NEWTON – New England cooks know that thick, hearty soups, especially bowls filled to the brim with vegetables, meat, pasta, or grains, can be simple, satisfying dishes.
Posole (pronounced poh-SOH-lay), a soup from Mexico, made with pork (or chicken) and hominy, cooked dried corn, is one such meal. Many spices and seasonings flavor the broth, and traditionally the bowls are garnished with fresh, crunchy vegetables such as shredded lettuce and radishes.
At 51 Lincoln, chef-owner Jeffrey Fournier prepares pozole verde, or green posole, topped with fresh chili peppers, garlic and oregano, and plenty of hominy and chunks of pork. Fournier relies on canned hominy instead of starting with dried corn kernels because it’s a good product and a huge time saver (see right).
The chef learned to cook early in his career during his five years in restaurants in Santa Monica, California. “I have cooked with a lot of Mexican cooks,” he says, and they taught him regional cuisines from Mexico. The green posole is popular in Guerrero, along the country’s south Pacific coast. “I am Franco-Canadian-Armenian,” says Fournier, “but I have always been in the kitchen of Central and South America. “
Posole is available in green, white and red, the colors of the Mexican flag. Fresh green peppers, tomatillos and herbs like cilantro and oregano will tinge the soup green; sometimes roasted green nuggets, pumpkin seeds, are crushed and used as a thickener. The soup made from dried peppers takes on a reddish tint and becomes pozole rojo. White posole (pozole blanco) is a seasoned pork, pork and hominy broth.
What they all have in common, aside from a meaty garlic broth and hominy, are the toppings. Toppings vary by region, but typically include chopped greens, thinly sliced radishes, onion, fresh cilantro, avocado and chicharron (fried pork rind) or tortilla chips. In some restaurants, the soup arrives at the full table; at others, toppings are offered on the side so diners can add whatever they like.
At Angela’s Cafe in East Boston, the posole is white. Matriarch Angela Atenco Lopez, who has been cooking for over 50 years, prepares the traditional recipe from her native Puebla, an interior state near Mexico City. She simmers pork chops in water with bay leaves, garlic and Mexican oregano. “The bones add flavor,” explains Luis Garcia, the manager of the café. Hominy and pieces of pork loin are added to the broth, and the bowls are garnished with shredded lettuce, radishes and onions. With no chilies in the soup, it has a mild flavor, but they serve chili powder on the side for anyone craving heat. Garcia, speaking on behalf of Lopez (who speaks Spanish), says they use the canned hominy for convenience. “The soup is really popular; imagine if we had to cook [the hominy] from scratch, ”he says.
About a mile away, also in East Boston, is Taqueria Jalisco, which serves red posole. “Ours is the same style you’ll find in Jalisco,” says chef and owner Ramiro Gonzalez. Her recipes come from her mother, who grew up in the Pacific Coast state. Pork butts and pig’s trotters flavor the broth, and dried guajillo peppers not only color the soup red, but give it a subtle smoky, sweet heat. Toppings of shredded cabbage, onion, radish, lime, and dried oregano are paired with some house sauces.
The soup contains garlic, but no oregano, and “a few secret little touches,” says Gonzalez, who grew up in California. He prefers canned hominy, which “feels softer and smoother”.
Soup bowls made with a sparse amount of meat and abundant vegetables in broth are found in many kitchens. The garbure is a favorite in France, the thick pot with cabbage, beans, potatoes and pork; the familiar minestrone is served in Italy; caldo verde, with kale, potatoes and sausages, in Portugal; Vietnamese pho, and more. Posole is the tradition of Mexico. Unlike the others, you can choose the color.
51 Lincoln Street, Newton Highlands, 617-965-3100.
131 Lexington St., East Boston, 617-567-4972.
291 Bennington St., East Boston, 617-567-6367 (posole on weekends).
Lisa Zwirn can be contacted at