Leafing once more through Gran Cocina Latina by Maricel Presilla, an extraordinary cookbook I was offered by a very kind friend, I stumbled upon Peruvian Pork Adobo. It reminded me of the New Mexican Carne Adovada from MJ’s Kitchen, which I had mentally bookmarked, but never cooked. The name ressemblance is not accidental because, even though not identical, both relate to pork marinated in dried chilli sauce and cooked until very tender. Trusting MJ’s excellent taste, I followed of course her New Mexican recipe (though, as always, with certain modifications). My dried chillies were very dark, so the pork didn’t end up as beautifully vibrant red as MJ’s, but I loved the result: the slightly smoky flavours, the fork-tender texture, the lazy cooking process…. My homemade chapatti (Indian flat breads) proved perfect wrapped around the meat and vegetables. I know there are many other ways to serve carne adovada (see MJ’s suggestions), but these wraps were so good, I think I’ll have them at least once a day during the upcoming week! Thank you so much, dear MJ, for such a fantastic discovery!
Though I’ve followed MJ’s instructions (with a smaller batch), I have also slightly changed the ingredients, using aji panca chillies, advised in the Peruvian recipe (I simply had lots of them forgotten in the cupboard), adding cumin and black pepper, using a crazy amount of garlic…. In short, make sure you visit MJ’s Kitchen blog not only to see the genuine New Mexico Carne Adovada and learn about other ways to serve it, but most of all to take a journey through a fascinating world of beautifully photographed New Mexican cuisine.
TIPS: I have used here pork’s neck, choosing a cut which was not too fatty. Then, just like MJ advised, I cut off the big fatty parts, but left some tiny bits so that the meat wouldn’t become too dry. The choice of the cut and of the fat content is up to you.
Adapt the chillies’ heat level to your preferences and resistance. Even if you like very spicy food, I advise medium hot chillies. You can check the heat level after two hours of baking and add some chilli powder if it’s not fiery enough. Stir the pork and put back into the oven.
If you want to serve Carne Adovada in wraps, you can use either tortillas or chapattis, homemade or bought (though I find store-bought chapattis worse than store-bought tortillas). The above wrap contains lettuce, cucumber, avocado, red onion, Greek yogurt and coriander leaves. After taking the photo I have also added pickled jalapeños, which proved a perfect final touch.
This meat is very good reheated, even in a microwave (I prefer it warm in the wraps and intend to heat it this week for my meals).
Preparation: about 4 hours+overnight marinating
Ingredients (makes at least a dozen wraps, if raw vegetables are added):
900g (about 2 lbs) pork (I have used neck, but you can also use shoulder or tenderloin)
Dried chilli sauce:
1 tablespoon oil
10 medium hot dried red chillies (with our without seeds; I’ve used seedless aji panca), torn into pieces
1 tablespoon oregano (the best is Mexican oregano of course)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vinegar (I’ve used red wine vinegar)
7-8 big or 10 medium garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
10 black pepper corns
2 medium shallots (or 1 medium onion), sliced
1 tablespoon honey or 1 heaped teaspoon brown sugar
First prepare the sauce.
Heat the oil in a pan. Stir-fry the onion until soft, then add the garlic and then dried chilli and stir-fry until you smell the chilli (it burns easily so don’t put your eyes off the pan!). Add the remaining ingredients, pour 250 ml (about 1 cup) water and let it simmer for ten minutes.
Mix the sauce in a food processor.
Adjust the flavours, adding more vinegar, salt, honey and if you find the sauce not hot enough, add chilli powder, but you’ll be able to adjust the heat level during the baking process (see the TIPS above).
Mix once more and put aside.
Cut up the meat into bite-sized pieces (I have cut into 2 cm (about 3/4 in) cubes) and mix well with the sauce.
Put the meat to marinate overnight in a covered container.
The following day take the meat out of the fridge, put into a baking dish with a cover and let it rest while the oven heats.
Preheat the oven to 140°C (about 300°F) and bake the meat, covered, for 3-4 hours.
(After two hours you can check the heat, add some more chilli powder and then bake for one-two more hours.)
Check MJ’s Kitchen to see how you can serve the meat, apart from wraps.