Another succulent recipe from Jaden Hair's The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook skipped onto our table the other day. Adobo means marinade in Spanish, and entered the culture of the Philippine Islands centuries ago via the influence of Spanish explorers. Over the years, some Far Eastern flavors were added, and today chicken adobo is considered by many to be the Filipino national dish. Chicken is the most common meat, but the marinade, or sauce, can be used with beef or pork, or even shrimp.
Years ago, I knew a physician whose calm, reserved demeanor became noticeably animated when he talked about cooking. I discovered this one day when he began describing this delicious-sounding chicken dish that he cooked pretty much by ear. No measurements. I never got around to making Dr. Jesse Arcelona's version of chicken adobo, but a tip of the hat in his memory as we enjoyed this.
The ingredients add up to a salty-tart sauce that also has some sweetness, thanks to the cooked garlic, and it's a fairly simple dish that only takes some brief last-minute finishing. Unlike Western cooking, the meat is quickly browned after simmering until tender. This means more contrast in textures than in the average stew. Jaden says she prefers dark meat with skin for this, since it stays tender better than white meat–and of course, the skin crisps up nicely.
I doubled the recipe, since I had three pounds of leg quarters in the freezer. That meant two quarters for now and two for another dinner, along with the last of the sauce.
This is meant to be served with rice, which means it's another version of that great combination, chicken and rice. I've never been able to rationalize the purchase of one of those fabulous electronic rice-cookers, but I bought a small inexpensive one a couple of years ago. We're not obsessive about home-cooked rice, and the quality it turns out is fine with us. In addition, it's really nice not to have to time my rice-cooking so that it's ready exactly at dinner time. It was worth the counter space and the money.
1 ½ lbs. chicken thighs and legs, skin on, lumps of excess fat removed
1/3 c. cider vinegar or white vinegar
¼ c. soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. black peppercorns (whole, not ground)
1 Tbs. sugar (I used Splenda and it worked well.)
½ c. water
2 Tbs. Cooking oil
Combine the ingredients for the adobo sauce in a bowl or plastic bag. Add the chicken, stir things around, and cover the bowl or close the bag, removing as much air as possible. Refrigerate the chicken anywhere from two hours to overnight.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, place the chicken and marinade. Bring to a boil, drop to a simmer, cover and let cook 20-30 minutes.
Using tongs, remove the chicken to a dish. Keep the adobo sauce in the pan. You may want to skim off some of the fat or foam at this point. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it cook five minutes or so to thicken a little.
Heat a heavy skillet over high heat. When it's hot, add the oil. Pat the chicken pieces dry so they won't spatter, and fry for two minutes a side, until the skin is a crisp golden brown. (Alternatively, Hair says, you can slip the chicken under the broiler to crisp it up.)
Serve with rice, and spoon some of the sauce over the rice. Serves 2-3, depending on the rest of the meal.