It’s a lazy day. I’ve spent most of the morning menu planning for the next two weeks. Not that I always follow my plan. Life sometimes gets in the way, but at least I take comfort in the knowledge that I have a plan! As I look over my menu, I can’t help but to notice that there’s a heavy Asian-Pacific Islander influence in the meals I’ve selected. Maybe I’m just getting back to the basics of my roots – if that were possible. I’m a Heinz 57 of sorts – Filipino, Spanish, Native American, Irish and English with just a splash of Chinese thrown in for good measure. Yet most people mistake me for Italian or Mexican. Go figure . . . guess it must be the dark eyes.
One of the dishes I remember my mother making often is Chicken Adobo. Although not the “official” national dish of the Philippines, it may as well be. And yet there is no such thing as a classic rendition of Chicken Adobo. Every family has their own spin on this Filipino dish, and within that family there are variations. My Chicken Adobo is more a blend of Filipino-Chinese flavors. The main ingredient to most adobo dishes is vinegar. Lots and lots of vinegar. In the early development of adobo, aside from the meat, the main ingredients were vinegar and salt. This was out of necessity. A heavy concentration of vinegar and salt was a means of preserving foods. When the Philippines began to trade with China, soy sauce was introduced as part of the adobo process. Eventually soy sauce replaced the salt. The most common adobo dishes are adobong manok, in which chicken is used, and adobong baboy, in which pork is used. Typically speaking, the ratio of vinegar to soy is two parts vinegar to one par soy. Remember earlier when I said my adobo isn’t 100% Filipino? My adobo is made with more soy than vinegar. Years ago, my parents wanted to make adobo for a big pagtitipon ng pamilya (family gathering). Neither knew how. A good friend came over to help with all the Filipino cooking and taught my parents how to make adobong manok. Over the years, in our house the soy became the main ingredient, and eventually the vinegar was reduced to a walk on role – there but without speaking. When I inherited the dish, I added Worcestershire sauce to the ensemble and vinegar went from a few tablespoons to about a half a cup or so. A far cry from its original starring role, yet very much a supporting character. Usually, I’ll add more vinegar at the end, depending upon my mood.
There are two ways to serve Adobo. The first is “wet”, once the meat has fully cooked in the sauce, everything is transferred to a big serving bowl – liquid and all. The second way is “dry”. The chicken is removed from the cooking sauce and then “fried” while the sauce continues to cook down to a thicker “glaze”. We usually serve our adobo wet. Frying is a nice touch, but it splatters everywhere and creates one heck of a mess. My mother used to cover the stove top with newspapers before frying the adobo, leaving a single burner exposed. Yeah, it’s that messy!
2 Chickens, cut up into 8 pieces
1 to 2 Cups Soy sauce
1/2 to 1 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 to 1/2 Cup Vinegar (Rice, White or Cider)
1 1/2 to 3 Cups Water
2-4 Garlic Cloves, crushed
Cracked pepper corns to taste
1 large onion
1 Yellow Bell Pepper
2 Bay Leaves
Place chicken in a large pot on top of the stove. Pour 1 cup soy, 1/2 cup Worcestershire, 1/4 cup Vinegar and 1 1/2 cups water over the chicken. Repeat until chicken is completely covered with liquid. Add crushed garlic and cracked pepper corns. Stir to blend.
Peel and chop onion into large chunks. Cut top off bell pepper, remove and discard seeds. Slice bell pepper into strips. Place onion and bell pepper into pot with chicken. Add bay leaves.
Bring to a full boil, lower to simmer, cover and continue to cook 1-2 hours or until chicken is falling off bone. Remove and discard bay leaves. Pour chicken with liquids into a large serving bowl. Serve with rice.
NOTE: This dish can be made with boneless chicken thighs straight from the freezer. Plan to simmer the frozen chicken about an hour longer.