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Vegetarian Pozole Verde

Vegetarian Pozole Verde

When it comes to pozole, many people choose a side—Team Rojo, Team Verde, Team Blanco. But this vegetarian mushroom number is so good, it just might inspire a defection.

 You could have an unforgiving day at work, an unexpected late night, a bad hangover, or a sudden broken heart—no matter what it is that ails you, it can be soothed by a bowl of pozole. That’s one reason the hearty, filling, one-stop-stews are so beloved in Mexico. The other reasons are that they’re fun to eat (a key thrill of pozole is that you garnish and customize them as you please) and they hold beautifully, tasting even better when reheated after a good sit in the refrigerator. Pozoles are so big in Mexico that there are restaurants, fondas, and stands that serve the dish exclusively—they go by the name of pozolerías.

But not everyone holds all pozoles on the same pedestal. People—and even entire regions, cities, and towns—tend to have deep loyalties to only one camp: red (pozole rojo), green (pozole verde), or white (pozole blanco).

From the day I could hold a spoon, I’ve been partial to rojo. Bold, bright, rich and festive, I love it not only because I grew up eating it, but because it speaks to me of celebration. (My mother used to make pozole rojo for every and any event, including my wedding.) So you can imagine how shocked my family was when I let a second type of pozole deep into my heart: the velvety, sleek, and nurturing pozole verde.

Of course, at their core, most pozoles are the same. They start with the earthy, sink-your-teeth-in depth of cooked hominy along with its thickened broth. Known in Mexico as maíz cacahuacintle or maíz pozolero (and sometimes known in the U.S. as simply “pozole”), the hominy is cooked just until the tops merely open, blooming to reveal its signature chewy texture. That base is typically mixed with pork or chicken, vegetables, herbs, and aromatics. If you stop here (and plenty of cooks do), you’ve got pozole blanco—all you have to do is garnish it with the usual suspects of dried oregano, radishes, cilantro, onion, one or another kind of crushed dried chile, and a squeeze of fresh lime. Eat it with a crispy tostada and you’ve got a meal.

 When a blanco pozole goes rojo, it’s thanks to a red seasoning sauce that’s added near the end of the process. This sauce is typically made of dried chiles such as anchos, guajillos, or colorados; some seasonings and spices; and, sometimes, tomatoes. To take a pozole to verde territory, a green seasoning sauce is added. The most famous versions come from the state of Guerrero on the Pacific coast, and include green ingredients such as poblano, jalapeño and/or serrano chiles; fresh lettuce (sometimes); and radish leaves. Instead of using tomatoes, bright green and tart tomatillos are used; sometimes other green ingredients are added, like pumpkin seeds, which add a velvety finish and nutty taste.

 I’ve fallen for pozole verde of all kinds: chicken, pork, even a regional variation made with beans. But the bowl I can’t get enough of now is this Pozole Verde Con Hongos. A vegetarian pozole, the base is a generous pile of mushrooms (any kind works) that are cooked until their juices release and they start to brown. A green seasoning sauce made from tomatillos, poblanos, and an optional serrano is added and cooked to thicken, then the hominy and broth get mixed in. Finally, like all pozoles, it is garnished to taste—I like pungent radishes, fragrant oregano, crunchy onion, tender leaves of cilantro, and a healthy squeeze of lime juice. Chased with bites of crunchy corn tostadas and it’s a pozole that even a rojo devotee can love.

 This vegetarian pozole relies on meaty mushrooms and, of course, toothsome hominy to become a filling, soul-nourishing meal-in-a-bowl. As with all pozoles, the garnishes are the thing: Top this one with pungent radishes, fragrant oregano, crunchy onion, and tender leaves of cilantro, and squeeze in as much lime juice as you please.

Ingredients

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 340gr cans of tomatillos

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 3 poblano or green bell pepper chiles, halved, seeds removed, coarsely chopped

  • 1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped (optional)

  • 1 cup salted, roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

  • 1 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for serving

  • 1 cup chopped parsley, plus more for serving

  • 3 Tbsp. chopped white onion, plus more for serving

  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided

  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt, divided, plus more

  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

  • 2 lb. mixed mushrooms (such as white button and crimini), thinly sliced

  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 860gr can hominy, drained

  • 2–3 radishes, trimmed, halved, thinly sliced crosswise

  • Lime wedges and dried Mexican oregano (for serving)

  • Tostadas (for serving)