Carne Adovada is a spicy, flavorful, pork dish slow-cooked in a traditional adobo, or marinade. It originated in New Mexico as a way to preserve meat before refrigeration.
The first time Tom had Carne Adovada it was in Phoenix, Arizona, at Los Dos Molinos, a restaurant that specializes in New Mexican–style cuisine. They served the meat in burritos and also made ribs in the same sauce. Tom was hooked immediately!
Later, on a trip to New Mexico, we tried it at four or five places in Santa Fe, Chimayo, and Albuquerque. Every version was a little different and even though we enjoyed them all, we preferred the Carne Adovada at Los Dos Molinos.
Tom tried recreating the Adovada a few times in Arizona with mixed results; we always went back to Los Dos Molinos for the “gold standard.” Once we moved to Ireland there was no way to have Carne Adovada other than to make it at home. Luckily we had plenty of dried New Mexican chiles that had been shipped over in our container. Tom finally came up with a version that we felt was at least as good as or perhaps better than the restaurant. In fact we’re sure it’s the best in Ireland.
When we decided to attempt Carne Adovada sous vide, we were skeptical that it could be as good as the recipe we’d developed. In our original, the meat is dusted in flour and browned. For the sous vide version, we did one batch with browned meat and a second without the browning, where we just added the raw meat to the sauce before bagging. We were concerned that the sauce would not thicken without the flour and the flavor would not be as good without the initial caramelization.
Boy, were we surprised! The version with the meat that had not been browned was much better, and the sauce had thickened up nicely. The texture of the meat in both cases was superior and much more tender than the traditional braised version. From now on we’ll be making our Carne Adovada sous vide: much less work, better flavor, and more time to enjoy a Margarita!
We toast the chiles prior to soaking them in hot water. You could skip this step but I feel that the toasted chiles give the final dish more depth of flavor. As for the chiles, I use a mixture of 15 hot and 10 mild, so there’s some heat but it is not overwhelming. Feel free to adjust to your taste.
You can eat the meat as a stew, garnished with some grated cheese and sliced green onions, and served with hot tortillas. Or you can make it into burritos, smothered in sauce, sprinkled with cheese, and heated in a conventional oven to melt the cheese.
Serves 8 as a stew or about 12 when rolled into burritos
- Preheat the water bath to 176°F (80°C).
- To prepare the chiles, slice them open and remove the seeds. Rinse the seeded chiles under running water. Place each chile on a heated comal or skillet for about 5 seconds per side. I use a hand potato masher to press down on the chiles for quick and even browning. When smoke first appears it is time to turn the chile; be careful not to burn. Place the toasted chiles in a bowl large enough to hold them all. Add boiling water to cover the chiles and soak them until softened, about 20 minutes.
- Drain the chiles and add to a blender jar (a blender works much better than a food processor for this step) along with the onion, chopped garlic, oregano, salt, garlic powder, and 1 cup of the chicken stock. Blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick to blend easily, you can add a little more stock or water.
- To remove any bits of skin left after blending, transfer the mixture to a food mill or strainer. Use the remaining ½ cup of stock to loosen any sauce still in the blender jar; add this liquid to the strainer as well and strain into a large bowl. Stir in the red pepper flakes.
- Add the meat cubes to the sauce. Divide the meat and sauce equally between two large food bags and seal using the water displacement method.
- Cook for 12 hours.
- Serve the Carne Adovada in heated bowls with warm flour tortillas, garnished with a little grated cheese and some sliced onion if desired. To serve as burritos, place about a cup of meat on a flour tortilla, roll up the tortilla, and place in a baking dish; repeat until you’ve got the number of servings desired. Cover the burritos with sauce, sprinkle with grated cheese, and bake in a conventional oven at 350°F until heated through, about 15 or 20 minutes.
Note: If you’re not serving the Carne Adovada immediately, quick-chill the bags in an ice and water bath, consisting of at least 50% ice, to rapidly reduce the temperature to 34°F. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.