Carne Adobada, Mexican Marinating Magnificence

It’s impossible to say where exactly adobada, (or sometimes, adovada), comes from. Generally, it’s a safe bet that northern Mexico, past and present, is the source. Adobada in Catalan means marinated, which doesn’t give a whole bunch of clues at to what we’re supposed to marinate with. As it turns out, that’s OK though, because however you make it, carne adobada is 100% delicious.

Adobada is popular all over Mexico. In its simplest form, adobada marinade might just include red chiles (powdered or minced), vinegar, and Mexican oregano, while more involved iterations can approach mole in their complexity. It’s arguably most popular in the coastal states south of Puerta Vallarta – Jalisco, Colima, and Michoacan. There the chile power is likely to be a mix of guajillo, ancho, pasilla, or chipotles. Adobada is also wholly embraced by New Mexican cuisine. There, the chile in question will undoubtedly be New Mexican red, AKA Hatch, (varying in power from fairly mild to nuclear, depending upon one’s proclivities.)

Back in the days before refrigeration, the cut up pork most commonly used for the dish might be tossed into a pot with the lactobacillus acidophilus that generates yoghurt. Doing so would aid in preservation, and impart a subtle sour note to the finished dish – That’s likely why modern iterations call for citrus or vinegar in the mix. Ditto for the reason most cooks prefer their adobada chiles con pellejo (with skins) – the chiles either blistered by roasting or, if using dried, toasted during the cooking process – This adds a subtle bitter note that many folks insist is absolutamente necesario for authentic taste.

Truth be told, a lot of marinating came into play because the meats it was working on were less than stellar in quality or condition, (and that’s still true in much of the world.) Here, where we’re privileged to have amazing proteins available pretty much any time, it’s done to add things to the mix, not hide them. Even if we’re building a complex palette of flavors, we want the true flavor of beef, pork, chicken, tofu, or beans to remain notable – That’s achieved by balance in the marinade, and paying attention to the way we cook.

look up adobada on a search engine and you’ll see myriad ways to cook suggested, or even insisted upon. What I believe is necessary is this – The finished product must have a distinct outer crust, almost burnt, (as you’d generate when making great chili or beef stew), while the inside of each chunk needs to be tender and juicy. While some places offer adobada that’s more like a stew, to me that’s just chile colorado – Another thing altogether, really.

Many cooks think there’s only one way to do this, (theirs), but it ain’t necessarily so – You can get there by stove top, or grill, or baking, as you please. For M2¢W, I think a multi-stage cook is in order. Specifically, a relatively low and slow primary cook, followed by a quick, hot seat just prior to serving. That is, in fact, what a fair share of restaurants that offer adobada as I’ve described do. It works great, and it gives you flexibility when you’re short on time.

You can do adobada with any protein you like, (and you should), but you aught to start with pork – That’s the holy grail of the dish. For that, you’ll want around 3 pounds of fresh, boneless shoulder. And for those of you who don’t eat meat, I’m here to tell you this will rock with fresh, firm tofu, or great beans.

So, what I’ll offer here is an amalgam of some Mexican and New Mexican ingredients and techniques that will deliver the goods, and it’s a gas to make too. With this marinade, you can go as long as overnight, but at the very least, let it bathe for a good 4 hours prior to cooking. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can certainly do this in a 325° F oven, (but why would you not have a slow cooker?)

The chiles I used were picked to feed the hybrid theme. None of them are particularly hot, because to me, this dish isn’t designed to burn your face off – It’s meant to provide a pleasant chile buzz as a top note of the marinade. You can use more, or sub hotter varieties as you please, (David Berkowitz? I’m talking about you, Pal.) The same goes for garlic, as you can certainly find adobada so laden with ajo that it’ll be your signature scent for days to come, but to me, that’s not the point – Balance is.

Urban’s Carne Adobada

3 – 3 1/2 Pounds Boneless Pork Shoulder

2-3 Cups low sodium Chicken Stock

1 Cup chile soaking water

1-2 dried Ancho Chiles, seeded

2-3 dried Guajillo Chiles, seeded 

1 dried Chipotle Chile, seeded

1-3 dried New Mexican Red (Hatch) Chiles, seeded

3-5 cloves fresh Garlic

1/2 medium Onion (roughly 1 cup)

1/2 Cup fresh Orange Juice

1/2 Cup Raisins

1/4 Cup live Cider Vinegar

3 Tablespoons Avocado Oil

1 teaspoon Agave Nectar

1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano

1 teaspoon Lemon Thyme

1 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon ground Cumin

2 Bay Leaves

NOTE: in the images here, you’ll see I used some ground, some flake, and some whole chiles – That’s what I had, so that’s what I used. Certainly, the more whole dried you use, the more of that smoky, bitter con pellejo flavor you’ll get into the mix.

Allow a cast iron skillet over high heat to get truly hot.

Remove seeds from chiles, but leave the stems on, (it makes them easier to handle and flip)

Toast chiles, flipping regularly until they start to smoke a bit.

Transfer chiles to a bowl, add bay leaves, and cover well with boiling water. Allow to steep for 30 minutes, until they’re nice and soft.

Put raisins in another small bowl and cover with about 1” of boiling water. Let them steep for the time remaining on the chile soaking clock.

Add unpeeled garlic cloves to the skillet and reduce heat to medium. Toast the garlic, flipping regularly, until the skin is scorched and the cloves are notably soft, about 5-8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

While that’s going on, cut your pork shoulder into roughly 1” steaks and trim excess fat. Shoulder has plenty of interstitial fat, so remove any really big hunks and obvious silver skin, but don’t go overboard – Pork fat is good.

When your chiles are ready, drain them, and reserve the soaking water – Just make sure you check the heat level so you know what you’re dealing with. You can chuck the bay leaves.

Remove the stems from your reconstituted chiles, mince them, then toss them into a blender vessel. 

Peel the garlic and add that, along with 2 cups of the chicken stock, the orange juice, the drained raisins (don’t need to save that soaking liquid), the vinegar, a tablespoon of avocado oil, a pinch of salt, the agave nectar, and the ground cumin.

Cover and pulse all that until you get a nice mix. There will be some chunks of this and that still, which is just fine.

Arrange your pork in a baking dish and pour in all the marinade. Lift each piece of pork to make sure you get marinade on the undersides of each piece.

Cover the pan with metal foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

When you’re ready to cook – 

Peel and trim and dice onion.

Remove pork from baking dish and arrange in slow cooker – Leave the lion’s share of the marinade in the baking dish.

Add the reserved chile soaking water to the marinade, along with a pinch of salt, the oregano, and lemon thyme. Stir all that to incorporate, and then pour it all into the slow cooker. Add the diced onion on top and cover.

You can cook on low, medium, or high as you’ve got time for – Lower and slower is better, but they’ll all do just fine. Cook until the pork is fork tender, which on our pot means anywhere from 4 to 8 hours.

When you’re ready to serve, heat 2 tablespoons of avocado oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat. 

Add as much pork as you want for the meal to the skillet and let it cook, unflipped, until it develops a nice dark crust, about 3-5 minutes. Flip once to get the other side.

Transfer pork to a serving platter.

Serve with fresh, warm tortillas, pico de gallo, pickled onions/chiles/radishes, crema, lime wedges, and maybe some queso fresco or cotija, and cold, cold Mexican beer.


Monica had two quotes after this meal that I’ll share here – 

‘This is better than anything we’ve ever had a Mexican restaurant,’ and

‘You’ve bested me in slow cooker pork.’ 

Coming from her, that’s fairly amazing, so – Just sayin’…

This post is dedicated to the late, great food writer Jonathan Gold. There’s a guy who knew how to write about food. His love, passion, humor, and vast knowledge always shown through, and damn, could he write great last lines. Thanks man, you’re missed, but never forgotten.

Real Deal Wild Rice

Rice is a delightful main, side, or primary ingredient year round, but shines best in the warm months, when cold rice-powered salads enter the fray. And if you’re going to make those, then wild rice should be your grass of choice.

Real deal wild rice is absolutely fabulous – the combination of flavor, texture, scent, and visual appeal is unrivaled – and it pairs wonderfully with many more delicious things. Wild rice, (manoomin (Mah-new-min) in Ojibwe), stems from the genus Zizania – which would be a swell band name, I think… That’s quite different from its kissing cousin Oryza, which gives us domesticated rice varieties.

Wild rice is an aquatic grass native to North America and China – the best known species is Z. palustris, the northern version that grows in lake and stream shallows across the U. S. and Canada, with a sweet spot in the Great Lakes region. There are other variants in Florida and Texas, and one in Asia (Z. latifolia). The stuff we like to eat is pretty much palustris, with some Z. aquatica along the Saint Lawrence river and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

While domesticated rices are certainly tasty, and can be extraordinary, (try Carolina Gold if you’ve not), they pale when compared to wild. Couple the richer palette of flavor notes and scents with a slightly al dente outer layer surrounding creamy inner grains, and you’ve got a little slice of culinary heaven. 

Now, caveat emptor, because there is ‘wild rice’ and real deal wild rice. The former is, in fact, paddy rice – it’s the right species, but grown in manmade fields and mechanically harvested. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, paddy rice has to be labeled as a commercial product, even if it’s called wild rice – and a fair share of this stuff may be GMO as well. If what you get is darn near black and takes 45 minutes to an hour to cook, it’s probably paddy rice. If it’s light brown and cooks up in 15 to 25, it’s the real deal – and yes, without a doubt, it’s worth finding. Paddy rice pales in comparison to real deal. If you don’t know someone to source from, then without fail, get some directly from the Ojibwe people here – Getting genuine wild rice from folks who know how to properly harvest and process is critical to assuring best quality, and to help protect future crops.

Real deal wild rice grows where it sows and is traditionally harvested by hand, usually in late summer. It’s generally a two person job, with one poling the canoe while the other, (the Ricer), handles the harvesting. Here’s a wonderful video that details the entire process. Proper drying/parching is as critical as harvesting – do this right, and the rice can be stored and enjoyed long term. Manoomin is a sacred, critical food source for the tribes that manage and depend on it, as they have for thousands of years. As David notes in the video, proper respect and reverence for this gift is something we all must give. This video from PBS details the environmental pressures that threaten Manoomin in Minnesota.

So, now that we know, what are we gonna make with this lovely stuff? Your first go needs to be just the rice, in all its glory. Don’t get caught up thinking this is a side dish – wild rice is a complete protein sporting nine essential amino acids. It’s lower in fat and higher in fiber than its cousins, and is a great source of potassium and zinc as well. Cook it in stock or broth and enjoy. Add fresh herbs or spices as you see fit, drizzle it with hazelnut or walnut oil. It’s a meatless meal you won’t regret.

When you do gussy it up, you’ll find affinities for citrus, poultry, scallions, really good vinegar, and cheese – especially feta. Wild rice shines in cold salads with tangy vinaigrettes and pickled vegetables, or crisp apple, crunchy celery and fennel. It makes a superlative stuffing, with shallots and rosemary. Pair it with slivers of prosciutto, or even better, game sausage, frisée or rocket (which I like to call Werewolf Lettuce – you know, Arooooogula?), and a chiffonade of fresh sage leaves. Try Greek oregano, Greek olive oil, and pine nuts. And yeah, if ya wanna do what everybody and their dogs do, you can add dried fruit and/or almonds…

Cooking wild rice can be done stove top, rice cooker or InstaPot – given how rare and precious this stuff is, I always opt for the former method – that lets me keep an eye on things throughout. No matter how you cook, you should rinse your rice first. Put it in a big mixing bowl and add plenty of cold water. Swish things around, and you’ll see the water grow cloudy. Pour that off and repeat a few times until your runoff is fairly clear – this reduces the excess starch that sticks to the outside of the grains.

Better yet, soak your wild rice prior to cooking – that’ll notably reduce cooking time. Soaking also helps remove phytic acid that can hinder nutrient absorption, and helps to break down some of the harder to digest constituents of the rice grains. Use that big mixing bowl, cover the rice with an inch or two of water, cover the bowl and allow it to sit at room temp for 1-3 hours – any longer than that and your grains will burst prior to cooking.

Rice to water ratios for cooking are as follows

Stove Top – 1:4 rice to water

Rice Cooker – 1:2 rice to water

InstaPot – 1:1.25 rice to water 

For stove top, bring water or stock to a brisk simmer, then add the rinsed/soaked rice.

Allow to return to a brisk simmer, then reduce to maintain that, uncovered.

Simmer until the outer layer of the grains is nicely al dente and the insides are creamy, and most of the water or stock is absorbed.

Drain rice, return to the cooking vessel and cover.

Allow rice to sit for 10 minutes, then serve hot, or allow to cool to room temp if making cold salads.

Here’s a simple, deceptively delicious cold salad we absolutely love, by it’s lonely or as an accompaniment.

Note: Pineapple vinegar adds a really nice touch to this, and many other things – Here’s how you can make your own.

Urban Wild Rice with Artichoke Hearts and Sun-dried Tomato

Makes 1 main dish or 4 side dishes

2 Cups cooked Wild Rice

1/2 Cup Sun-dried Tomato

1/2 Cup Marinated Artichoke Hearts

1 fresh Scallion

2 Tablespoons Pine Nuts

4 Tablespoons Avocado Oil

2 Tablespoons Pineapple Vinegar (Apple Cider Vinegar is fine)

Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper to taste

Fresh Parsley to garnish

With a fork, portion tomatoes and artichoke hearts onto paper towels and allow to drain, then pat dry.

Rinse, end trim, and cut scallion into 1/4” rounds.

In a small skillet over medium low heat, add the pine nuts and toss, stirring steadily until fragrant and golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Don’t ever let ‘em out of your sight – they’ll burn in a heartbeat, and they ain’t cheap.

Combine oil and vinegar, a two finger pinch of salt and 3-5 twists of pepper in a non-reactive bowl, whisk to thoroughly incorporate.

In a salad bowl, add rice, tomatoes, artichoke hearts and scallions. 

Add the dressing and toss to throughly coat.

Add pine nuts and parsley and devour.

If there’s quite a bit of time before you’re serving this salad, wait to dress – otherwise the wild rice will absorb the dressing quite greedily.

Garden Status Report

Wherever you live, you can grace your place with a garden to some degree if you want to. Our parcel is really small, but we take full advantage of what we have. There’s just about zero grass here – everything is dedicated to gardens and landscaping.

I started out front and did, ah… a little weeding. Our youngest kid recently moved out, leaving us blissful empty nesters – but that kid lions share of garden design, construction, and upkeep – so that’s now fallen to me. Weeding is very zen-like, and I love it, as you can see…

M still handles the veggies and flowers – I don’t think she quite trusts me with that yet. When I was checking things out this weekend, I found those potatoes I planted a couple weeks back looking very good indeed.

The sheer volume of volunteers we have from years past is an absolute gas as well. The strawberries, celery, cilantro, onions, garlic, and snap peas all showed up again on their own, and I couldn’t be happier.

Herbs are pretty much self regulating, albeit we do keep them trimmed back to a dull roar.

there’s nothing better than stopping your meal prep to step outside and cut what you need as fresh as fresh gets. Whether you go whole hog or just have a little pot or two, you’ll find the same joy in growing your own.

Mignonette Ain’t Just for Shellfish

Are you a raw oyster fan? If so, chances are good you’ve tried sauce mignonette. This brilliantly simple concoction adds a perfect tangy, bright note to shellfish. Look this stuff up, and you quickly find that the buck literally stops right there – Google alternate uses for mignonette, and you get next to nothing. I have no idea why that’s the case, because mignonette is fantastic on a bunch of other stuff as well.

Classic Mignonette

A classic mignonette is a paean to simplicity. Just three ingredients – red wine vinegar, shallot, and black peppercorns are all it takes to make the magic happen. With three fairly potent constituents, proper ingredient ratio is critical to preparing great sauce  – for every quarter cup of wine vinegar, you add a tablespoon of shallot and a two to three twists of pepper, about a quarter teaspoon. Combine, let them sit for a bit to marry, and you’re there. 

Tweak things a bit, and you have a whole bunch more options. Change the vinegar to white wine, champagne, cider, sherry, or balsamic – or mix vinegar 50%-50% with wine or fresh fruit juices. Change shallot to sweet onion, or red, or white, or go wild and sub jalapeño or serrano chiles. Change black peppercorns to a fragrant 4 pepper blend, or Tasmanian pepperberry, grains of paradise, or Szechuan. Each variant reveals entirely new flavor notes and combinations – find yours, name it, and share it.

Damn near any simply prepared fresh fish will pair nicely with mignonette, as will chicken, pork, extra firm tofu, and sautéed veggies. Below you’ll find a solid basic recipe to start playing with as well as a great twist for hot summer months, a mignonette granita – freezing and shaving the mix intensifies the sauce, (at least to my palate) – Allow a generous spoonful of that to melt on top of freshly grilled fish or poultry at table side, and you’ve got a truly lovely treat.

Classic Mignonette 

1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

1 packed Tablespoon minced Shallot

2-3 twists Telicherry Pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon)

Combine all ingredients in a small, non-reactive bowl and whisk to thoroughly incorporate.

Allow to marry at room temp for at least 15 minutes before serving. The longer you allow for marriage time, the better your overall incorporation – you can’t really go overboard in that regard.

Lemon Mignonette Granita

NOTE – Works great with lime, blood orange, tangerine, grapefruit, or pineapple too.

1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

1/4 Cup fresh Lemon Juice

2 packed Tablespoons Minced Shallot

5-6 Telicherry Peppercorns, crushed or ground

1/4 teaspoon sugar

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and bring to a vigorous simmer for about 30 seconds.

Remove from heat, pour sauce into a non-reactive bowl and allow to cool to room temp. 

Pour cooled sauce through a single mesh strainer into a freezer safe pan or dish with a flat bottom.

Place in freezer for 2-3 hours until well frozen, scraping the sauce down with a fork every hour to to keep it shaved.

Serve in a small, well chilled bowl.

Grow Your Own Spuds

It’s been a cold, wet Spring up here in the Pacific Northwet, but it looks like the tide is turning. It’s a gorgeous, blue sky day, temp near 70°, everything budding out, birds and bees all happily going about their business. A lot of things have started late, from Tulips in the Skagit valley to stuff in our garden.

There’s a lot of joy in growing your own spuds – it’s a relatively simple process, they do well all over the place, and there are a bunch of unique and heirloom varieties that produce from early to late. Heck, they’re native to the Andes – chances are they’ll do just fine at your place. Normally, we’d see seed potatoes for sale in March, and look to plant spuds when the soil temp hangs around 40° F and frosts are pretty much done for – that time came quite a bit later this year.

So off I went off to see what seed spuds I could find. Check out co-ops, farmers markets, and choose firm, healthy looking seed spuds with a bunch of eyes on them. For a smaller garden, 4-6 each of two or three varieties will do the trick. We ended up with two purple varieties, Magic Molly and Purple Majesty, and Austrian Crescent, a lovely yellow fingerling.

Once you bring your bounty home, it’s time to chit them – in essence, this just means placing them inside, in an indirectly sunny spot to allow them to sprout. You can also just wait until a couple of days before planting and cut them into roughly 2” chunks, each with at least a couple of eyes – that’s how they’ll go into their new digs, and they’ll do their sprouting underground. Either way works fine.

Decide where you’re going to plant with an eye for good drainage and full sun (or purty near). As such, a lot of folks make potato towers or cages above ground. You can start these well ahead, filled with compost and good quality top soil, then topped with straw once your plants are established. We’ve grown this way with great success, and also in half barrels, as we opted for this year. Just make sure you leave room for hilling – adding soil throughout the growth season.

Plant your seed spud chunks about 8” apart and around 4” deep. As your plants grow, you’ll want to hill ‘em – add soil and straw two or three times during the growing season, a couple inches per add, shoveled right onto the main stems of each plant, leaving just a crown of green leaves above soil level.

Harvesting depends on what varieties you’ve chosen – there are new potatoes and storage potatoes, and the differences are pretty self explanatory. New potatoes can be harvested and enjoyed around 55 days after planting – when you see flowers on your NP plants, gently dig in and see whatcha got. Storage spuds are harvested late, after the plants have died and dried, often right up to or just past first frost.

Some folks harvest and store in the equivalent of root cellar conditions, (cool and not too moist), and others leave storage spuds in the ground and harvest when we want to enjoy them. There is something deeply satisfying about heading out in crisp, fall weather to dig a few gorgeous spuds from your garden. Once you taste what you’ve grown, you’ll be hooked – eating them fresh from the ground is a fabulous experience.

Roots Teriyaki

Yesterday was serendipitous, in teriyaki terms. First off, I received a message noting that someone poking about here couldn’t find a recipe for teriyaki marinade. I was sure there was one, right up until when I poked around and couldn’t find one either. 692 posts over 13 years, and I never wrote about teriyaki? Wow – time to fix that.

Teriyaki is Japanese in origin, and its roots stretch back hundreds of years. At heart, it’s a blend of  sake or mirin, soy sauce, and a sugar. Done right, it’s a perfect tangy balance of sour, salty and sweet – and that balance is the key.

Nowadays, there are myriad variations on the theme, but it’s those roots I’m most interested in. Teriyaki can be done very well with just three ingredients. If you’re diving in to making your own, you should start there. Oh, and come to think of it, it’s grilling season again, too – serendipity redux.

Starting simple doesn’t mean you’ll stay there – in fact I encourage you not to. I’m sure you’ll find a three ingredient version that you really dig and do again and again – there’s a soul satisfying quality to teriyaki made this way. That said, there are lots of other things you should experiment with – Lemon, lime, pineapple, yuzu, sudachi, mandarin orange, ginger, garlic, and chiles come to mind. So long as you keep the ratio of ingredients properly balanced, you’ll love the results.

Ratios lie at the heart of cooking, and teriyaki is no exception. Starting with the three ingredient version, you’ll want 4:2:1 for acid, soy sauce, and sweetener. If you’re looking to marinate a couple pounds of protein, (chicken, beef, pork, fish, extra firm tofu, or veggies), you might go with this

Roots Teriyaki

1 Cup Sake or Rice Vinegar 

1/2 Cup Soy Sauce 

1/4 Cup Agave Nectar 

Thoroughly whisk all three ingredients with a fork, and let them sit for about 15 minutes to get acquainted, then marinate for at least an hour, and as long as 3 hours – Note that fish and tofu should marinate for 15 to 20 minutes, tops. Yes, I know some folks swear by overnight, etc, but – there’s a lot of acid in this sauce, and if you go too long, it’s going to alter the texture of your protein in unpleasant ways.

Seen recipes out there that call for cooking the sauce? That’s done because granulated sugars simply will not dissolve in room temperature acid/soy mixes. If you want to use granulated sugars, you’ll need to simmer your sauce over medium low heat for about 5-7 minutes to dissolve the sugar completely. Cool to room temp before deploying. 

If you’re adding ginger, garlic, chiles, etc – start small. For the base recipe above, a half teaspoon of minced, fresh will deliver the flavor notes without overwhelming the balance of the sauce.

Now, variety – change the acid, see what you think. Sake versus mirin or rice vinegar, and different varieties of same. Switch to citrus or pineapple and you’re in a whole other ballpark. Go way out in left field and try Chinese black vinegar, or balsamic, and you’re in another world altogether.

Change the soy sauce from koikuchi shoyu (dark) to usukuchi shoyu (light), shiro shoyu (white), tamari shoyu, or saishikomi shoyu (twice-brewed). Try Chinese, Thai or Korean soy sauces – whole nuther show there.

A note on Mirin – when you find and try the good stuff, it’s revelatory. Unfortunately, most of what you find in general grocery stores is crap – a pale shadow of the real thing with a bunch of preservatives added. If you have a good Asian grocery nearby, you can get the good stuff, and you should. Real mirin is slightly less alcoholic than sake, and subtly sweet/savory in flavor – it’s a vital ingredient in a lot of Japanese cooking, and it’s absolutely worth it.

Why Agave nectar for the sweetener? Because it‘s a light, neutral flavor and a decent coater/thickener, and makes teriyaki production super easy. For a more authentic option, ask for Mizuame (also known as Millet Jelly), or black sugar syrup (there’s a bunch of makers) at your local Asian grocery. You can use honey or maple syrup as well, with very intriguing results. 

Have some fun, come up with what you dig most, and then call it yours.