Loosely, Carne Adovada is meat (frequently pork) slow simmered in a chili pepper sauce flavored with cumin, Epazote (Mexican oregano) and garlic. Scott and I first tasted it on a trip to Arizona and fell in love with the flavors. We set out to create it at home and learned that it is time consuming, very messy, does not require exact measurements (in fine keeping with Creative Recipe’s style ), lends itself to a variety of chili peppers (a bonus for Scott as he loves to grow and dry a great variety of peppers), and is well worth the time and mess in the kitchen. While on vacation this year, we decided to make it for a party. I did most of the food work, and Scott did most of the dishes – gotta love this guy! We did it in a Crock Pot the day before the party so we could go hiking while it cooked, refrigerated overnight and then reheated in the oven just before the party.
Dried Anaheim Chili Peppers – We used Anaheim and New Mexico Big Jim (a larger version of the Anaheim)
Dried Guajillo Chili Peppers – We used these for extra heat. Anaheim peppers have some heat, but mostly just a terrific flavor. We added the Gaujillos because we thought the flavor was a nice complement to the Anaheims and for their extra heat. In the past we have used Santa Fe Grandes as well. Don’t worry about the hotter peppers if you either don’t have them or don’t like things too spicy. Most recipes only call for Anaheim peppers in this classic chili sauce, and it is equally delicious with just those.
In total, we probably used around 30 peppers – let’s say 20 Anaheims and 10 to 12 Guajillos – but did I count exactly? No.
Garlic – four cloves, crushed
Ground Cumin – 2 teaspoons (if you have cumin seed, lightly toast in a pan over low heat, cool, and then grind to a powder)
Epazote – Mexican Oregano (easy to find in the Southwest – it really does taste different, so try to find if possible) – 2 teaspoons (or you can substitute oregano, maybe only 1 teaspoon)
Low Sodium Chicken Broth – 5 to 6 cups
Salt – 1 teaspoon
Pork – approximately 4 pounds – we have used pork tenderloin and pork shoulder. I think I like the texture of the shoulder better, but they’re both good. If you use the shoulder, cube the raw pork before browning.
Split the dried peppers open and remove the seeds (as best as possible – don’t worry if you don’t get them all as you willl catch the balance in the straining process). “Toast” (really, you’re just heating them) the peppers in a large skillet over low heat until they become a little soft and somewhat pliable. Be very careful not to scorch them or your sauce will be bitter. Even Ms. Creative Recipe watches the peppers very carefully while in the skillet.
Place the chili peppers in a sauce pan with the garlic, cumin, Epazote and salt. Cover with the chicken broth. Simmer 30 minutes or so, until the peppers have absorbed liquid and are very soft.
Meanwhile, brown the pork. I browned the tenderloin in two large pieces since it is a bit more tender than shoulder and since it was going to cook a long time in the crock pot. When I used shoulder, I cubed it.
Transfer the cooked peppers and liquid to a blender in small quantities each time, and puree well. Be careful – it’s hot! This is the really messy part for me – I get pepper puree everywhere!
Pour the puree through a colander. This is the time consuming part (as if the whole process has not been already…) Stir and press to push the sauce and pulp through the colander – remaining seeds and skin will stay behind.
Eventually, you will have a beautiful sauce!!!!
Place the pork in the Crock Pot and pour the sauce on top. Cook on low 6 to 8 hours or until pork breaks apart easily. Break the pork apart into chunks and transfer to a flat pan with the sauce. Refrigerate. Reheat at 350 degrees, covered, until hot through.
Eat with tortillas or straight up! Leftovers are wonderful with scrambled eggs and avocado for breakfast, but that’s just one idea. I bet you can think of many more creative ways to eat this delicious dish.