Fall-off-the-bone pork ribs cooked in homemade adobo sauce loaded with peppers and spices.
Do you ever get that special craving that lingers on for a couple of days, and you can’t get it out of your head? That happened to me recently with Mexican pork ribs in adobo, or as we call them: Costillas de Puerco Adobadas. The thought of those tender ribs covered with the rich adobo sauce followed me for days until I was finally able to take the time to make them last weekend.
These fall-off-the-bone ribs are something you’ve got to try, but before we get to the recipe I’d like to tell you a little bit about the history of pork in Mexican cuisine.
Pigs were the first domesticated animal to be brought to Mexico by the Spaniards. It is said that Hernan Cortes and his people had a fondness for pork meat (as well as the chorizos made with it), and so they made sure that they had pigs in “Nueva España” like they did back home. Their introduction of domesticated pigs transformed our gastronomy; we started creating dishes that used every part of the pig, from the head to the feet, and even down to pig’s tail and skin.
A good example of such a dish is the popular Pozole, the broth of which gets its rich flavor by using parts of the pig’s head. Additionally, in some states of central Mexico, many families enjoy the simple and delicious dish of cooked beans with pig’s feet. Pork skins are also a favorite treat and are usually fried to make pork cracklings (the soft version of which are called “cueritos”). Lard is used to frying foods and is also added to the dough used to make tamales.
One of the most popular ways to cook pork is in stews, often using pork shoulder cut into cubes. Most recipes call for stewing the meat first until the water is reduced and the meat is cooked, after which the rest of the ingredients (like vegetables and sauces) are added. Pork loin is used in baked dishes covered in adobo sauces, and pork ribs can be grilled or cooked in stews. There are also several cuts of pork that include bones (like the neck or spine) that are used to add flavoring to stews and broths.
Dishes like the classic Cochinita Pibil or the famous Tacos Al Pastor prove that the Mexican gastronomy would not be the same without pork, as many of the most representative dishes of Mexico are made using some form of pork meat. In order to find some of the more peculiar parts of the pig, check out the butcher section at your local Latin store, and for a wide variety of Mexican recipes using pork, take a look at the recipe catalog here on the blog.
- 3 – 4 lbs. of Pork ribs (the amount will vary by package)
- ½ medium size white onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 Ancho peppers, cleaned with seeds and veins removed
- 4 Guajillo Peppers, cleaned with seeds and veins removed
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- ½ teaspoon black pepper kernels
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (or ½ teaspoon ground cumin)*
- 1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 in. of a Cinnamon Stick
- Salt to taste
- In a large stockpot, place the ribs, onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaves. Cover with 4 cups of water, place the lid on the pot and simmer for about 45 minutes up to an hour. Turn off the heat when the meat is tender, but still attached to the bone.
- While the meat is cooking, lightly toast the peppers for a few seconds on a warm griddle. Make sure to remove them promptly.
- Place the roasted peppers in hot water to soak for at least 20 minutes until they’re soft.
- Once the ribs are cooked, remove from the pot and drain. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Place the ribs in the skillet and lightly fry them in their own fat. The ribs will render their own fat, but in case your meat doesn’t have enough fat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil into the frying pan first, then add the ribs once it is hot. Turn the ribs to have an even browning.
- Place the softened peppers and the rest of the ingredients in a blender with one cup of the cooking broth from the ribs. Process until you have a very smooth sauce.
- Pour the sauce over the ribs and simmer until the meat is so tender that it falls off the bone. This step will take about 8-10 minutes on low heat.
- Add more of the cooking broth as needed, and add salt to taste. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens to the consistency of thick gravy. Enjoy!
* You can precook the ribs using an Instant Pot or pressure cooker for 30 minutes.