Christmas just isn’t Christmas for me without my dad’s homemade tamales. My dad is the only living child or grandchild of my Mexican-born great-grandma, Nana, who knows how to make Nana’s tamales. I have promised myself that next Christmas, I will document and photograph (or video) the entire multi-day process to share.
As a child, and again for the last 7 or 8 years, my extended Mexican side of the family has gotten together every December for a big holiday tamale-making party. Although we weren’t able to get the extended family together for tamales this year, my immediate family did do tamales for our Christmas evening dinner at my parents’ house.
Pork posole is another one of those Mexican family Christmas traditions. Yet, no one in my family learned or wrote down my Nana’s posole recipe to pass down to her descendants. So, posole was often missing at my family’s tamale parties until I started buying it from a local carniceria about 6 years ago. But a few years ago, I became determined to make it myself. And after a year of scouring recipes, I finally stumbled upon one — amazingly, from Epicurious — that my dad said sounded very similar to what Nana made. For the last 3 years, my husband Jeff and I have made this fabulous pork posole for my side of the family’s annual tamale dinner (confession time…Jeff does most of the work). And it it always a hit — even with the kids.
So, although I wish that my Nana’s recipe had been preserved and passed down to me, it does at least bring me — the family historian — some joy and comfort to know that I have been able to reintroduce a traditional Mexican holiday dish to my family…one that actually passes the high traditional Mexican cuisine standards of my huge loving Mexican side of the family. We’ve also learned how to make my dad’s red chile sauce to add to the posole, which adds an extra spicy bite that we just love!
Making traditional posole is a long process, but so worth the time and work.
- 4 medium onions, divided
- 7 tablespoons canola oil or vegetable oil, divided
- 4½ tablespoons ancho chile powder, divided
- 3 tablespoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican), divided
- 1 6-to 6½-pound bone-in pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 4- to 5-inch pieces, some meat left on bone
- 5 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
- 4 7-ounce cans diced green chiles, drained
- 5 large garlic cloves, minced
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 4 15-ounce cans golden or white hominy, drained
- 1 batch of Dad’s Red Chili Sauce (our addition)
- 4 limes, each cut into 4 wedges
- Thinly sliced green onion
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Tortilla shells or chips, head of cabbage (chopped), 5-10 radishes (thinly sliced), all optional for garnish at end.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Thinly slice 2 onions. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions to pot and sauté until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 1½ tablespoons ancho chile powder and 1½ tablespoons oregano; stir to coat. Sprinkle pork with salt and add to pot. Add 5 cups broth. Bring to boil. Cover and transfer to oven.
- Braise pork until tender enough to shred easily, about 2 hours. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to large bowl. Pour juices into another large bowl. Refrigerate separately uncovered until cool, then cover and keep chilled overnight.
- Discard fat from top of chilled juices; reserve juices. Chop pork into ½-inch cubes, discarding excess fat.
- Thinly slice remaining 2 onions. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until soft, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Add remaining 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder, remaining 1½ tablespoons oregano, diced chiles, garlic, and cumin; stir 30 seconds. Add pork, reserved juices, hominy and red chili sauce. Bring to boil; reduce heat to low.
- Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend, adding more broth to thin, if desired. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cool. Cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before continuing.
- Ladle posole into bowls. Garnish with lime wedges, green onion, cilantro, and tortilla shells or chips, cabbage, and radish slices, as desired.