Adobo is a surprisingly uncomplicated dish that requires few steps and few ingredients. I consulted a number of internet sources, however, before I felt ready to cook it. Adobo is the Spanish word for “marinade” and reflects the history of the Philippine Islands as a Spanish colony before the Spanish-American war. Several sources say that adobo is the national dish of the Philippines.
For this recipe, I used both chicken and pork. Pork can be inexpensive locally. I selected a pound of boneless pork chops, removed the fat, and cut it into one-inch squares. For chicken, I used a pound-and-a-half of boneless white meat, cleaned and cut into similarly-sized pieces. Season the meat with a little bit of salt and a little bit of pepper. We needn’t go overboard with pepper at this point as plenty more will be added to the sauce. Add half of a small, diced, yellow onion and a teaspoon of minced garlic to the meat and brown in a large saucepan on medium-to-medium low heat. When the meat seems browned on the outside, take it up and reserve on a plate.
The sauce is another fairly simple proposition, being vinegar based. Though the recipe said white vinegar would work well, I chose apple cider vinegar to add a hint of fruity flavor. Pour a third of a cup of the vinegar into a pot, and then add an equal amount of water. Add two bay leafs, another teaspoon of garlic, the rest of the diced onion and a half teaspoon of freshly-cracked black pepper. Bring this mixture to a roiling boil.
Really simple so far, isn’t it? We do need to put the meat back into the pot, though. Coat the mix of chicken and pork with a half cup of brown sugar. The juices and warmth of the meat will liquefy the brown sugar. Just make sure all the meat has been coated with the sugar and return it to the pot. I had a little leftover sugar and meat juice, so I added a teaspoon to offset the vinegar taste. Simmer the meat and sauce in the covered pan for 30 minutes.
After the adobo has simmered for a half-hour, add two teaspoons of soy sauce. Soy packs a lot of sodium, so if you are trying to avoid it, look for low sodium soy sauce. For whatever reason, low sodium soy sauce seems to always have a green cap. Though considered non-traditional in Filipino recipes, cooks can add a tablespoon or two of red or white wine, depending on the flavor preferred. Other possible ingredients include hot sauce, chilies or crushed red pepper. Again, it was not entirely traditional, but most of my friends can say I am not one for bland food and added just a few shakes of crushed red pepper. I have heard some people suggest coconut milk to adobo, but didn’t have any, and as it is an unfamiliar ingredient, I left it off. I think I may try some Thai-style curries soon which call for coconut milk. More on that later, though.
After adding the soy and wine, if desired, bring to medium-low heat uncovered for an additional ten minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
We served our adobo over a bed of hot, steamed brown rice seasoned with a little ground ginger while toasting and two dashes of soy sauce while boiling. The flavor was great, though with some self-criticism, I probably should have listened to some recipes about the chicken I selected. The chicken shredded in the pot, though the pork held up during the cooking. It gave a contrast between soft and firm. Many recipes advised against boneless chicken for this very reason. Next time I may try with chicken thighs cut in half. Other recipes suggested a little extra browning on the meat after removing it from the sauce for the final ten minutes. I worried that the sugar would burn and omitted that. I might try that in the future, however.
As I said, the meal was tasty and satisfying. Though I have a few adjustments in mind for the future, I have to say that this was a great first effort. Hawkins seemed to enjoy it as well, giving me permission to write it up in this column. We sat down in front of the TV to hear the words we had longed for since November, “Previously, on Lost.” With a great show on TV, and a brand new meal, a good time was had by all. Good eating.