I really do love pork loin.
It’s remarkably easy to use, normally it’s quite cheap and easy to trim up, and it’s mild enough that you can season the heck out of it and use it to showcase any flavor you find enticing based on any number of your chosen limitations. It’s a meat that is entirely complimentary with any other ingredient. For instance, you can slather apple butter all over it and make a lovely apple spiced pork loin. You can chop up seasonal herbs and spices and rub them all over the pork loin, and slow roast it to impart the flavor of the herbs over every ounce of meat. Or, if you live in New Mexico, you can cube it up and marinate it in red chili sauce to make carne adovada.
Begin salivating… NOW.
Carne Adovada has been a staple in my house for as long as I can remember. Growing up, every Christmas Eve the family would bring crock pots full of their specialties – beans, chili con queso, pick your poison – but Nana would always make the posole and the carne adovada. Honestly, before she died I felt it would be an insult to offer to make the carne adovada, but now that she’s gone, I feel it’s my obligation to make the best possible carne adovada I can in homage to her. It’s funny how that stuff changes once the people who matter to you are gone, and maybe it doesn’t make any sense, but oh well. Nana, this one’s for you.
You can make carne adovada out of almost every kind of pork you can think of, provided you’re able to cube it up properly. However, as I mentioned before, I really love pork loin. It’s very easy to trim up and, again, it’s complimentary to almost any spice you can imagine – hot, sweet, herbal, it doesn’t matter. Pork’s got you covered.
Still, most of my family tends to disagree with me on this because I have always preferred the lean pork loin to other cuts. Most of my family uses pork shoulder for their carne, and while I don’t take issue with this, I honestly feel the less fatty pork cuts make for the best carne adovada. The matter is, admittedly, one of personal preference, so to keep it simple, here’s how you decide what you want to use: Your pork loin will hold up better as cubes and your more marbled, fatty cuts of pork will shred easier. I like the chunks, so I use pork loin.
One more thing about my oft-called “unusual” New Mexican dishes… I almost never pair my dishes with beans. I know, I know, this is sacrilegious. I actually love beans and I will eat them day in and day out. They’re a fantastic source of protein and fiber, they take almost no thought to prepare, and they’re freaking delicious, but they can hold their own. I love bean and cheese burritos, but if you throw beans in a carne adovada burrito they distract from the carne. So I use papas and, if I’m feeling particularly overzealous, Spanish rice.
I’ve always been a fan of Spanish rice, even as a kid. It was one of my favorite sides when Dad managed a Mexican restaurant, and it’s one of the dishes I enjoy because there’s no real traditional recipe to it. It’s rice, onions, and any other veggies you want all simmered together. It’s lovely, but it leaves so much room for expansion! For my rice, I always add roasted peppers and tons of garlic, in this case poblanos and a green bell pepper, but you can really add any veggies you want. I had leftover squash, so I quartered and sliced that as well. My point is, anything you throw in there will be delicious… also, papas are potatoes, and potatoes go well with anything.
In closing, I’d just like to say that there’s something incredibly comforting about New Mexican food. I feel like some people are scared of the spiciness, and thus they begin to panic whenever anyone offers to cook for them… but it doesn’t always have to be the case. I’ll admit I enjoy the spice, and I love when something’s so hot my nose starts running and my mouth is tender and on fire for a few days. That, to me, is culinary LOVE.
But it’s almost always manageable. For my carne adovada, I made a red chili sauce out of a full QUART of extra hot red chile puree. Not a single person complained it was too hot, and not a single person (besides myself) was a New Mexico native.
So get out there, embrace the spice, and make a mess in your kitchen. It’s always an experience. Tienes hambre?