Pasole (or pazole in Mexico) is one of those comforting dishes that is just as much about the texture as it is about the taste. Namely that fluffy-meets-creamy-meets toothsome texture of the hominy; the star ingredient of pasole.
Hominy is made by soaking kernels of corn in an alkaline mixture (often lime or lye), which allows the grains to expand, then washing the grains and removing their outer layer (hulling). This entire process is called ‘nixtamalization’, and dates back to pre-Columbian times (as in before 1492) in the Americas by the Native peoples living there. By using this process not only does the corn become more nutritious, but also becomes much easier to grind into a finer texture, used to then make masa; a much finer cornmeal-like flour, typically used for making corn tortillas and tamales.
Though pasole has strong ties with Mexican culture, hominy is also considered to be an indigenous food, given the history of its preparation. It’s no surprise then to find a dish like pasole so prevalent in New Mexico; an area of the world heavily influenced by both Chicano/Chicana culture as well as the 19 Pueblo tribes which reside there. Pasole is a celebratory dish within Mexican culture, often eaten as part of a birthday or New Years celebration, but it’s also standard fare for any given Tuesday in New Mexico, once the cooler months set in. Needless to say it is a much loved dish of the Land of Enchantment, made with red chile as well as with green (of course!).
This week, as we are still bundled up and hiding from the chilly temperatures and rain, celebrating the birth of both our children (a time of year I like to call ‘cake week’), it felt like the perfect time to dig into the pantry to pull out the dried hominy I had been saving, and make a batch of pasole, if for nothing else to counterbalance all the sugar we’ve consumed in celebration.
This recipe is not labour intensive, in fact each step is pretty easy and mostly hands-off-cooking. It does however require a few days worth of preparation in order to allow the ingredients to give you their best. Let me assure you, it’s worth the wait.