Magazine article Sunset

Chile Classic

Magazine article Sunset

Chile Classic

Article excerpt

Hundreds of crimson heirloom chiles dangle from the eaves of Rancho de Chimayó restaurant, north of Santa Fe. But they're not just for decoration. Janet Malcolm, the kitchen manager (below), plucks them for carne adovada, pork in velvety redchile sauce. "Our guests can't get enough of it," she says. "They eat 300 pounds a week."

Since colonial times, this dish has helped define New Mexico cooking. "The sauce is made almost entirely from native chiles," says Malcolm. Those from Chimayó have developed-over centuries of struggling to grow in the lean soil and high, dry climate- a robust, mellow sweetness that makes them prized throughout the state.

For home cooks, came adovada is a savior: easy (you can do it in a slow-cooker), excellent made ahead, and freezable. It's great in tacos, burritos, and more. And with a few key tips from Malcolm, it's extraordinary.

RANCHO de CHIMAYÓ CARNE ADOVADA

SERVES 6 TO 8 (8 CUPS) / 5 HOURS, PLUS OVERNIGHT TO CHILL

The restaurant serves this dish with longsimmered posole com, stewed pinto beans, and a bit of shredded lettuce and tomato for color. Chimayó chiles can be hard to get and expensive, but more readily available New Mexico chiles, both whole and ground, can be easily swapped in. The dish can also be made in a slowcooker; see footnote for directions.

8 oz. (30 to 35) whole dried New Mexico red chiles, mild to medium heat, or 7 oz. ground dried red New Mexico chiles (about 1 Vi cups)*

1 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil

4 garlic cloves, crushed in a garlic press or minced

2 tbsp. finely chopped yellow onion

1 tbsp. crushed chile pequin

Vi tsp. crumbled dried oregano

About 1 ½ tsp. garlic salt

3 ½ lbs. boneless pork shoulder, as much fat trimmed as possible, meat cut into 2-in. pieces

1. If using whole chiles, preheat oven to 300°. Break stems off chile pods, tear pods open a little, and pull out seeds. "Weor rubber gloves if you are not used to handling chiles," Malcolm advises, since chiles can cause a burning sensation. "A few seeds add more heat, but adding a lot of them can make the sauce crunchy."

2. Put chiles in a 4- to 6-qt. pot, rinse, and drain. Dry pot to use later.

3. Arrange damp chiles in a single layer on two baking sheets and toast in oven until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes (they won't dry completely). Let cool, then break each chile into 2 or 3 pieces. "The time in the oven deepens the flovor, but the toasting probably goes back to cooks who had to grind the chiles by hand. Toasted pods are more brittle and easier to crush,"

4. Make sauce: Warm oil in 6-qt. pot over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. If using preground chiles, sprinkle over garlic, then gradually whisk in 3Vi cups water.

5. If using whole chiles, purée half of them in a blender with 1 ½ cups water until you get a thick, velvety liquid with flecks of chile pulp, about 2 minutes. Pour into pot of garlic. Repeat with remaining pods and another l'A cups water. "Uso 1 more cup of water to rinse out the blender, thon pour it into the pot so you get all the good chile bit«."

6. Stir in onion, chile pequin, oregano, and garlic salt. "The chile pequin, a hotter, smaller red chile, adds heat and texture to the sauce." Bring to a boil over medium heat, covered; then reduce heat, uncover, and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until as thick as fudge sauce. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in pork, making sure all pieces of meat are coated. Cover and chill overnight.

7. The next day, preheat oven to 300°. Bake, covered, until pork is fork-tender and sauce has cooked down, 23A to 3*A hours. …

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