This year I joined my first meat CSA: in the spring, I paid for a portion of a pastured, heritage breed pig from Millstone Farm in Wilton, CT. They raised up our pigs all summer, and in August (conveniently while I was still in California) Tai went to the farm and picked up lots and lots of pork. And by lots, I mean lots: shoulder and fresh ham and roast and cutlets and bacon and sausages galore. And, of course, chops.
These were the most massive pork chops I’ve ever seen. The package of two chops weighed 1 ¾ lbs; I swear one of them was a solid pound by itself. I knew they would take some oven time to cook through and I wanted to do something a little different, a little special. So I turned to my long, long list of recipe bookmarks (no, I’m not really a Pinterest person; yes, I still use internet bookmarks) and found adobo marinated pork chops by Diana Henry at Leite’s Culinaria.
The adobo sauce itself is brilliant: rich, layered, smoky yet sweet, not overly spicy. I’m thrilled to have a jar in the fridge as I can think of any number of things it will work beautifully on. I made a few changes to the pork chop technique, preferring to marinate overnight, then scrape off the marinade and sear the chops, rendering some of the fat in the process, and finally, finish in a hot oven. However, if you have very thin or lean chops, with little to no fat along the edge, you may get away with just sticking them in the oven; the adobo sauce lends a lot of flavor and color to the skin, so you could probably skip a sear.
The chops were fabulous, but in all honestly, I’m not sure if that is because of the glorious heritage pork, richly marbled and flavorful, or because of the adobo marinade. Probably some combination of both. At any rate, the sauce is quite easy to put together, and even with thick chops, it makes for a quick & easy weeknight meal the next day. I’m already looking forward to adobo pork sandwiches tomorrow: I recommend making extra.
- 4 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed
- 4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed & coarsely chopped
- 1 dried guajillo chile, stemmed & coarsely chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 small shallot, halved
- 1 small (lemon-sized) red onion, quartered
- 1 ½ tsp salt, or to taste
- small dollop of honey (about 1 – 2 tsp)
- 4 – 6 tbsp vinegar (I used blackberry-chile)
- about 2 lbs pork chops (mine were very thick-cut chops from heritage, pastured pigs raised by Millstone Farm in Wilton, CT)
- adobo sauce
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- Make the adobo sauce. Add the dried chiles and cinnamon stick to a small saucepan. Over medium heat, toast the chiles, shaking frequently, until fragrant and soft, about 2 minutes. Add water just to cover and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover pan, and let chiles steep for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toast the cumin & coriander seeds in a small, dry skillet until fragrant. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add oregano, allspice, garlic, shallot, onion, salt, honey and vinegar. With tongs, transfer the soaked chiles and cinnamon to the food processor: reserve the soaking liquid. Process for several minutes, adding soaking liquid if necessary, until the paste is uniform. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Makes approximately 1 ½ cups sauce.
- Marinate pork. Fit pork chops snugly in a roasting pan or baker. Using about ½ cup adobo sauce, spread sauce evenly over all sides of the chops (take care not to dip a pork-contaminated spoon back into your clean jar of sauce). Cover and refrigerate overnight. Alternatively leave at room temperature and marinate for 30 minutes.
- Sear & roast pork. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Scrape any excess marinade off of the chops into the roasting pan. In the hot skillet, sear the chops on each side, making sure to render and crisp the fat at the edges. Add a bit of the rendered fat to the roasting pan, mix with adobo sauce, and add the pork chops back to the roaster, turning once to cover both sides in sauce.
- Roast in the preheated oven until just lightly pink inside, but still juicy, an internal temperature of 145 degrees. This may take as little as 10 minutes for very thin chops, as much as 35 minutes for the behemoth 1-lb chops I cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Whisk together adobo pan juices and serve over pork.
- Chicken would work equally well: I would choose skin-on, bone-in pieces and crisp the skin in a skillet before roasting.
- The adobo sauce itself is fabulous: I envision it on eggs, roasted potatoes, cauliflower, burgers, rice & beans. Any number of things.
- The sauce is not overly spicy; in fact, it’s rather sweet. You could kick up the spice by adding up to ½ tsp of ground cayenne pepper.
Store cooked chops refrigerated for up to 5 days. Store unused adobo sauce in a clean jar, refrigerated, for up to 4 months.