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.
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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