October 07, 2003

Chicken Adobo.

Funny that Eileen Tabios, that woman possessed by fallen angels, would post this recipe for chicken adobo, because I've been thinking of doing a chicken adobo post for some time. (Madeline once proudly told a roomful of Filipino grad students that I "can cook adobo now," only to be met by a snicker from my friend Andrew, who replied, "It's the one dish single Filipino men know how to cook!" Apparently Eileen doesn't know it, so I don't feel so bad.)

Speaking of white folks who cook adobo, Mark Bittman (yeah, that Mark Bittman) writes something to the effect that chicken adobo is the best chicken dish in the world -- can't find the exact quote, but it's in his excellent How to Cook Everything. (For the record, Bittman's recipe is way too salty.)

Anyhow, I'm posting Eileen's friend's recipe, because it uses some ingredients I don't use (ginger! chicken stock!), and I'm interested in trying it:

Chicken Adobo By Bruce The Drapery Fella


3 - 4 lb. frying chicken, washed and cut up
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light or dark soy sauce
4 or 5 1/4" slices of fresh ginger
5 cloves of garlic, crushed and skins removed
1/2 cup vinegar
chicken stock to cover (three or four 14 oz. cans of off-the-shelf stock should do)
1/2 teaspoon of corn starch, diluted in water (if thicker sauce is desired)

Put all ingredients (except corn starch) into a large pot, bring to the boil and then reduce heat to simmer until chicken is tender (approx. 1 - 1 1/2 hours).

Remove the chicken when it is cooked and "finish and adjust" the sauce to taste. At this point you'll want to remove the ginger and garlic, add the corn starch mixture, sugar, vinegar or spices like chiles or a dash of Chinese Five Spice. Don't forget to start the rice!

Looks pretty fancy to me.

Mine's a lot simpler: 6-8 chicken thighs, 1/3 cup vinegar, about 4-6 tablespoons of soy sauce, two teaspoons of crushed garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of peppercorn, one bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Brown the chicken first, then dump the whole mess in and simmer with the cover on for as long as you can bear to wait. And don't forget to skim the grease off for the white folks! =)

(My other variation involves coconut milk: more or less the same ingredients above, except that the garlic is now upped to a whole head, minced. Then stir in half a can of coconut milk before serving.)

Anyone else?

Posted by the wily filipino at October 7, 2003 10:21 AM

My mother makes a fine pot of chicken&pork adobo, but she uses no recipe and even when she tells me what to do, mine always turns out wrong. After it's all simmered, she does a little pan-fry number on the meat, and then puts it back in the pot. Yum.

I digress...And so it was with a profound sense of shame that I turned to a white guy—yes, Mark Bittman—to help me out. I doctored his original recipe by adding WAY more garlic and using rice wine vinegar instead of regular white vinegar. Worked like a charm. Also, Wily, if your end result is too salty, just add a little—gasp!—sugar to offset it.

As for Eileen's recipe (love ya, Eileen!), I'm not feelin' the ginger addition. It's like sacrilege or something. I'll try anything once, though.

Posted by: veronica on October 7, 2003 10:55 AM

Madeline's a big believer in sugar -- "makes it taste better," she says, every time I press her for more details on why.

The pan-fry is something my mom does as well, but it only really works better with chicken skin, and... well, I'm a little more health-conscious than my high-cholesterol mother is.

Posted by: the wily filipino on October 7, 2003 11:09 AM

Mark is right, it certainly is up there in my book.

Posted by: another white guy on October 7, 2003 11:41 AM

I was cooking chicken adobo. While stewing, I checked out your blog. Freaky.

P.S. I put a little cinnamon to kill the vinegar stench. And I put loads of garlic and oregano.

Posted by: Happy on October 7, 2003 02:19 PM

The secret to adobo lies in the garlic and vinegar that you use.

Posted by: Dyno on October 7, 2003 03:29 PM

There's something off-balance in the world when Eileen Tabios -- that's moi -- kicks off a conversation on cooking! But Veronica -- that's not *my* recipe; it's the recipe I posted on my blog but it was authored by Bruce, the white guy who was helping to hang one of my drapes. Please -- me cook? NOW ,THIS REMINDS ME -- ALL YOU PIN@AYS IN THE BAY AREA? I DIDN'T HAUL MY ASS FROM NEW YORK JUST SO'S YOU ALL CAN'T COOK PIN@Y FOOD FOR ME, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? Pandesal and water ain't for me, you know what I mean? Cough. Okay, gotta go hunting for angels....

Posted by: Eileen on October 7, 2003 04:03 PM

Happy: Cinammon?? Oregano??? I'm sorry, but that's just wrong. =) It's adobo -- we ain't talkin' Alice Waters here.

And you need that "vinegar stench" to sear your lungs before you eat.

Dyno: how many different kinds of garlic are there?

Eileen: I make the adobo, you bring the wine?

Posted by: the wily filipino on October 7, 2003 07:30 PM

~I'm fairly health-conscious, too, so I only use chicken breasts in my adobo. I cook it with the skin on, and then take it off before I eat it. I think the skin helps to keep the chicken extra-tender while it cooks. Then, of course, I skim the sauce to within an inch of its vinegar-y existence.

~Oh, Eileen. I didn't mean to make it sound as if you COOK, for chrissakes. You like the par-taking part and the par-sipping part, not the par-making part. For me, though, cooking and writing have a lot in common. Hmmm. Maybe that's my problem.

~Cinnamon? Oregano? Oh, no he didn't...

Posted by: veronica on October 7, 2003 10:40 PM

what self-respecting pinoy cook would measure his/her ingredients? ;) pinoy cooking lives by italian cooking's cardinal rule: QUANDO BASTA!
(no cornstarch--reduce, reduce, reduce...magdusa at maghintay.)

Posted by: OneJap on October 8, 2003 12:04 AM

Kuya: Some of us live in apartment buildings!
Dyno: There's small, medium and large garlic? Or garlic powder versus fresh garlic? ;-)
Veronica: Hmm, I always take the skin off before cooking. Maybe I should try your method next time.

Has anyone tried adobong tofu? Is it better to fry the tofu first?

Posted by: Happy on October 8, 2003 07:08 AM

Btw, the best song to stew some adobo to is Nina Simone's "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl". It sets the perfect revolution per minute, so you don't accidentally take the meat off the bone. Play the song twice to make sure you get the peppercorns off the bottom.

But, no, no sugar in my adobo, thank you.

Posted by: Happy on October 8, 2003 07:21 AM

Okay, Peeps. Here's an idea for a future Party. Adobo Sampler!!!! You all can cook your adobo the way you want to. Then we all bring it to someone's apartment -- I'll volunteer mine in San Francisco if need be -- and we all sample and judge. Yes, I'll bring wine.

Huh. It occurs to me: I should be the Chief Judge so as to be able to maximize my portions....


Posted by: Eileen on October 8, 2003 08:53 AM

ok so a friend of mine in college would empty a bottle of beer into his simmering pot of chicken adobo. so that'e become my habit, sharing a bottle of japanese beer with my adobo.

Posted by: barbara jane on October 8, 2003 10:38 AM

Are you serious about this, Eileen? Adobo Sampler Party! =)

p.s. Will this party involve blindfolds? (Uh, for the judging part, I mean.)

Posted by: the wily filipino on October 8, 2003 01:57 PM

Sunny and Happy,

The bigger the garlic, the less taste it has. Mas maganda yung garlic na amliliit from Ilocos, they smell really good. Haps, you know the ones they sell in south supermarket, the big cloved ones? they are from taiwan. Not good for your adobo, not even for fried rice.

Posted by: Dyno on October 8, 2003 03:07 PM

I grew up with an adobo recipe that involves Cloves. Instead of sugar, add about 5-10 whole cloves in the adobo, (and of course the soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic and chicken or pork, with a little water). This will get you a very slight sweet taste, but will not overpower the adobo like sugar would. Also, pickling spice in a cheesecloth is another way to cook it, it will give you a spicier adobo.

Posted by: Derek on January 12, 2004 10:55 AM
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