115: Carne Adovada

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Last summer when Alex was in New Mexico and had to cook for himself, he told me that he could get this “carne adovada” seasoned pork from the meat counter for a pretty good price. I’ve wanted to make carne adovada ever since. I had him bring me back some New Mexican chile powder, but I’d put off making this recipe for a while. I decided to put it off no longer.

Wikipedia’s entry on New Mexican cuisine says that carne adovada is cubes of pork marinated and cooked in red chile, garlic, and oregano. That said, there are many variations on this recipe. I found a few that took beef. I found some that take the actual dried red chiles. Some took a few tablespoons of vinegar, and some took a lot of vinegar. Quite honestly, the variety of recipes shouldn’t surprise me. Even something as outwardly simple as beef stew or chicken soup has several different ways you can make it, depending on taste. It certainly didn’t make it easier to choose a recipe, though.

When I did this search last year, I printed off 4 different recipes to try. I chose to make the one that looked the most straightforward. This Carne Adovada recipe took 1 cup of New Mexican chile powder for 3 pounds of cubed pork. Other ingredients included 2 onions, 6 cloves of garlic, some salt, some pepper, a little flour, and some water or broth. No vinegar in this recipe.

I browned the pork to start and put it in the slow cooker crock. I then browned the onions and garlic with salt according to the recipe, then added the black pepper and flour. Next went in the chile powder and 3 cups of water. I put the mixture in the blender to puree the garlic and onions, and then poured it over the pork, added 1 more cup of water, and put the crock in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, I pulled out the slow cooker and put the mixture on low for the day. This dish is usually baked (according to most descriptions), so I figured the slow cooker would be a good approximation of the 2 hours baking time the recipe called for.

I was pretty nervous about the 1 full cup of chile powder that went into this recipe, but the New Mexican chile powder really wasn’t that spicy or hot. It has a nice flavor that improves with age. I wonder if I under-salted the recipe, and I think that using broth instead of water would have given the sauce a nice under-flavor. I actually don’t know if I had carne adovada when I was in New Mexico – I just remember that Alex would buy his pork in this marinade sometimes. I feel like this lack of experience gives me a disadvantage when evaluating this recipe.

I liked this recipe, but I think it needed a little something else, whether it’s some base flavor from a broth, some salt, or perhaps a bit of sugar and vinegar as is called for in some other recipes. I wouldn’t want to transform this into more of a barbeque sauce (with a sweet and strong vinegar presence), so I’d have to proceed with caution. If I make this again this year, I’ll try another recipe. Otherwise, I might just try this recipe again with more salt and broth instead of water, because I did enjoy it.

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