|From What I’m Eating|
Filipino food doesn’t have very standard recipes, so everybody’s chicken adobo tastes different. Everybody has an auntie who makes it the way they like best, and nobody nowhere is ever satisfied by chicken adobo from a restaurant. That’s the rule.
For me, it’s my mama’s chicken adobo that I like the best, but after 30 years of cooking it, she has gotten bored of her own recipe, I think, because she nowadays she adds things like wine and herbs, which is post-adobo, rather than adobo. I have done my best to recreate my mama’s old-school adobo, with a few twists of my own.
The classic recipe is to use a whole chicken cut into parts, with the breasts split three or four ways for even cooking. However, you can use a bag of drumettes, a bunch of chicken legs, I’ve even been known to do boneless/skinless thighs when I’ve got people coming over who might be skittish of skin and bones. However, skin and bones do make a better flavor. Anyway, here’s the procedure:
Put your chicken parts in one layer in an oversized sauce pan. The big 16 inch cast-iron skillet will do nicely, but I actually prefer a wok. The can go in a cold pan; light the flame to medium. Splash in some salty soy sauce, enough to dress the chicken pieces… enough to make every bite just salty enough. Pour in a few good glugs of vinegar; apple cider vinegar will do, but I’ve used rice vinegar as well. Drop in two bay leaves, and SECRET! a squirt of tomato paste. The tomato paste is optional, but it gives you a nice reddish hue.
SECRET! Put some whole peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, and crack each one. Do not pound them, do not grind them into dust. Just crack each corn once. No, a pepper mill is not the same. Use a mortar and pestle and crack yourself a fistfull of peppercorns, and you will understand why it’s worth the trouble in about an hour from now.
Break your garlic bulb into cloves; we’re going to use half of the bulb. Slice off the end where it is attached to the base and then lightly crush each clove under the side of your knife. Remove the papery peel, but SECRET! leave the whole garlic cloves in tact. Toss them into your pan.
Take at least three fat inches of fresh ginger to your SECRET! microplane grater. Grate, grate, grate… grate more than three inches if you want, the more the better. If you want to peel your ginger first, use the blade of a spoon (but it’s not necessary). That’s the end of the ingredients. Let it simmer on medium for 40 minutes.
Now hold on a second. If you want to make fancy adobo, becuase you have fancy guests coming over or something, simmer the chicken in the sauce until it’s fully cooked. Then take the chicken out of the pan, turn up the flame and reduce the liquids ALL THE WAY DOWN. If you used the skin, there should be plenty of chicken fat… the vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic will have reduced to a thick paste. When you’re down to mostly oil, return the chicken to the pan to toast it. Make sure the chicken browns on all sides and gets coated with the paste.
If you’re not making fancy adobo, just Tuesday night adobo or something, don’t bother removing the chicken. Turn up the heat and let the liquid boil ALL THE WAY DOWN with the chicken in the pan, you’ll get chicken pieces that fall off the bone.
Serve with steamed calrose rice, a green vegetable of choice, and JP’s diced tomatoes.
Oh, JP’s diced tomatoes… Dice tomatoes. Mince a clove of garlic on your chopping board. Gather the garlic into a nice pile, and cover that pile with kosher or fat sea salt, and mash the garlic and salt into a paste with the side of your knife. Mix that garlic/salt paste into your diced tomatoes. You can toss in some expensive olive oil if you want it to taste a little more expensive.