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Corn, the very heart and soul of Mexican cooking, becomes something quite different when it is transformed into pozole, also known as hominy. Large, white corn kernels are treated with a softening solution of lime (calcium hydroxide), just as they are for making masa, but the kernels, rather than being ground, are cooked until tender. Look for packaged partially cooked pozole (nixtamal) at Mexican markets. You can substitute the pozole in this recipe with 4 cans drained and rinsed white hominy. Add it to the soup along with the pumpkin seed mixture.

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄2 lb. pork neck bones, ordered in advance from the
      butcher and rinsed
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 lb. boneless pork shoulder
  • 1⁄2 white onion, plus 1⁄4 white onion, coarsely
      chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, halved
  • 3 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 lb. packaged partially cooked pozole or nixtamal
  • 4 serrano chilies
  • 1 lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 2 romaine lettuce leaves, torn into large pieces
  • 3 radish leaves
  • 2 cups raw hulled green pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 fresh epazote sprigs or flat-leaf parsley sprigs
  • Small bowls of finely shredded cabbage, finely
      chopped white onion, thinly sliced radishes and
      dried oregano for serving
  • 8 lime quarters for serving

Directions:

Put the pork bones, stock, pork shoulder, 1/2 onion, garlic and 1 1/2 tsp. of the sea salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam from the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially and cook until the meat is tender, about 2 hours. After about 1 hour, add the pozole, stir well and continue cooking.

Meanwhile, bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the chilies and tomatillos, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the tomatillos are soft, about 10 minutes. Drain through a sieve. Working in 2 batches, spoon half of the tomatillo mixture into a blender and add half each of the remaining chopped onion, the lettuce and radish leaves and 1 cup of the pork broth. Process until smooth. Pour into a bowl and repeat for the second batch. Set aside.

In a fry pan over medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds, shaking the pan frequently, just until they swell and begin to tan, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool, then grind in a spice grinder.

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the ground seeds and fry, stirring frequently, until pastelike, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatillo puree, reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and rich, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Remove the pork shoulder and bones from the pot and let cool. Stir some of the remaining pork broth into the seed mixture. Pass the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve placed over the pot, pressing on the contents with the back of a spoon. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 30 minutes.

Shred the pork shoulder and add it to the pot along with any meat from the bones. Discard the bones. Add the epazote and the remaining 2 tsp. sea salt, stir well and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes more. Ladle the pozole into bowls and serve with the cabbage, finely chopped onion, radishes, oregano and limes.
Serves 8 to 10.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Mexican, by Marilyn Tausend (Simon & Schuster, 2003).