By the time I got to my dear friends home in Puebla, I was ready to start cooking. So we threw a party. What better way to get feedback on your creations? It was also a wonderful opportunity to hear the stories of food, family, and community that every person formed from this culture seems to hold. And this was my excuse to explore the Adobo and the markets.
An Adobo is one of the fundamental types of sauces in Mexican cuisine. It varies greatly in flavour, colour, and thickness, but the basic structure of the dish is made up of dried chiles (a combination or selection of Guajillo, Ancho, Pasilla), tomatoes, spices, and vinegar. In this sauce the meat (or tofu/beans/lentils if you prefer) is marinated and then cooked long and slow. Traditionally, adobos are cooked in a cazuela, which is a clay pot said to improve the flavour as it retains sazón over the years. Pork and chicken are the most common meats to find in this dish. It is common to serve the dish with finely chopped onions and lime and accompany it with rice, beans (refried or whole) and of course tortillas.
When making an adobo you want to keep a few things in mind…
1. The flavour before and after cooking the adobo changes a lot! The bitterness of the chiles will transform into a deep flavour that is cut by the vinegar and the warmth of the meat cooked in the sauce.
2. Use meat with bones on it. Incase you didn’t know, these have huge amounts of flavour and nutrition to add to your dish. Also use real pig lard if you can; real flavour, real nutrition. Watch for my coming rant on why we should be eating more pig lard and less processed oil and ugh margarine.
3. Add your final salting at the end….cause otherwise, ouch the reduction of the sauce can leave you with a super salty dish.
4. Processing the dried chiles is the bedrock talent of this dish. If you burn them…start over.
5. There are two basic preparation methods. The first includes browning the meat and then marinating it. The second is to cook the meat in a stock which will be incorporated into the sauce. I have included a recipe using each method below. Each of these recipes also features different flavour profiles. The first is my own take after much experimentation and feedback. The second is inspired by a cookbook and altered by my own taste
- 18 guajillo chiles (the thiner ones have less heat kick to them)
- 5 ancho chiles
- 3 Pasilla chiles
- 1 medium head of roasted garlic
- 12 roasted roma tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp of dried oregano
- 2 tsp powdered cumin
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 5 laurel leaves
- 12 fresh avocado tree leaves or more if they are dried
- 1 Tbsp of white vinegar
- 1 Tbsp salt
- meat with bone: pig or chicken is best. This quantity of sauce is enough for 10 meat portions.
- Pig lard or oil.
1. Process the chiles. This is an important process to understand how to do many dishes in Mexican cuisine. It is an art, but we all can start somewhere.
Step A. Remove all the seeds and veins, and any of the stem. You only want the leathery beauty of the chile itself. I have found using scissors for this very useful.
Step B. Heat a small bit of oil of choice in a fry pan. Use an oil that won’t carry a flavour…grapeseed is always my personal choice because it is flavourless and is happy at high temperatures (doesn’t turn carcinogenic like some others). Heat the pan to medium high heat.
Step C. At the same time have a pot of soft boiling water ready.
Step D. A few at a time, fry the chiles. Use tongs and turn and remove, putting in the pot of water. Be very careful not to burn them. You are aiming to cook them about 10 seconds or less. You only want to release the flavour, golden them…but it is so easy to burn them, and if this happens start again.
Step E. Cook the chiles in the water a few minutes to soften. Reserve the liquid
2. Roast the tomatoes and garlic. If you have a gas stove just roast the tomatoes over direct flame and the garlic in a dry pan. If not you can do it in the oven (cover the tomatoes and garlic in a touch of oil). Don’t worry about peeling…your going to liquify and strain them anyways.
3. Toast the avocado and laurel leaves in a dry pan, about 15 seconds each side.
4. Liquify everything together. Add liquid that the chiles were cooked in as needed. You want a sauce that is liquid but not watery. It will cook down with time
5. Brown the meat on high heat quickly. Add to adobo and marinate.
6. Remove meat. Heat a few tablespoons of pig lard in your pot on medium heat. Add the sauce. Cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.
7. Add the meat. Turn the heat to low…as low as possible. Cover so a little bit of steam can leave, check on it from time to time and stir. Add more liquid as necessary, but in the end the sauce should be thick.
8. Cook for several hours. The meat should be at the point of falling apart soft. Add the final salt adjustment.
- 2 kg of pork with bone
- 1 white onion cut in 4
- 1 garlic head split up
- 4 liters of water
- 3 tsp salt
- 16 guajillo chiles
- 4 ancho chiles
- 4 roma tomatoes
- 1/2 white onion
- 15 garlic cloves pealed
- 2 tsp of cumin seed
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp black pepper seed
- 4 cloves seed
- 3 Tbsp pig fat
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 Tbsp white vinegar
1. In a large pot add the meat, onion, garlic, water, salt and bring to a soft boil to make a stock. Continue to cook until the meat is soft (an hour or so).
2. Process the chiles, but add the chiles to the stock for its last 10 minutes to soften.
3. Separate out the meat and chiles and strain the stock.
4. Roast the tomatoes, onion, and garlic. If you have a gas stove just roast the tomatoes over direct flame and the garlic in a dry pan. If not you can do it in the oven (cover the tomatoes and garlic in a touch of oil). Don’t worry about peeling…your going to liquify and strain anyways.
5. Liquify the roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic. Strain.
6. Separately, liquify the chiles. Add stock as needed. The sauce should be thick but be strained with encouragement. Strain.
7. In a dry pan, dry roast the cumin, pepper, and clove. The idea is that the pan is on a high medium heat, you add the seeds and keep them moving by shaking the pan. Cook for about 30 seconds and remove from the pan right away. Turn them into powder in your preferred method.
8. Add the pig fat to the pot of choice (deep with thick bottom are important features) on medium heat. Add the liquified and strained chile sauce. Reduce heat and let bubble for 15 minutes.
9. Add the tomato sauce, the spices. Cook until reduced a little.
10. Add the meat, wine, vinegar, and 3 cups of the stock. Put a cover on that lets out a little steam. Either cook on a low flame for 2.5 hours or in the oven for an hour on low.
11. Add the final salting at the end.