When I started my latest mini-series on stews, the rain was beating down and snow was imminent. Today however, the sun is shining, the water in Port Susan Bay is a light dusky blue, and Mt. Baker*, Three Fingers, and Glacier Peak are out in all their glory. (I love the term “out” in connection with a mountain being visible. As if when it’s not visible it’s “in” or “gone”? Yet another example of the vagary consistent within the English language.) But back to the recipe. (Sometimes it’s almost impossible for me to stay on track.) Now, where was I? Ah yes – stew.
I came across this recipe (or my take on a combination of adovada recipes) while I was researching stews from around the world. What interested me the most about this dish was the use of different and totally unfamiliar chilies. So I went on line and ordered the chilies I needed from a specialty site. I patiently waited until they arrived, and taking the advice of several people who had made comments on the recipes I lifted, I began my journey into adovada land. It was wonderful, but I had used all the guajillo chilies I had ordered in just my first batch of this stew. So just for grins and giggles I decided to see if I could purchase more at one of my local grocery stores. Low and behold, I had no trouble finding them in Stanwood. Yeah team! Needless to say I was delighted.
Now something you should know. This is a very rich stew, and a small portion goes a long way. In fact, the next time I serve it, I am going to think of it as a side dish. Actually, a small serving would be just perfect, not to mention economical served with Refried Beans, Classic Coleslaw, warm flour or corn tortillas, and a Margarita or cold beer.
So next time you are hungry for traditional Mexican food and don’t want to make a trip to your local Mexican restaurant where pretty much everything tastes the same regardless of what you order (oh oops, did I say that out loud), give this dish a try. I promise you that it will have the authentic Mexican taste we all crave and typically can’t find at a restaurant. OK, if you live in Denver, New Mexico, or Texas you can probably find great Mexican food on every corner. But not so much in many parts of the US.
So take the time some rainy Saturday to create a Mexican fiesta for your family and friends. Good Mexican food takes time to build, but it is well worth the effort. Buen provecho!
*For those of you not familiar with the glorious northwestern part of Washington State, Mt. Baker is in the most northern part of the Cascade Range or North Cascades. Mt. Baker is the mountain shown at the top of my home page (using the zoom feature on my camera) as it appears from my kitchen sink. And yes, I do know how lucky I am!
- 9 dried guajillo chili peppers* (about 2-oz.)
- 4 dried chile de árbol **
- 4 c. chicken broth
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
- 2 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes (extra fat and silver skin removed)
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 T. corn or vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 T. dried oregano, preferably Mexican oregano
In a dry skillet, toast the chili peppers over medium high heat until they are slightly puffed and fragrant. (Be careful not to burn the pods or they will become bitter.) Let cool. Rip off the stems of the dried chili peppers and empty out all of the seeds. (Feel free to cut a slit into each chili if it helps to remove the seeds.) Pour 3 cups of the chicken broth into a pot; add the cumin, cloves, and the toasted chilies. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until both types of chili pods are fully rehydrated. Remove from heat and cool. When cool, carefully pour the liquid and re-hydrated chilies into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Set chili sauce aside.
Meanwhile pat the meat dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy covered Dutch oven. Add the meat in single layers and brown thoroughly on all sides. Remove meat to a bowl. (Add more corn oil during the browning process if required.) When all the pork is browned and removed from the pan, add the onion and cook until soft. Next add the garlic and oregano and cook for about a minute or until the garlic releases its aroma. Add the browned meat back into the pot along with the chili sauce. Use the last cup of chicken stock to “wash out” the blender or food processor bowl and add liquid to the Dutch oven. Stir well to bring up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring stew to a boil, remove from heat, cover, and place in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender. Stir after one hour, taste and adjust seasonings; add a small amount of water if necessary. (You want the stew to be moist but not so soupy that it can’t be served on a regular plate. See picture above.) When the meat is fork tender, remove the pan from the oven and serve.
Note: Carne Adovada is also wonderful when used as a filling for burritos, enchiladas, or tacos.
*The Guajillo Chili Pepper is the most common chili in Mexico after the Ancho. The flavor is distinct, slightly fruity with a strong piney, berry under taste. The chili measures 3 to 5 inches in length and is about an inch wide. The color is a brick red with deep burgundy tones with a smooth, shiny skin. Dried Guajillo Chili peppers can be located in the ethnic food section of most grocery stores.
**The Chile de árbol is a small and potent Mexican chili pepper also known as bird’s beak chili and rat’s tail chili. These chilies are about 2 to 3 inches long, and ¼ to 3/8-inch in diameter. They can be purchased in most good sized grocery stores.