Yesterday, when I was telling you about the connection I have towards some local eateries, I got so caught up in telling you about the emotional connections I have to some of these places that I forgot to describe the food. For example, at Tia Rita’s*, they serve what I would describe as heavily americanized “Tex-Mex”. The dishes are heavy with beef, often covered in goopy, melted yellow cheese and served with a pool of refried beans on the side. Don’t get me wrong– I love this food. I would eat a “wet” ground beef burrito in a flour tortilla any day.
On weekend mornings, though, they serve red pozole, a soup that has its roots in the Aztec culture and was perfected in the kitchens of mothers and grandmothers for hundreds of years thereafter. The red version is made with dried chiles, soaked and pureed, then added to salted water with pork shoulder or shank meat (with the bones). Then cooked hominy is added –NOT regular yellow corn, but creamy, fluffy hominy. And for heaven’s sake NO beans. It is all simmered together until the broth becomes rich, earthy, and deep orange-red. The best part are the toppings added at serving time: shredded green cabbage, radish, white onion, cilantro, a squirt of lime juice, herbaceous Mexican oregano and red pepper flakes. And served up with fresh corn tortillas for dipping on the side.
In terms of cooking method and ingredients, this dish is supremely elegant in its simplicity. Nutritionally, it is a bone broth with lots of vitamin-laden fresh vegetables. To the soul, it is a revitalizing bowl of warm comfort.
You don’t mess with tradition.
*Not the restaurant’s real name.
Another note: There are some funny videos out there of traditional cooks watching celebrity cooks make “pozole”. Do a search on Youtube for them.