Sunday, March 25, 2018

Carne Adovada

Several years ago, I had to make a few trips to the State of New Mexico for work. That work took me to Santa Fe, which is about an hour's drive from Albuquerque. Those trips introduced me to the Hatch chile, as well as the wonderful cuisine made from the chiles.  Each work trip involved at least one stop to The Chile Shop.  At the end of each trip, I usually came home with a pound of ground chiles, both red and green.  Over time, those ground chiles have made it into a lot of the food I prepare, including eleven dishes that have made it onto this blog. 

For New Mexicans, the ground chiles are the foundation of dishes such as Carne Adovada.  Originally, cooks would marinate cubes or strip of pork in a crock or pot with chiles and bacterial cultures used in yogurt.  This marination/fermentation process imparted a slightly sour taste to the meat, which would then be stewed with onions, garlic and, of course, more chiles.  The result is a very rich dish of fork-tender pork nestled, if not swimming, in a red chile sauce that has just a hint of sourness. The recipe provided a very tasty and needed way to preserve the various cuts of a pig after being slaughtered. 

Cooks do not need to go through the marination process anymore, because refrigeration made fermentation unnecessary.  The rest of the cooking process remains relatively unchanged and the finished dish continues to be just as delicious.  

I found a very easy recipe for making Carne Adovada in Cooks Country Eats Local.  First, the recipe allows for the use of "chile powder" or "chili powder," rather than specifying a specific type of ground chiles, such as Hatch chiles or Guajillo chiles.  While the Hatch chile would provide the best result, a small bottle of standard store-bought chile works just fine.  The recipe also provided several steps -- browning the pork, sauteeing the onions, adding flour, raisins plumped with coffee and some lime juice -- that helps to develop the flavor of the chile sauce.  

The finished dish is amazing, and brought back the memories of my trip to Santa Fe.  If only the dish did not require a couple of hours to make, I'd add this to the rotation of dishes that I could make during the week. 

Recipe from Cooks Country Eats Local, pp. 260-261
Serves 6 to 8

1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup brewed coffee
1 (4 to 5 pound) boneless pork butt roast, trimmed of excess fat
     and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1.  Prepare raisin mixture.  Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine raisins and coffee in small bowl.  Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and microwave until liquid begins to boil, 1 to 3 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes until raisins are plump.

2.  Prepare pork.  Pat pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat until just smoking.  Brown half of pork, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to plate and repeat with remaining pork.  

3.  Prepare sauce.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven.  Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add flour, chili powder, oregano, chipotle and garlic raisin mixture, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to boil.  Working in 2 batches, transfer mixture to blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Return sauce to pot.

4.  Finish the dish.  Add browned pork to sauce in pot and transfer ot oven.  Cook, covered, until pork is fork tender, about 2 hours.  Skim fat from sauce, then stir in lime zest, lime juice and pepper to taste.  Serve.  Pork can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.


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