Our neighbors in New Mexico are knee-deep in one of my favorite Christmas food memories: posole. When I was a teenager, my parents opened a retail store that sold leather and leather-care products, including shoe polish, cream or spray (yes, spray paint for shoes!) in every color of the spectrum. Leather Etc. also carried sheepskin seat covers (big seller) and trophy buckles for the urban cowboy who didn’t want to have to ride a bull, whether mechanical or maniacal, to win a buckle that could be used to hold up his britches or as a tray to carry afternoon tea to the terrace.
The store was in a two-seater strip that had our store and a finance office, sharing a parking lot with Pizza Inn. Pat from the finance office was a New Mexico native and spent her breaks at the store talking to my mom. One chilly morning while I was spending my Christmas break working at the store, Pat brought over a canister of posole. "It’s a Christmas tradition in Albuquerque,” she told me. "Taste’s kinda like chili.” I immediately turned a dark shade of dubious. By age 15, I wrongly considered myself a chili expert, and when someone described a dish as "like chili,” red flags towered over my inflated sense of chili propriety. "It’s a little hotter, though.” I told Pat I couldn’t wait to try it, but my inner know-it-all was screaming, "Them’s fightin’ words!” The battle to hate posole ended as soon as it filled my mouth. Posole was, and forever remains, delicious. Posole is a sea of red chile-infused broth in which hominy comes alive and pork braises itself into buttery submissiveness. Isn’t that all any of us ever really want for Christmas? Posole is also eaten for New Year’s in New Mexico, so feel free to make a huge amount and freeze what you can’t eat in one sitting. As for the heat, it’s strictly up to the cook.