Carne Adovada (Pork Braised in Red Chile Sauce)

July 14, 2017

I am a chile head.

I also like coaxing a tremendous amount of flavor out of a small number of ingredients (though I don’t shy away from recipes with long ingredient lists either!).

I am a big fan of dishes that can be made in advance and warmed up for serving.  Carne Adovada actually tastes better if it is refrigerated for a day or two.

For all of these reasons, Carne Adovada is an ideal dish for me.  It is, bar none, my favorite New Mexican dish.

However, it isn’t necessary to use hot or extra-hot red chile.  If you’re not a fan of spicy foods, use mild or medium-hot chile.  What is critical is that you use actual New Mexico dried red chile.

New Mexican Red Chile Pods

Although I rode in a car along route 66 in the 1960s to visit an uncle in Los Angeles, I never spent any appreciable time in New Mexico until August 1991.   Just days into that week-long visit to Santa Fe, I had Carne Adovada at Maria’s Restaurant.

I was hooked!

I was also enchanted by Santa Fe, as was my husband.  By late 1992 we put in an offer on our first house in Santa Fe.  The offer was accepted and we closed in January 1993.  Thus began our love affair with Santa Fe.

We moved to Santa Fe full time in 2012 but we spent considerable time in Santa Fe every year until then (about ten times per year including all major holidays).

I was never happy with any Carne Adovada recipe that I tried, and I tried plenty, until I stumbled on a recipe from Al Lucero, the former owner of Maria’s Restaurant, in the program book for Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta a number of years ago.

In times past, when a hog was butchered in the fall, some of the meat was preserved in red chile.  This chile-infused meat was later braised to become Carne Adovada.  I don’t know of anyone who cures pork this way any longer but many recipes for Carne Adovada call for marinating the pork overnight in the red chile.  This would seem to be closer to the traditional method, though simply marinating the meat would not produce the additional flavor that would come from actually curing the pork in the chile.  Some recipes, though a minority in my experience, call for the addition of vinegar to the marinade to try to achieve more of a “cured” or “fermented” flavor.

Al Lucero’s approach is different but definitely creates an extra layer of flavor.  The pork cubes are roasted first then braised in red chile.  Refrigerating the completed Carne Adovada for a day or two before serving improves the flavor even more.

What I especially like about Al’s method is that it does not introduce any non-traditional ingredients to the Carne Adovada.  Until I can taste Carne Adovada made from pork that is actually cured in red chile, I’m sticking with my tweaked version of Al’s method.

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Carne Adovada (Braised Pork with Red Chile)
The purity of the chile flavor is key to Carne Adovada so I avoid putting in other seasonings such as onion and oregano that are sometimes called for. This recipe, based on a recipe of Al Lucero, the former owner of Maria’s Restaurant in Santa Fe, roasts the pork first for a depth of flavor not obtainable otherwise. Remove any large pieces of fat from the pork but thin layers of fat between the meat are needed to ensure moist and tender pork, so don’t remove it all. I frequently buy a bone-in pork shoulder (aka pork butt) and use the bone to make broth.
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Course Mains, Meats
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Pork
Red Chile Sauce
Course Mains, Meats
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Pork
Red Chile Sauce
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Cut the pork into one inch cubes.
  2. Toss the pork with the garlic powder, and salt.
  3. Put the meat in a wide shallow baking/roasting pan that has a lid and roast at 450°F, uncovered, until well browned, turning every 20 minutes or so, approximately 90 minutes.
  4. While the pork is roasting, make the red chile sauce using the proportions of ingredients called for above and following the directions in the Red Chile blog post. See the "Notes" section below for the link. There is some rendered fat in the pan. Do not discard the fat, it carries lots of flavor and improves the mouth feel of the sauce.
  5. Beginning to brown.
  6. Tossed after the top has browned.
  7. Almost brown enough.
  8. Browned and ready for the chile. Note that the liquid has all evaporated and created a brown fond in the pan. This gives extra flavor.
  9. When pork is browned, add all the red chile sauce without draining any of the juices out of the pan.
  10. Cook, covered, at 250°F for approximately 3-4 hours or until meat is very tender, stirring occasionally.
  11. Remove the meat from the oven. Allow it to cool to room temperature.
  12. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
  13. Reheat the carne adovada, covered, at 250°F for approximately 2 hours. If the sauce is not thick enough, reheat uncovered at a somewhat higher temperature until the sauce is thickened.
  14. This plate contains carne adovada, red rice, frijoles (beans), and calabacitas) (zucchini, corn, and roasted green chile).
Recipe Notes

Here's where you can find the directions for making Red Chile Sauce.

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Mom’s Slow-Braised Pork Chops

June 16, 2017

Just last week my mother-in-law breaded and quickly pan-fried pork chops for dinner.  They were tender, juicy and truly wonderful.

Now that grilling weather has finally reached Santa Fe, we’ll have pork chops quickly cooked on the grill throughout the summer.  I’ll even grill the occasional pork tenderloin seasoned with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and rosemary.

I really enjoy juicy, quickly-cooked pork.  However, I also really, really enjoy the style of pork chops that I at while growing up:  thin-cut pork chops cooked slowly in a sauté pan until they are deep brown.

No doubt, this is an entirely different dish from cooking the chops just enough to reach that “magic” temperature of 140°F that the USDA says is “safe.”  It won’t be to everyone’s taste (what is?) but in the interest of presenting an array of very traditional dishes I’m including it.

Just a few nights ago while in Palm Springs, I was served thick-cut braised pork chops cooked by a good friend, John O’Malley, following a recipe from Marcella Hazan.  I use the same recipe from Marcella when I want to cook thick-cut chops for company (ever since John turned me onto it a while back).

Marcella was from Northern Italy, my mother’s family from far Southern Italy, but the two dishes share a style that highlights a common feature of traditional Italian cuisine.  That is, a cut of meat that could be cooked quickly is, instead, cooked slowly coaxing out more flavor and changing the texture in the process.

The realization of the similarity of these two dishes is like the experience I wrote about in April 2017 describing roast chicken I ate in Tuscany that tasted, for all the world, like the falling-apart roast chicken seasoned with garlic and rosemary that my mother made.

Quick cooking is just one style but reading contemporary recipes one would think it’s the only way to cook many cuts of meat.  We all agree that there are cuts that must be cooked long and slow for optimum texture: think Southern Pulled-Pork Barbecue, Hawaiian Roast Pig, Beef Brisket, or Pot Roast, for example.  I challenge you to find a contemporary recipe for roast chicken or sautéed pork chops that doesn’t call for the minimum cooking time and final temperature.  It’s as if we’ve forgotten that these meats can also be cooked low and slow for a qualitatively different dish.

Recording this kind of diversity traditional foodways is one of my main goals for this blog.

As I describe on the About page of this website, I’ve had the very good fortune to cook alongside incredible cooks from many different parts of the world but even that only begins to scratch the surface of traditional foods.  And while I’ve got recipes planned well into next year, I think it’s time to bring in other voices, other stories.

From time to time I am going to feature a blog post, and accompanying recipe, based on interviews with folks who have chosen to share a treasured family recipe and a story to go along with it.  There are several individuals who have volunteered to be in the vanguard of this effort.

If you have a family recipe that you’d like to share, send me an email or add a comment and I’ll follow up.

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Mom's Slow-Braised Pork Chops
If these chops are being served as part of an Italian-style meal, preceded by pasta, rice or soup, and accompanied by several side dishes, one per person should be enough. Without a pasta course, an average eater could easily consume two of these and someone with a hearty appetite could eat three or four! A sauté pan with a very heavy bottom is needed to avoid hot spots. The chops will be cooked on low heat for most of the time and it is important that the pan conduct the heat well to avoid hot and cool spots for optimum browning. I prefer center-cut pork loin chops, these have a bit of loin and a bit of tenderloin, essentially the same cut as a T-bone steak. Loin chops (without the tenderloin), as shown in the pictures, work well too.
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Course Mains, Meats
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Mains, Meats
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
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Instructions
  1. Season the chops generously with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
  2. Using a sauté pan that has a very heavy bottom and that is large enough to hold the chops without crowding, heat the oil until it just begins to smoke over high heat.
  3. Add the chops and reduce heat to medium high.
  4. Cook the chops, undisturbed, until nicely browned, approximately 2 minutes.
  5. Turn the chops over. If the oil was very hot when the chops were added and if you didn't disturb them while they browned, they should easily release from the pan without sticking.
  6. Brown other side. Approximately 2 minutes.
  7. Turn the chops over. Have the cover ready. Add the wine, immediately cover the pan, and turn the heat to low.
  8. Cook, covered, until the wine evaporates, 15 minutes more or less.
  9. After the wine evaporates the pan juices will start to brown. When they do, add 2-3 tablespoons of water and turn the chops over. Cook, covered, until the water evaporates and pan juices get a little bit darker.
  10. Repeat this process until the chops are falling apart tender and the pan juices are a deep brown. This will take 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  11. At the end there should only be a couple of tablespoons of water plus the oil in the pan. Pour this sauce over the chops when serving. It should have a rich umami porky flavor.
Recipe Notes

I rarely use garlic powder. The dishes for which I consistently use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic are Italian slow-roasted poultry, the pork chops featured in this recipe, and steaks. I find that I just can’t get the flavor that I want from fresh garlic in these instances.

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Italian Slow-Roasted Chicken or Turkey

April 21, 2017

For two countries that are geographically so close, Italy and France couldn’t be further apart on views of how to roast poultry.

The French typically roast quickly and at high temperature.

Italians are masters of the low and slow approach.

Italian roast chicken (or turkey, for that matter) literally falls apart.  The French version does not.  It’s a matter of style and technique, not quality or skill.

The usual style in the United States leans more toward France than Italy.  It’s the basis of the style of roasting described in most modern cookbooks and cooking magazines; higher temperatures rather than lower temperatures and yanking the bird out of the oven as soon as it reaches the minimum acceptable temperature to be “cooked” and “safe.”  Even when these magazines try to champion the approach of low and slow, they almost always miss the boat.  They miss the boat because they are still focused on the thermometer approach.

You can’t do low and slow if you’re focused on getting the bird out of the oven as soon as it hits the “safe” temperature.  Italian roast chicken is more like “pulled” chicken than the minimally cooked French version.  The whole mouthfeel is different.  So is the taste.

What I didn’t understand growing up is that my mother’s roast chicken and turkey drew from a broader Italian approach.

A few years ago we were in Tuscany having lunch with my husband’s Great Uncle Beppe and his family.

When the roast chicken was served, it was just like my mother’s!  Seasoned with garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper and roasted slowly, till it basically fell apart.

My mother’s mother came to the United States from Calabria around the turn of the 20th century at four years of age.  Here I was, nearly a century later in a province at the other end of the Italian peninsula eating chicken that could have been my mother’s, the way she learned it from her mother, who learned it from her mother.

I think that was a turning point for me in wanting to better understand Italian food traditions throughout the country and even throughout the Italian diaspora around the world.

Another amazing thing, when I think about it, is that my mother brined her chicken for an hour before cooking.  We’re talking the 1960’s here (probably the 1950’s too but I’m too young to remember that) way before brining was ever mentioned in cooking circles.  I can’t tell you why she did it or how it started but when I was learning to cook under her guidance, brining was always the first step for any recipe that included chicken.

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Italian Slow-Roasted Chicken or Turkey
This is a no-recipe recipe. I never measure the seasonings. It’s really pretty hard to use an inappropriate amount. The cooking time is pretty forgiving, too. Until you get the hang of it, I suggest planning on the longer cooking time and the higher temperature. If the chicken or turkey is falling-apart tender before you’re ready for it, just reduce the oven to 150°F to keep the bird warm. My mother would usually brine the bird for about an hour before cooking. Time permitting, I do the same. This basic recipe works for everything from a three pound chicken to an 18 pound turkey. Just for a point of reference, the pictures feature a 12 pound turkey.
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Course Mains, Poultry
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes per pound
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Mains, Poultry
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes per pound
Servings
people
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Brine the bird, if you like, for about an hour.
  2. Thoroughly rinse and dry the bird.
  3. Prop the bird with the cavity facing up. Generously season the inside of the bird with garlic powder, rosemary black pepper and salt. As a matter of habit, if I'm using dried rosemary, I always crust it with my fingers before sprinkling it on the bird.
  4. Put the bird in a roasting pan, breast up, preferably one able to hold the bird rather snugly. The roasting pan should have a tight-fitting cover.
  5. Generously season the outside of the bird with garlic powder, rosemary, black pepper and salt.
  6. Add water (or wine) to the bottom of the roasting pan not over the top of the bird. You don't want to displace the seasonings.
  7. Cover and roast at 350°F for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 275°F to 300°F.
  8. After the first hour, baste the bird with the juices in the roasting pan about every 30-45 minutes. Be sure to tip the bird, or use a basting bulb, to remove the juices from the cavity and add them to the juices in the bottom of the roasting pan.
  9. Roast for a total of 30-40 minutes per pound (including the first half hour). The bird should just about be falling off the bone.
  10. If there is too much liquid in the bottom of the pan or if the bird is not brown enough, uncover the pan for the last 30 minutes or so.
Recipe Notes

Poultry cooked this way will not submit to carving in a photogenic Norman Rockwell manner. It’s just a different style. It would be like trying to cut delicate slices from pulled pork. It’s not going to happen. That said, the joints will usually separate easily and you can cut along the grain rather than against the grain to portion appropriate-sized pieces for serving.

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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