An inspiration for this recipe came from two unexpected directions. My friend, pastry chef Diana, mentioned her based on sweet Spanish coca seasonal hit with candied pumpkin and pine nuts. The day I processed half of my Cinderella pumpkin for this dessert, we were invited for dinner — our neighbors threw a party for their visiting Puerto-Rican relatives. To my surprise, among other delicacies, I found chunks of candied pumpkin served as an appetizer to pair with queso fresco. My neighbor explained it was seasonal and traditional calabaza en tacha. I ran home to bring my version to share, and we were enjoying them side by side. While Latin American candied pumpkin is darker, sweeter, spicier, and made of whole or big chanks, Diana’s is grated, doesn’t use any spices, elegantly citrusy, and light. If you stop on earlier stages, pumpkin flavor will be recognizable. If you continue until most of the moisture is evaporated, your guests won’t be able to say what this treat is made of. I’ve heard people comparing it to other fruit from apricot to quince.
To cook 4 pounds of pork using traditional method, we need 4 pounds of fat. For people who count calories, it sounds really, really scary! Since so many people swear old school carnitas are the best and I call my kitchen a lab, I tried different cooking methods to see for myself. I slowly cooked larger and smaller pieces of pork in the oven, in croc pot, in a pot of lard, etc. Then I found Chef Roberto Santibañez’s recipe and that was the end of my search. I am a big fan of slow cooking and I am not afraid of fat, but for my taste these carnitas are the best.
every passionate cook insists on developing their own, perfect to their taste recipe. Where all these marinade variations come from? What was at the beginning? Now that we know about basic adobo, let’s compare ingredients, shall we?
In Mexican cuisine, adobo is a dark red, flavorful paste made from ground chiles. Some herbs, spices, and acidic ingredients (e.g., citrus juice or vinegar) are added. It can be used as a marinade and as cooking or serving sauce. The word adobado is an adjective to describe dishes where adobe is used as cooking sauce. Adobo heat level depends on chiles used for making it. Ancho Adobo is very mild. A combination of Ancho and Chipotle Meco is my favorite.
Green chile peppers are known for their tough skin. They are usually charred to peeled it away. Seeds and membranes should also be removed. Only then peppers are ready for using them in final dishes. Unfortunately, charred peppers often loose their shape and wholeness and can’t be used for stuffing with raw ingredients. In Nuevo Tex-Mex cookbook, David Garrido and Robb Walsh mention another traditional way to prep chili peppers for stuffing — softening them in hot water for 20 minutes. Some cooks go even further by adding some piloncillo (raw cane sugar), apple cider vinegar, and salt to make a hot brine for peppers. Precooking peppers in salty and acidic water helps to preserve color, lowers heat level, and makes it easier to clean seeds and membranes.
In Hatch cooking classes, we stuffed Hatch peppers with carnitas and roasted them to serve with green Mexican rice. Stuffing them with lean Angus beef and hot smoking with hickory chips seamed the next obvious step. Delicious!
I finally made this soup for the first time and it proved my every expectation! The only modification to the original recipe was replacing yellow bell peppers with charred hatch. I also added 1/3 cup balled watermelon. Amazing! I highly recommend the cookbook, this cold soup, and Texas Hill Country in August!