Posole is a special type of large kernel white corn that is “slaked” or soaked in lime or wood ash. The lime dissolves the outer layer of skin and then the corn can be dried and preserved.
Luckily, I am now able to find dried posole at the wonder that is Kalustyan’s, New York’s landmark for fine specialty foods. However, I have been known to hit the brakes for a Mexican supermarket, regardless of which town I am in.
Posole stew, like the one featured here, is what I fell in love with in New Mexico. It is a ceremonial dish to celebrate life’s blessings and is traditionally served on Christmas eve.
This particular version contains no meat. However, pork or chicken often make an appearance and sometimes green chile takes the place of the dried red ones featured here. The red Chile Colorado sauce is a bit labor intensive but very much worth the effort. To make this a hearty vegetarian dish, simply use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth that the recipe calls for.
Posole with Chile Colorado
by Deborah Madison
Chile Colorado Sauce:
12 dried New Mexican chilies
3 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 ½ tablespoons flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon distilled white vinegar, or to taste
3 cups dried posole, soaked overnight
1 large onion, diced
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
Pinch of dried thyme
2 teaspoons, salt, plus more to taste
About 12 cups water or chicken stock
Dried Mexican oregano
Finely shredded green cabbage
Chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 200 F.
To make the sauce: Discard the stems and seeds of the chilies and remove the veins. Place them on a baking sheet and heat in the oven with the door open for about 10 minutes, moving them around several times. Don’t let them burn, or the sauce will be bitter.
Transfer the chilies to a bowl, add the boiling water, and let steep for 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a blender or food processor. Add half the soaking water. Puree for 2 minutes, or until smooth. Pour the purée through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Use the remaining soaking water to rinse out the blender, then add it to the purée. Add more water if the purée seems too thick.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, and oregano. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion colors lightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, then the chile purée. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes. Add the salt and stir in the vinegar.
To make the posole: Drain the posole. Put it in a soup pot and add the onion, garlic, oregano, thyme, and the 2 teaspoons salt. Pour in the water or stock; it should cover the posole. Simmer, uncovered, until tender but chewy, 2 to 3 hours. The time can vary widely, so start tasting for doneness after 1 hour. If the liquid cooks away, add more so that the posole ends up a bit soupy.
Stir in the chile sauce and season with salt. Serve the soup in warmed bowls, garnished with oregano, onion, cabbage, and cilantro. Serve the lime wedges alongside and eat with warm tortillas.