Trevor Baca Adams and I first met by our office tea kettle. He’s our merchandising coordinator and I’m a copywriter, but it turns out we both drink our weight in Assam, favor cravat-heavy films set in the 18th century (hi, Amadeus), and like jazz songs about dogs.
But more than anything else, we’re both unapologetic condiment junkies. For me, it’s mustard (I recently caught four—F-O-U-R—different kinds of dijon loitering in my fridge door), but for Trevor, it’s chili sauce. And that’s where our similarities come to a screeching halt. You see, his tolerance for spicy foods outstrips mine by, well, continents: His mother's side of the family is from Coahuila, a state in Northern Mexico. His great-grandfather emigrated to New Mexico. He likes chili peppers. He knows chili peppers. Which is why I asked him to try out this Xilli chipotle in adobo. Meanwhile, I went home to re-alphabetize my mayo collection.
The word “chipotle” is derived from Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs), a combination of the words chi (chile) and poctli (smoked). It’s made from a pepper called a Morita, found in the jalapeño family. The “adobo” comes from adobado—Spanish for “marinated.” And sure, you could find them canned just about anywhere, but Xilli makes theirs in small batches in Brooklyn with authentic, consciously-sourced ingredients straight from Mexico. The result is fall-apart-tender, semi-sweet and deeply campfire-y...like the best enchilada sauce you’ve ever had, but way bolder and thickly textured.
This is why, when our Shop team asked me to develop a recipe using this sauce, I politely shoved it toward Trevor. Not only does he understand the significance of the chili pepper more than anyone I know—he's also a dang good cook. While attending culinary school in Paris, Trevor told me he constantly found himself returning to Mexican culinary traditions and techniques, since (in his words) “they work.” A total understatement, because when I tasted his sauce—a taste first, then a spoonful—I rolled my eyes heavenward in tearful silence. Full disclosure: This was partially due to the blazing heat. It was spicy. Really spicy. But I could also taste the smoke in the chipotle, the acid from the vinegar, and even a sort of warm fruitiness that made the pain, well, worth it.
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His recipe features a standard adobo (sauce traditionally used to marinate meat), but incorporates a mix of three chiles, all very distinct in flavor to give it a little complexity. You don’t have to use all three. In fact, when I make it this weekend, I’m just using the Xilli because, yeah, I’m a lightweight and don’t want to down a gallon of milk in between bites. Totally your call, of course. You can also sub in a wide variety of meats, but Trevor tends to stick to tougher cuts like beef, pork butt, and lamb for the best flavor. Needless to say, the best way to serve this dish is with homemade tortillas. Last time I ran into him in the team kitchen for our ritual 2 p.m. tea, I asked what his technique was—but that, he said, would have to wait for another article.
Have you cooked with chipotle peppers? Tell us about your favorite recipe below!