This recipe isn't about the soup. Not really. You can make soup. It's about the technique of using dried chiles in your food. I absolutely love this recipe because the earthiness pairs so well with the natural sweetness of winter squash. This simple Mexican stew dates back to pre-hispanic times. Although the variations are endless, my favorite go-to is always the red pozole, made with dried chiles.
Cooking with dry chiles can add complexity to an otherwise simple dish. There's only one thing to remember when cooking with them for the first time: There is no bad choice. Pick one, pick many- they all have their individual personalities. As you get to know them, you will discover your favorites. Some, like the chipotle and morita, add smokiness. Aside from the smoky, the chiles will be in 3 color groups: brighter red, purplish brown, and blackish red. If we remember that chile peppers are actually fruits, then it's easy to keep track of their flavors. The lighter ones will taste more fruity and bright. As they get darker, they'll take on a more raisin and dried fig tone, and as they get darker still, they take on earth and nuttiness.
For this recipe, I use a combination of guajillo, ancho and morita chiles. Essentially, this is one chile from each group that I mention above. The combination is one that I like, but you can experiment with any combination you want. As you get more comfortable with them, you'll find yourself adding them to more and more recipes.
Winter Squash Pozole
- 4-6 assorted dry chiles see notes in post
- 4 cups water
- 1 28- oz can crushed tomatoes
- 3 Tbl cooking oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 Tbl dry oregano
- 2 each bay leaves
- 6 cups vegetable broth or no-chicken broth
- 2 25- oz can hominy
- 1 medium winter squash such as butternut, acorn, kabocha, etc..
- shredded green cabbage red radish, avocado, and lime for garnish
- Remove the seeds and stems from your chiles and place them in a small saucepot with the water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer to rehydrate while you prepare the rest of your ingredients (about 15 minutes).
- Cut your squash in half, creating a flat surface that doesn't roll. Use a spoon to scoop out and remove the seeds and any pulp around them (you may wash and dry these seeds for gardening, or simply discard). Peel the squash with either a knife or peeler and cut into 1" cubes. Measure and set aside all of your ingredients before beginning the soup
- Remove the soaking chiles from their liquid (they should be very soft) and place them in a blender with the canned tomato. Puree until smooth. Discard the soaking liquid.
- Place a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil and the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 3-4 minutes, or until the onions start to turn a dark brown
- Add the garlic and the chile-tomato puree and stir well. At this stage, you are trying to fry up and toast those chiles in the oil, so stir regularly and let cook for a good 2 minutes to release those flavors. The chile and tomato will start to thicken and medium bubbles will appear as it cooks.
- Stir in the oregano, salt, bay leaf, and hominy
- Finally, add your vegetable broth or no-chicken broth and your diced squash. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. *note: the soup should cook at a gentle simmer. If large bubbles or boiling starts to happen, lower your heat slightly- you do not want it to hard boil.
- When the pozole is ready, the squash will be tender, but still holding it's shape and the flavors of the broth will be rich and mellowed. At this point, the soup will hold for several days, chilled in the refrigerator.
- When ready to serve, reheat and place in bowls. Top with thinly shredded cabbage, radish, avocado, and fresh lime.