The many incarnations of carne adovada found in New Mexico are united by one dominant ingredient: glossy red, coarsely crushed sun-dried chilies.
The Sunday Recipe:
After more than a dozen heartburn-inducing stops around the state, I understood the secret lay in its simplicity: load up on the richly flavored chilies and don’t overcomplicate it. I traveled last spring to New Mexico to learn the secrets of one of their state dishes, a hearty pork-and-chili stew called Carne Adovada.
Our easy recipe uses a full 6 ounces of dried chilies (3 ounces each New Mexico and guajillo, which you’ll find in the Latin section of most supermarkets or in our online store). Look for glossy, pliable-looking chilies, give them a rinse to wash away dust and grit, and then toast them in a dry skillet. This recipe makes an abundant eight servings, plenty for a night’s dinner and leftovers for the week ahead.
During the Week...
Adovada Burritos: For burritos, treat the tortilla right. Warm them in a large cast-iron skillet and put the cheese down first to ensure it melts. There’s nothing worse than a burrito with unmelted cheese. Pile high with regular rice or cilantro rice, carne adovada and beans, then roll tight and serve with salsa on the side. Make sure to buy large burrito-sized tortillas; otherwise you’ll need more than one burrito per serving.
Quesadillas: For quesadillas, chop the adovada fine, then mix in a little of the cilantro rice to absorb excess liquid. Then sandwich the meat into a tortilla with a smooth-melting cheese, like zippy Pepper Jack. Cook the quesadillas in a large skillet over medium heat, lightly oiled to prevent sticking and enhance browning. Before adding the quesadillas, sprinkle the pan with salt and pepper and, if you have it, a little ancho chili powder. The spices will toast on the outside of the tortilla as the quesadilla browns, adding an extra level of flavor. Pair with a simple cabbage slaw or crisp green salad embellished with pumpkin seeds, thin-sliced radish and orange.
Adovada Migas: There’s Spanish migas made with stale bread and then there’s Austin-style migas made with tortilla chips. It’s usually served for breakfast or brunch, but its perfect for a nearly instant dinner adaptable to whatever you might have in the fridge. Sauté diced onion in olive oil a large skillet over medium until softened. If you like, add pickled or roasted green chilies (canned work just fine). Meanwhile, whip up 8 to 10 eggs with a little salt (remember, the tortilla chips are salted, so go easy), pepper, a few splashes of your favorite hot sauce, and a handful of grated Monterey Jack or smoked mozzarella. Add a little chopped garlic to the pan, then pour in the eggs and, stirring constantly, fold in handfuls of tortilla chips and chopped adovada meat. Once the eggs are set, transfer to plates and top with chopped cilantro or oregano and serve with your favorite salsa or hot sauce. It may look like a dog’s breakfast, but it’ll be your favorite meal all week.
It can be hard to remember to soak dried beans the night before cooking. Cookbook author Joan Nathan told us she soaks beans immediately after bringing them home from the store, then stores them in the freezer for future use. They can go straight from the freezer into the pot, no cooking adjustments necessary. Soak 1 pound of beans in 8 cups of water seasoned with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt (Diamond Crystal) for at least 8 and up to 24 hours. Drain the beans, then freeze them in a zip-close bag. When you're ready to use them, bring them to a simmer in 6 cups of water seasoned with 1½ teaspoons salt. Simmer over low heat until tender, 1 to 2 hours, or slide into the oven at 250 degrees to cook for 1 hour, then uncovered until tender, another 2 or so hours.
Oaxacan-Style Refried Black Beans
These basic beans can be used for bean salads, refried beans or a quick bean soup.
The Sunday Recipe:
In Oaxaca, black beans are a part of almost every meal. Though they often are served whole, we especially liked the balanced, complex flavor and smooth, velvety consistency of refried black beans. Lard gives these beans a rich meatiness, but coconut oil is a good vegetarian substitute. The beans can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. We liked this topped with cotija and fresh cilantro. During the Week...
Refried Beans & Rice: Serve Sunday’s refried beans and cilantro rice (see below) with a variety of condiments. Chopped avocado or guacamole is a must (try our version from central Mexico) and salsa to moisten—your favorite store-bought or try our Chirmol, a Guatemalan roasted tomato salsa. Add pickled jalapeños or our Pickled Vegetables, which I consider an all-purpose garnish. For contrasting crunch, try toasted pumpkin seeds and sour cream for welcome richness.
This colorful side dish can be turned into a light main by topping it with fried eggs. To keep the flavor and color of cilantro fresh and bright, we blend the herb with a few aromatics until smooth, then mix the puree into the rice after the grains are cooked.
The Sunday Recipe:
To add easy flavor and depth to our grains and starches, we often cook them in flavored broths and herb purees. In this case, we mix a puree of cilantro after the rice is ready to preserve the herb’s vibrant color and flavor, which mellows when cooked. Use the stems and all in the puree—they pack a stronger flavor than the leaves. Make a double or even a triple batch to ensure leftovers for the week ahead (it freezes well too).
During the Week...
Fried Cilantro Rice: Try a spin on basic fried rice by using the cilantro rice. Heat a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with 1 to 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering, then add a bunch of chopped scallions or sliced shallot. Cook until softened about 2 minutes, then add 1 to 2 cloves chopped garlic and leftover rice. Stirring often, cook until the rice is lightly browned in spots. Drizzle liberally with lime juice and give a squirt or two of hot sauce. Top with a fried egg and cheese if you like, or crumbled bacon, smoked salmon or chorizo (Spanish or Mexican). Frankly, there’s very little that doesn’t taste good with fried cilantro rice.