As for the cracklings? You can skip them if you like and just top your pozole with fresh radishes and a sprinkling of cilantro. But there’s something about the crisp, fatty crunch that makes an ideal counterpoint to the tender, chewy corn. Or maybe the fact that I’m the product of a Jewish father and a Mexican mother makes me see it that way. However you choose to serve your pozole, enjoy it in sickness and in health.
*Excellent dried pozole is available online at www.ranchogordo.com.
2 1/2 cups dried hominy
2 medium yellow onions; one peeled and quartered, the other peeled and diced
2 boneless chicken breasts, skin removed and reserved
5-7 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican, if possible)
4 cloves garlic—2 smashed, 2 diced
2 New Mexico chilies (dried)
6 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
Cover the pozole kernels with water and soak overnight.
Drain the pozole and place in a large pot with the quartered onion and enough water to generously cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered until tender, about an hour. Drain, reserving the liquid.
(If using canned pozole, start here. Substitute water or stock for the soaking liquid.) Return the pozole to the pot along with the diced onion, smashed garlic, chicken breasts, chicken stock and oregano. The kernels should be covered, so if needed, add some of the reserved pozole liquid. Simmer gently to bloom kernels and cook the chicken, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, stem and seed the chilies and toast briefly on both sides in a hot skillet. Place in a small bowl and cover with water. (The seeds are where most of a chile’s heat resides, so if you like it spicier, leave them in.)
While the chilies soak, make the cracklings. Cut skin into strips, removing any shreds of meat. Heat 3 tablespoons of neutral oil in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add skin, seasoning lightly with salt. Stir every 5 or 10 minutes, being sure to scrape the bottom. Once the pieces of skin start to get sticky and clump together, increase stirring to break them apart. Keep cooking and stirring, until skin turns a deep golden brown and becomes crispy. You can turn up the heat to speed up the process, but be very vigilant. When they’re done, drain on paper towels.