Smoky, spicy and just a lil bit sweet.
I couldn’t figure out how to frame this post, which is just about an ugly paste made of dried chiles and spices that you can smear on just about anything to fantastic results, and I kept coming back to those three words. The paste isn’t much to look at, and it will take a bit of time to throw together, but it’ll keep in the fridge for weeks and it’s great with just about everything this time of year.
I made a batch of adobo paste a few weeks ago and used it to marinate pork chops (photo above and recipe below). Fantastic. Like, I hadn’t realized the magic of what I was making at the time and I immediately wished I had tripled the recipe. So I started brainstorming other ways to use the flavors, and now I can’t stop (won’t stop).
Last week, I threw a tablespoon or two of the leftover adobo paste in while I was browning onions and garlic for a riff on kale, sausage and bean soup and the Boyfriend went bonkers for it. I let him think I slaved over the soup for hours to develop such a deep, smokey flavor, but really I just browned an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, and a couple tablespoons of this paste, then then threw in two left-over pork chops (which got so dried out in the fridge they were borderline inedible) chopped into bite-sized pieces, some leftover beans (the last remnants of this week’s beans and an egg, which I’m still loving for lunch thankyouverymuch), a couple handfuls of kale, and the second half of a box of store-bought chicken stock. The result was — you guessed it — smokey, spicy, and just a little bit sweet.
But we aren’t talking “sweet” like marshmallow-sweet-potato-casserole level sweet. (I don’t want to sound like a total diva, but I don’t do sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Ditto carrots with brown sugar. Yack.) We’re talking pinch-of-cinnamon-in-a-pot-of-chili sweet, also known as hint-of-cardamom-in-a-curry kind of sweet or brown-sugar-on-a-fish-sauce-chicken-wing level of sweet. There’s just a hint of sugar in the background that makes you realize the spice and smoke in the chiles more than you would if the paste wasn’t sweet at all. It’s actually pretty perfect.
Next up for this paste: I’m going to rub it on a spatchcocked chicken and roast the chicken over a mix of chopped potatoes and sweet potatoes. And then I’m going to figure out a way to use it in a kale salad. And when I make my next winter squash, I’m going to save the seeds, toss them with a little paste and roast them up with a lot of salt so they are crunchy and smokey and, did I mention, just a little bit sweet? Stay tuned, guys, lots more of this ugly little adobo paste in our future here at the Leighto Greato kitchen.
- For the paste:
- 5 dried chipotle chiles
- 4 dried ancho chiles
- 1 t. ground cumin
- 1 t. whole coriander seeds
- ½ t. ground allspice
- ½ t. ground cinnamon
- 1 t. dried mexican oregano
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 shallots
- 3 T. red wine vinegar
- 4 T. white wine vinegar
- Salt to taste
- For the porkchops:
- 6 pork chops
- Lime wedges, for serving
- First, toast your dried chiles in a dry cast iron skillet (like this one) over medium heat until you can smell them and they brown lightly -- but don't get them so hot they burn. You aren't cooking them -- just getting the juices flowing again. Once the skillet is hot, this should take 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Once they're nice and toasty, cover them with water (I used about 2 cups, but the precise measurements don't matter here). Remove from heat and allow to soak for 30 minutes.
- Once the chiles are done soaking, drain the water, but don't discard it! You can use it to thin the paste later. Roughly chop the shallots and garlic, and combine all the paste ingredients in the food processor. Whiz the ingredients a few times, and thin the paste with the chile-soaking water if you need to. You want the paste to be smooth, so the mixture should be wet enough to blend thoroughly, but not watery. Mine was about the texture of greek yogurt -- thinner than peanut butter, but thicker than a smoothie. At this point, you can set aside the paste in an air-tight container and it will keep for a couple of months in the fridge.
- If you are making adobo-marinated pork chops, spread about half of the paste you made above on both sides of the six pork chops. Cover and let the chops marinate in the fridge -- I left mine in for only 30 minutes, but they would be even better if you let them marinate overnight.
- When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the chops in an aluminum foil-lined pan for 20-25 minutes, checking periodically to make sure the paste isn't burning. Serve with lime wedges.