Living in Austin, I eat a ridiculous amount of Mexican food. Fajitas, guacamole, and margaritas (obvi) are on rotation around here, but one signature south-of-the-border dish I never really got into was pozole, a thick stew made with hominy, shredded pork, chiles, and lots of toppings. All that changed on last month’s trip to Charleston when I ended up in the light-filled dining room of Pancito & Lefty. I was a little surprised when the chef and co-owner Robert Berry recommended the pozole as one of their most popular items on the menu, but I went with it and soon found myself tucking into a huge bowl of the most flavorful soup, brimming with warming spices that suddenly had me wishing it was fall. As a Texas girl, I have to admit that I didn’t expect to make a Mexican food discovery in South Carolina, but boy am I glad I did. Keep reading for Chef Berry’s pozole recipe I’ll be serving up at home through all the cold months.
During our lunch at Pancito & Lefty, we sampled baja-style fish tacos, a super fresh jicama salad, and exceptionally good guacamole. The drinks were standout: a boozy mix of mezcal and tequila-based cocktails with farm-to-table ingredients, we had a hard time choosing… but settled on the beautifully-hued estocada made with mezcal, campari and beets, and the conejo blanco featuring tequila, carrots (yes carrots!) and ginger.
Of course, we couldn’t get over the highly-Instagrammable interiors of the space. Clean lines and natural materials played against bright pops of magenta and teal, and a huge window near the bar opens up to create an outdoor-indoor flow straight to the courtyard. Betsy Berry, one of Charleston’s freshest faces in interior design who also happens to be married to Chef Berry, was obviously behind the space.
About the inspiration behind Pancito & Lefty (and that pozole), Chef Berry says:
I became seriously interested in Mexican food when I was a chef in Manhattan. Most of my cooks were very hard working Mexican guys, and we would spend a lot of time together each week, including enjoying meals together. They always cooked the most interesting and soulful food for our “family meal,” so I started to learn about different types of chiles and tortillas.
Saturdays at the restaurant were extremely busy with brunch that led into afternoon service and finally dinner. On some days, we would cook for around 1000 people! I began making pozole for the team in the morning to help them sustain long, busy days of feeding so many people. I got pretty good at it and everyone would look to Saturdays as Pozole Day. This dish stays warm all day in a pot and there’s always a generous amount to be had anytime hunger strikes.
Keep scrolling for the recipe!
- 4 pounds of pork shoulder cut into 1" cubes (the butcher can do this for you)
- 9 cups cooked hominy (we use Anson Mills)
- 1 large yellow onion, largely diced
- 1 carrot whole, peeled
- 1 stalk celery whole
- 8 cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbs oregano
- 1 tbs toasted cumin
- 1 tbs black pepper ground
- 8 guajillo chiles
- 2 chipotle chiles in adobo
for the table:
- 8 radishes, sliced
- 2 cups shaved cabbage
- 1 cup sliced red onion
- 6 jalapeños, sliced thin
- 20 sprigs cilantro
- 4 limes cut into quarters
- 8 warm tortillas, or bowl of tortilla chips
- bottle of hot sauce
- Toast guajillo chiles in oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Next, put them in a bowl and cover with warm water. Let them sit for 20 minutes. Then, remove them from water and puree with garlic, chipotle, cumin, and one cup of cooked hominy. Reserve.
- Brown pork in hot oil, drain. Cook onions in oil on medium heat, then add chile garlic puree and cook for 4 more minutes. Add in the browned pork pieces and remaining hominy, carrot, celery, bay leaves, oregano. Cover with one inch of chicken stock or water and cook on lowest simmer until pork is fork tender. If you have a crockpot, this is an ideal recipe to use it, set it, and forget it. Add salt to taste.
- Remove the whole carrot and celery. Break the pork up with a large spoon, and serve from pot or large tureen. Have all the table garnishes ready for guests to add as they like.