Yes, this post really is some reflections on my classic Pork Adobo recipe.
If you read this blog (goodness knows why) you’ll know that I’ve pontificated about pork adobo several times in the past. I’ve shared my own recipe as well as my mama’s. I’ve made a video (I’ll paste it in below). I even boiled the recipe down to a tweet, which was published in a magazine.
So what could I have possibly more to say? Just some random reflections. I suppose I can write it in FAQ form:
- Which cut of pork do I buy? Whichever. I like “pork butt” which is a cut of meat that is from near the shoulder, not the actual butt. Shoulder is good too. Those cuts have a nice amount of fat; meat comes out tender and porky. Belly is too much fat for me.
- Which vinegar do I use? This does not matter to me a lick. I’ve been using coconut vinegar, and cane vinegar lately, but I grew up eating apple cider vinegar adobo. I’m sure I’ve had red wine vinegar adobo, too, and don’t really taste the difference. I think rice wine vinegar adobo came out on the mild side.
- My house smells like vinegar, did I use too much? No, you did not. That smell will go away… or you’ll grow accustomed to it.
- Is crushing the black pepper really different from using pre-ground or using a pepper mill? YES. Try it, if you don’t believe me.
- How big should my chunks of meat be? Meh, more than two inches, less than three. I find a nice pork butt in the pork case and then take it to the butcher and ask him to give me 2 inch cubes. It’s their job, you know, to chunk your meat for you.
- How long should I marinate the meat? I don’t know, I’ve never marinated meat for adobo before in my life.
- Should I chop the garlic? I don’t because it’s just going to boil in the liquid and disintegrate later. I just crush it, pull the peel off, and and then toss it in.
- What’s the best cooking vessel to use? I’ve used enamel coated cast iron dutch oven, I’ve used a cast iron skillet, I’ve used a steel wok. Makes no difference to me. I’m learning, though, that my life is easier if the meat fits in the pan in one layer; taller pot situations are hard to manage.
- What’s the deal about not stirring the meat? There’s a kitchen superstition that you shouldn’t stir your pot right away, or else death will rain from the sky. I’ve found that it’s unnecessary, really, to stir anything until the meat chunks have seized up, and released some liquid into the sauce.
- How long do you keep the lid on? Nowadays, I bring the liquid to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. Then I check for the stage where the meat seems to have shrunk and there’s more liquid in the pot that you started with. At that point I stir in the pepper and garlic, which have been hanging out on top of the pile.
- And then you simmer lid-on for 45 minutes, right? Nah, I’m omitting that step from my recipe. Yes, the meat will get more tender, but if you let it get tender and THEN boil off the liquid, your meat will start to shred into carnitas. Carnitas are good, but your shredded adobo will be way too salty. If that happens, don’t worry, just serve more rice and tomatoes.
- So when does the meat get tender? Rather than simmering covered and THEN boiling off the liquid, I’ve decided to just let the liquid boil off as it simmers–I’m lid-off, once I reach mixing stage. The key is to leave it at a low simmer.
- How do you manage the final toasting stage? Leave the heat where it is. When the most of the non-fat liquid has boiled off, but you still have a little left, start tossing the meat around, coating the meat on all sides with the remaining liquid. Faster than you think, that liquid will disappear and you’ll see clear fat/oil on the bottom of the pan. If you chose a really lean cut and don’t have that fat, you can use olive oil or whatever, doesn’t matter. Leave the heat where it is.. and then walk away from your pan for a few minutes. When you come back and give it a toss, you’ll see that the meat is toasting itself. Give it another good toss to toast another side of the meat, and walk away for another few minutes. Give it another toss, and then plate it up, you’re done. When I follow this procedure, I don’t have any scorched sauce stuck to the bottom of my pot.
- What if my guests want sauce? There is no sauce for this adobo. Besides, it’s too rich and tender for sauce; you need the contrast of plain, sunshine-tasting rice as a contrast. If they cry and throw a tantrum and try to guilt you into sauce for their rice, hand them a pillow that they can cry into. There is no sauce for this adobo; the flavor is in the meat.
- What’s up with that dollop of ketchup? Ah yes, the ketchup.
One time when I was little I took a bit of chicken adobo that my mama had made, and said WHAT IS THIS, THIS IS AMAZING! Now I have eaten a lot of chicken adobo in my life, but the one my mama had made was SPECTACULAR. What did you put in in mama?
My mama happily answered, oh, somebody said to put a teaspoon of ketchup in the liquid.
I was immediately repulsed, and told my mama she didn’t have to do the ketchup trick anymore.
But I have to say, occasionally I do pull the ketchup trick. Not often; mostly with chicken adobo.
By the way, the only difference between my pork adobo recipe and my chicken adobo recipe is that when I make chicken, I grate some ginger with the microplane grater, and put it in there. I don’t know how much to put, I just grate and grate and grate until I’ll sick of grating. For chicken I like to get a nice golden toast on all sides of the meat, so it doesn’t taste malangsi like a barnyard.