The Curse of La Llorona, from New Line Cinema and director Michael Chaves, came screeching into theaters this Friday. It stars Linda Cardellini and Patricia Velazquez, two mothers troubled in different ways, and haunted by the wailing, weeping woman of Mexican folklore.
The legend of La Llorona that the film is based on is equal parts heartbreaking and terrifying. There are several variations, but the basic story is that a poor and beautiful woman was discovered by a wealthy nobleman as he came through her village. He took her as his wife and they had two sons, but as he traveled he grew further apart from her and eventually he left her alone for a younger woman. She was driven mad by the betrayal, and in a blind rage drowned her sons in a river.
When she realized what she had done the river had washed them away. Not permitted to enter heaven without her sons, she was cursed to wander watersides as a lonely ghost, crying for her children, and kidnapping and drowning children she mistakes for her own. This myth is a mother’s worst nightmare…but also falls into that category of terrifying Bogeyman tales to tell your children to get them to behave.
The legend is bleak, but this recipe is bright, a Mexican pozole verde. With a base of hearty hominy, most often pozole is made with pork, but I went to the waters for this La Llorna inspired one and used shrimp (creek shrimp would be especially apt if you can find it). I love the technique of using shrimp shells to make a briny broth, so that’s done here. The poblano mixture flavored with garlic, cumin, coriander and oregano makes the broth a watery green, and the strings of spinach evoke underwater plants as the ghost is known to scrape the bottoms of rivers and lakes, desperately looking for her children.
This swampy mixture is a flavorful blank slate for toppings such as avocado, radishes, tostadas, and lime. You can make is spicy by including peppers like jalapeños or serranos in the poblano pepper mixture, but since I was cooking for children (also apt!) I left out the spicy ones and just served with hot sauce on the side.
LA LLORONA POZOLE VERDE
- 2 poblano peppers
- 2 jalapeños or serranos (optional – I left them out to serve kids)
- 1 pound shrimp
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 25 ounce can hominy, rinsed
- 10 ounces chopped spinach
3 strands fresh oregano, roughly chopped
To serve: avocado, sliced radish, crushed tostadas, limes, hot sauce
Char poblanos (and optionally jalapeños or serranos) in a 450° oven. I do this by putting the poblanos right on the grate with a sheet pan below it and turn occasionally until evenly charred. If I’m doing the smaller peppers I’ll put them on aluminum foil so they don’t fall through. The little ones won’t take as long to char, so just check as they are cooking. Peel and deseed poblanos and add them, and trimmed jalapeños or serranos if using, to a food processor and blend until smooth, adding a little water if necessary.
Meanwhile, rinse and peel the shrimp, reserving shells. In a saucepan, boil shrimp shells with 3 cups water for half an hour to create a shrimpy broth. Drain and reserve the broth, adding enough water to get it back up to three cups.
In a soup pot, heat oil on medium and cook onion until translucent and beginning to turn golden. Add garlic and stir for a minute or two, then cumin, coriander, and salt and stir until fragrant. Add the shrimp broth, the pepper mixture, and the hominy and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if necessary to keep a somewhat thick somewhat brothy consistency. Stir in shrimp and cook until they just turn pink. Stir in spinach and oregano and cook for another few minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Serve with garnishes. Enjoy, but keep an eye on those children.