said Sando. "Then, I bring
them to a hard, rapid boil to show them who’s boss, then
turn down to the gentlest of simmers to however long it
takes. It should come to a point when it’s al dente, but
shouldn’t be chalky."
opts for an overall simpler approach to assembling the final
soup. His recipe for posole verde, a tomatillo-based version
with a green broth, calls for pre-made vegetable or chicken
stock. The recipe doesn’t include chicken or pork, though
either meat certainly would work with this mix.
key, whether taking two days or a few hours to cook, is to
source quality goods. Rancho Gordo’s product line includes
authentic Mexican oregano and fresh de arbol chilies grown
in Northern California for packing extra heat into that
posole. They’re available online at www.ranchogordo.com,
at the company’s home base near downtown Napa or in San
Francisco’s Ferry Building.
you have really good ingredients, sometimes it’s good to
keep things even simpler," said Sando.
can work as a farm-to-fork-themed dish, given its use of
herbs, vegetables and other produce that’s grown locally.
Gutierrez, whose roots are in the highlands of Jalisco,
Mexico, bases her posole on a recipe that used ingredients
grown near the family ranch. Closer to Land Park, many of
them can be found at nearby farmers markets or in a backyard
planter. Some of the chilies used in her red sauce are
picked fresh from a local garden, and then dehydrated at
ranch in Jalisco had access to a garden and good
meats," said Gutierrez. "They really used good
herbs and spices. That’s why I love Sacramento. There’s
all these gardens and ranches everywhere."
with all carefully crafted soups, careful attention must be
given to tasting throughout the process. Gutierrez aims for
depth in her posole broth, aided by the roasted bones and
fond. The red sauce adds brightness and a little bit of
tang, not to mention the traditional piquant kick. But she’s
careful not to go overboard. Eating posole shouldn’t feel
like a challenge.
dad used to say you don’t want a lot of heat on your
lips," said Gutierrez. "You want the chiles mostly
the posole fully cooked, it’s just about time to share.
Gutierrez awaits the arrival of friends and neighbors, who
will gather in the backyard for an early fall dinner party.
The table sports a Dia de los Muertos decor, with sugar
skulls signifying the Mexican tradition of celebrating the
spirits from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2. Gutierrez’s fresh
cooked flan and pan de muerto, the seasonally themed sweet
bread, will be served for dessert.
the posole will take center stage, with an array of
garnishes. Thinly cut cabbage and sliced radish add crunchy
counterpoints to the savory soup, and a bit of a cooling
effect. A little bit of lime juice (for ping of citrus) and
a dash or two of oregano take an already superb Mexican soup
to another level of tastiness.
have to put everything on there," said Gutierrez, about
her perfect bowl of posole. "I love it."
recipe by Bernadette Gutierrez is geared for those who have
the time and inclination to take their posole to the next
level. Gutierrez prefers to make the pork broth the day
before serving posole, then store in the refrigerator
overnight, and skims the fat the following day. She adds the
rojo sauce (see accompanying recipe) and hominy to the
broth, then simmers until the hominy is tender and soaked up
some of the broth. The pork shoulder is added shortly before
serving to avoid overcooking the meat.
pounds pork spare ribs
pounds pork shanks
pounds pork shoulder
plus 2 1/2 cups water
tablespoons kosher salt
dried bay leaves
bunch fresh oregano
bunches fresh cilantro
29-ounce cans hominy, drained and rinsed, or 1 pound dried
hominy treated with lime
pork spare ribs and shanks in oven at 400 degrees, browning
on each side, approximately 30 minutes each side. When
browned, remove ribs and shanks from oven and add to large
stock pot with 10 cups water.
fat from roasting pan. Add 2 1/2 cups boiling water to
roasting pan and remove the fond (caramelized bits) with a
spatula. Add fond to the large pot of water.
separate pot, brown pork shoulder on the stove. When browned
on all sides, remove the meat and set aside. Drain fat from
pot. Add small amount of boiling water to pot and release
fond with spatula. Add fond to pot of water containing the
ribs and shanks.
remaining ingredients, including pork shoulder, to the pot
of broth. Bring broth to a hard boil, then immediately drop
heat to a simmer. Cook for 2 1/2 hours, or until pork
shoulder is tender.
bones and pork shoulder from broth, and set aside. Store
pork shoulder overnight in container.
broth into a large container and let cool, allowing fat to
rise to the top. Once cooled, store broth overnight in the
refrigerator. On the following day, skim top layer of fat.
assemble the posole, add 4 cups of rojo sauce to broth.
Taste for spiciness; adjust with additional sauce as needed.
hominy to broth and simmer until hominy is tender,
approximately 30 minutes if using canned hominy, or
approximately 2 hours if using fresh hominy. Salt to taste.
broth simmers, pull the pork shoulder into chunks with your
hands. Add pork shoulder to broth shortly before serving.
posole in bowls and serve immediately. Garnish with shredded
cabbage, sliced radish, lime and oregano.
this red "rojo" sauce to bring out the full
spiciness, depth and color of your posole. Toasting the
herbs, spices and chilies helps release maximum flavors.
This sauce can also be used for enchiladas, tamales and
other Mexican foods.
dried New Mexico chilies
dried guajillo chilies
dried pasilla chilies
water or pork broth
teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted
teaspoons dried oregano, toasted
cloves garlic, lightly toasted
white onion, sliced and toasted
all chilies until they begin to puff. Be careful that the
skins don’t turn black.
stems off roasted chilies and remove seeds.
blender combine all chilies, spices, herbs, garlic and onion
with 7 cups of water or pork broth. Blend until smooth.
version of posole by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo doesn’t
contain meat, but is still packed with satiating fresh
flavors. The key is to cook a batch of dried hominy instead
of the gummy kind that comes in a can. Look for the
excellent dried hominy from Rancho Gordo of Napa (www.ranchogordo.com),
along with the spices and chilies used in this recipe.
pound Rancho Gordo posole (whole dried hominy)
onions, white or red, peeled and halved
garlic cloves, peeled
20 tomatillos, paper skins removed
tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
coarsely chopped cilantro
teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
quarts vegetable or chicken broth
ground black pepper
posole overnight in water to cover generously. Drain.
it in a saucepan with fresh water to cover generously.
1/2 onion, bring to a simmer, cover partially and cook at a
gentle simmer until the corn kernels are tender, 2 to 3
hours; many will split open. Season with salt and cool in
hot, dry griddle or skillet, roast the remaining halved
onions, garlic, tomatillos and chilies, turning
occasionally, until they are charred and slightly softened,
15 to 20 minutes. Work in batches if necessary.
the roasted poblano chilies in a paper bag to steam until
the other vegetables to a bowl and let cool, collecting
the poblanos, discarding seeds and stems. Discard the
serrano chili stem but don’t skin or seed.
all the roasted vegetables in a blender, in batches if
necessary, and puree until smooth.
the oil in a large stockpot over moderate heat.
the vegetable puree and adjust heat to maintain a simmer.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes to blend the
blender, puree the cilantro, oregano and 1 cup of the broth.
Add to the vegetable mixture along with 4 cups additional
the posole and add it to the pot. Season with salt and
pepper and return to a simmer. Thin with additional broth if
necessary. Serve in warm bowls.