Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army's defeat of the French army in a battle on that date — May 5 — in 1862. The holiday also happens to coincide with the start of the season for fresh tomatillos. Green Pozole with Chicken, a traditional, stew-y Mexican soup — based on a tomatillo salsa — is the perfect dish for the occasion.
Tomatillos are small round fruits native to Mexico that indeed look like green tomatoes. But they are a completely different fruit and have a unique, somewhat lemony, taste all their own. They're a key ingredient in Mexican green salsa, often served alongside red, or tomato-based, salsa, and very easy to work with. Peel off the papery husk, give them a rinse and they're ready to go. Then just combine all of the ingredients for this salsa in a food processor and pulse them until they're finely chopped. If you like it hot, use more Serrano chiles. If you like it milder, remove the serrano's seeds and ribs before adding it to the mix.
As for the pozole, there are many types — red, green, white, chicken, beef, and pork — but what they all have in common is hominy. Hominy is a kind of starchy field corn that's been dried and then treated by soaking and cooking it in a diluted solution of lye or slaked lime. It can be consumed whole (as in this recipe), coarsely ground to make grits, or finely ground to make masa for tortillas or tamales. It's the hominy in pozole that makes it so hearty.
The protein here comes in the form of shredded store-bought rotisserie chicken, which simplifies its preparation. No one's going to know or care that you cheated because it's the garnishes that make this dish special.
Green Posole with Chicken
Start to finish: 1 hour (35 minutes active)
For the salsa:
8 ounces fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered (or cut into sixths, if large)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped scallion (white and light green part)
1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro, leaves and stems
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped serrano (with the ribs and seeds)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the pozole:
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups chicken broth
3 1/2 to 4 cups shredded or cubed rotisserie chicken
One 30-ounce can hominy, rinsed and drained
Shredded sharp cheddar, tortilla chips, lime wedges and fresh cilantro for garnish
Make the salsa: In a food processor combine all the ingredients and pulse until the mixture is almost smooth with some small chunks in it.
Make the pozole: In a large saucepan cook the onion in the oil over medium heat until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the salsa, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Add the broth, bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered for 10 minutes. Add chicken, hominy and salt to taste; cook just until heated through. Ladle into bowls and serve with all the garnishes on the side.
Nutrition information per serving: 536 calories; 156 calories from fat; 17 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 157 mg cholesterol; 1,042 mg sodium; 28 g carbohydrates; 6 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 62 g protein.
Editor's Note: Sara Moulton is host of public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals." She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows including "Cooking Live." Her latest cookbook is "HomeCooking 101."