Coming home to L.A. means a lot of things, and one of those is finally using my full taste palette. Back at school, the only recipes that impress my tongue are those that use buffalo chicken. But, you can only stomach buffalo chicken quesadillas, buffalo chicken pizza, or buffalo burgers for so long before it becomes bland. I must of course mention my mentor Stacey Pierce, a woman whose kitchen is the gateway to all things scrumptious.
When the holiday season sits on the horizon, we Latin families prepare to feast! The best part of this culinary cornucopia is that it's shared. From the day I landed, neighbors, friends, and family stop by to say hello and they leave a delicious present. From tamales, to menudo, to carne asada, champurado and so many more, there are enough left overs until past the new year!
One of my favorite dishes, and one that I anticipate, is my grandma's homemade pozole! Pozole is a traditional Mexican stew that consists of hominiy, pork, and it can be seasoned with various vegetables. It's a dish that is saved for celebrations like birthdays, baptisms, Quinceneras, and many more important days to the Mexican culture. Hispanics and Latinos have adopted this plate and there exists dozens, probably even hundreds, of recepies for making this stew. The reciepe that I will be writing about is how my grandma makes her red pozole.
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The first step is that she grabs her chilles, and takes off the top and removes all the seeds from the inside. She then grabs all the seedless dried chilles and boils them until they are soft. The water should also start getting a red color.
While the chille is boiling she also begins to start boiling the pork all together. In this batch she tosses in the garlic cloves, the whole onion (I know I asked her 3 times if it was the whole thing), and the Knorr cubes. This boils for 40-45minutes, make sure to move every so often.
Drain the pot and place the soft boiled chiles into a blender. While the chille is blending, she puts down 3 tortillas on the stove top to warm them up. Right when they are crunchy, break up the tortillas and toss them into the mix. My grandma prefers to use her Nutribullet, and it's the cutest thing ever.
When the chille and tortillas are all blended as best as they can be, strain the mixture. My grandma has explained to me that time varies since meat always cooks differently. Toss the strained, soon to be stew, into the boiling meat. This is the same time she tosses in the hominy.
In the giant cauldron, so big she needs a little step stool to stir it, sits the boiling meat, the blended chille and tortillas, and she sprinkles in 3 teaspoons of grounf oregano. She lets the pork continue to boil and tosses in the tablespoon of salt, each time tasting to find the right balance.
She continues to stir and let the pork, accompanied by its seasoning squad, boil adding up to a total of nearly 2 hours boiling. Before the chille and all that was tossed in, the pork was already boiling for 40 minutes remember. As the meat becomes tender and the water becomes red, and once again nearly 2 hours has passes since she began boiling the pork, she turns the stove off. I asked her what heat level she boils at and she said high, because of the volume of the produce she's using is so high.
The last step to serving any pozole is the toppings! She cops up onions, radish, and cabbage to garnish the pozole once it's done.
The realy beauty of this dish is how even as my family and I obssessed with digesting the media around us, we pause as converge at the table to dine on my grandma's stew. I grew up knowing of Latin and Hispanic traditions, but I never got them all. My Spanish has dissipated the more time I spent at school. And I have never been to El Salvador. But this dish is an invitation to my Latin roots. It's a way for me to connect with the culture I am a part of of, and also writing this post is a way of me preserving that culture.
In order to write this post I set time aside to sit with my grandma and listen to her. Listening is the skill that every professor, employer, etc, talks about as being crucial to success and I believe it. Millenials were glued to the screens around us. I once went a weekend without my phone, and instead of breaking free I lugged around my iPad.
Sitting across from her and asking my grandma questions is more important than replying to my Snaps or texts because this is a woman who for the past 19 years has nurtured me and continues to. Making this post is important to me because it helps me get closer to my culture and it is also a piece that captures the love I have for my grandma. I leave soon and wish I had more time at home, but at least I have this moment with my grandma.