We have been making carne adobada since the early days of Northern Waters Smokehaus: Eric “discovered” this spicy, satiating dish while visiting his wife’s family in New Mexico. The New Mexican chile, or Hatch Chile, is integral to the recipe – feel free to simplify any or all of the other ingredients, but be firm on this one.
This recipe is a large one, but you can cut it in half if you want to. However, be warned – you will want leftovers, as adobada is great with eggs, in tamales, in soups, as enchilada filling, etcetera. This recipe also requires at least 24 hours (ours takes 3 days), and is especially well worth the time if you make the full amount.
10 lbs fat-marbled pork (we use Berkshire pork hams or cheeks, but collar-butts and shoulders work fine)
1/2 lb dried Hatch or New Mexican Chilies, available online, or if you’re lucky, at a nearby grocery store
7 (or so) cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp of chicken base, or 1 cup chicken stock (in which case lessen the water quantity accordingly)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried oregano
Healthy squirt of Sriracha or the like
1 quart of water (if using chicken stock instead of base, lessen the water quantity by 1 cup)
On a large cutting board, cut the pork into 1 1/2 – 2 inch cubes. Don’t worry too much about trimming away fat: most of it will be dissolved and enveloped into the sauce as it cooks. Throw the cubes in a large roaster/cast iron/enamel-coated Dutch oven. Use a sharp knife, and enjoy the zen that comes from spending so much time breaking up a large piece of meat.
In a large food processor or blender, pulse the garlic. Cut the woody stems off of the chilies and add to the food processor, seeds and all. Fee free to wear kitchen gloves – the chilies get rather tingly, especially in the eye region. A half pound of chilies should nearly fill a 14 cup processor. If you are using a smaller model, simply split the recipe and do a double batch.
When you have piled in all the trimmed chilies, add the chicken base or stock, sugar, cumin, salt, cinnamon, oregano, and Sriracha. Pulse a few times, then slowly begin to add the water through the feed tube. If you add it too fast, you may have a mini-chile explosion on your hands (and on your kitchen), so take your time, and don’t let the mixture level exceed the lid of the processor. When all the water has been added, let the mixture blend until it is slightly thick and relatively smooth, about 5 more minutes.
Taste the mixture, and specifically check for salt. It will be quite spicy, but this attribute will mellow over time, so don’t fret if it knocks your tastebuds back into your palette.
Dump the sauce over your meat cubes, and mix well. Cover the mixture and let marinate, refrigerated, for at least 24 hours, but up to 3 days.
Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Place the covered mixture in the oven and let roast for 45 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300ºF and let roast for at least 3 more hours (but preferably 4), stirring once in awhile. Uncover and let roast until browned and tender – approximately 30 minutes more. When it’s cool enough to taste, check for salt.
Serve with tortillas and not much else – a touch of yogurt or sour cream and a lightly-dressed pile of bitter greens on the side works out well, but through years of due diligence, we find adobada is best in its simplified form.