Sunset Adobo: A Stew for All Seasons

Let’s say you have a crowd to feed. An international crowd, with a potpourri of people who like spicy food. Sunset Adobo is what you want to make. You can make it with lamb, pork, beef, goat or even salmon. Probably chicken, too, but I think the bones would be fiddly. Duck would be fiddly, but totally worth it. (I have made it with tofu, but it really wasn’t as good as with meat. It’s okay the first time you serve it, but it doesn’t improve as leftovers like the meat versions do.)

I don’t know if this is a Mexican adobo or a Filipino adobo. Probably more Mexican than Filipino. This is a recipe I found in Sunset magazine, hence the name, while waiting to take someone home from the doctor’s.

Used to be, if you saw a recipe in a magazine in the waiting room, you’d have to nonchalantly rip out the page or surreptitiously purloin the whole magazine. Or you could write it down on a scrap of paper, as I did. Nowadays, smartphone cameras have made nabbing an interesting recipe so much easier and guilt-free.

This sauce is a little sweet & sour and a little warm & spicy. You control the spiciness with your choice of chilies.

ingredients for adobo sauce
All the ingredients needed for the sauce, except for the oil and vinegar.

Sunset Adobo

  • 8 cloves of unpeeled garlic
  • 4 Ancho chilies (or poblanos or New Mexico or California chilies, or any not screamingly hot, big, Mexican type dried chilies)
  • 1qt orange juice
  • 2T brown sugar
  • 2T oregano
  • 2T cider vinegar
  • 2t salt
  • 2t ground cumin
  • 2t black pepper
  • 1/8t ground cloves
  • 3″ stick of cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2-2.5 lbs of meat, more if there are bones
  • an equal volume of mixed frozen veggies such as green beans, orange & yellow carrot slices, red bell pepper, etc.
  1. Dry roast the garlic cloves in a pan. Set aside to cool.
  2. Dry roast the chilies. You can also simply hold them over a gas flame, but keep them moving so you don’t burn them. You just want them a little toasted and plumped, not blackened. Remove the seeds from the chilies and the skins from the garlic.
  3. Simmer them in the orange juice for 10 minutes, along with all the other ingredients, except the meat. Set it aside to cool a bit.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large pot, brown the meat chunks in some oil or lard.
  5. Now that the sauce is cooler, remove the cinnamon stick and the bay leaves, and puree the sauce either with a hand blender or in batches in a food processor.
  6. Add the pureed adobo sauce to the browned meat and cook on low til tender. The sauce will become an incredible reddish brown! Check the chili heat level and the salt.
  7. Add some good frozen veggies like green beans, carrots and red bell peppers and just heat through, don’t cook them to death. Garnish with cilantro just before serving.

You can serve this luscious stew with rice, potatoes, wide egg noodles, polenta or couscous.

Miscellaneous tips:

When I make it with lamb, I use a combination of lamb necks (the cheapest cut of lamb available) and some boneless lamb (cut from shanks or blade steak or whatever is on sale.) With pork, I use boneless pork butt. I don’t buy beef, so you’re on your own there, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Just think stew meat.

If you want to make it with salmon, you will want to use the thicker end of the fillet. Just put in the salmon after you’ve cooked down the sauce some, since it will cook very fast and you don’t want it to fall to bits. Alternatively, you could broil or pan fry the salmon and spoon the adobo sauce on just before serving

The original recipe doesn’t call for the vegetables, but it helps stretch the meat and the sauce is great on them. You can use fresh cut-up vegetables if you like, but when you’re feeding a crowd, frozen are convenient and won’t disintegrate if you just toss them in towards the end of the cooking time.

If you find everybody is bringing extra guests, it is easy enough to make up another batch of sauce and add it to stretch the dish. It’s very versatile that way.

Out of Brown Sugar?

Here’s a trick my stepdaughter Clove taught me: if you don’t have any brown sugar on hand, you can make some by working a little molasses into white sugar with a fork. (You can zip it in a food processor, too.) This trick works really well! Make it as dark as you want.

Leftover Sunset Adobo freezes nicely. I also like to use leftovers for making savory hand pies, like salteñas or empanadas, using my hearty wholewheat pie crust. Great for taking on hikes.

Sunset adobo in a serving bowl
Sunset adobo in a serving bowl