Sunday, March 8, 2009

Filipino Chicken Adobo

Adobo is the Philippines' national dish, and I'm sure there are as many variations of adobo as there are cooks. What adobo recipes share in common is the use of soy sauce and vinegar to create the characteristic salty and tangy flavor that melds so well with steamed white rice.

I like my chicken a little crispy, so after the chicken has stewed, I pan fry it on both sides and I don't fully immerse it in the liquid afterwards. I also add a little ketchup or hoisin sauce as a glaze on the chicken before I pan fry it, so that the sugar in the ketchup or hoisin sauce caramelizes and adds another layer of flavor. It's unconventional and I'm the only one I know who does this. It's been my secret ingredient -- until now, of course.

I also use chicken with the skin on, because there's nothing like crispy skin. But you can certainly cook adobo with skinless chicken and still get the benefits of browning during the pan-frying stage.

For me, chicken thighs are the cut of choice for chicken adobo as the thighs stay moist during the stewing process. When I make chicken and pork adobo, I prefer to use country style pork ribs for the same reason. I like to cook with the bone in, as the natural collagen in the bones add body to the sauce. If I decide to cut up the chicken in bite size pieces in advance, I still will add the bones to the stock and then will remove them after the meat has stewed. If you have leftovers and put them in the refrigerator, the sauce will gelatinize the next day. That's good. When you heat it up, it will melt again -- heaven over rice.

I will note that this recipe is probably not a recipe as much as a starting point for a dish that will be instantly recognizable to adobo lovers around the world but is infinitely changeable, depending on the cook. Even my adobo is never exactly the same from day to day, because while I loosely follow the general proportions and procedures below, my adobo can be tangy or less tangy, have a brothier or thicker sauce, contain chicken or pork, or chicken and pork, etc. The point is there's no right way -- just what you like.

4-8 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on (or you can cook it without the skin)
1/2 cup soy sauce *
1/2 cup rice or white vinegar*
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 bay leaves
12 peppercorns (I will put them in a tea ball; you can use ground pepper instead if you like)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or 1 can coconut milk and 1/2 cup chicken broth)

Splatter guard to cover the skillet when pan-frying (optional)

*If you're not sure how tangy or salty this dish should be to suit your palate, decrease these amounts to 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 rice vinegar. You can always add more later. Or go ahead with the recipe, and if you find it's too salty or vinegary later on, add more chicken broth and thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch mixed with water.

Marinate meat in soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves, garlic, and peppercorns for 30 minutes or overnight. If you don't have time to marinate, that's fine. Proceed with the recipe.

Put meat and marinade in pressure cooker or dutch oven/pot. Add chicken broth to cover meat, adding more than in the recipe if needed to cover the meat (you can use water instead if you don't have more chicken broth). Cook covered for 15 minutes in the pressure cooker, 30-40 minutes in dutch oven/pot (it can cook longer without any downside, and the chicken is probably cooked through in 20 minutes if you're in a rush; I always cook it longer, because I never remember to marinate the chicken in advance, so this gives the chicken a little longer to stew in the marinade). The chicken should cook at a low-medium simmer, similar to when you cook a stew. You don't really want it to be at a rolling boil, although if it happens, the world won't end. This recipe is very forgiving because of the use of chicken thighs.

Take out meat and put on a platter covered with paper towels.

Strain sauce of garlic and peppercorns and defat (I use a gravy separator, but you can also skim off the fat with a spoon as the fat floats on top of the broth). Boil and reduce by half. As the sauce reduces, taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. For example, if it's getting too tangy for your taste, don't reduce it as much. Or if it needs more salt, add more soy sauce or salt.

While sauce is reducing, pat chicken thighs dry on top and on bottom (the paper towels on the platter should have absorbed most of the liquid on the bottom). Brush both sides with a little ketchup.

Heat non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add a couple tbs. of oil when it's hot. Place ketchup-glazed chicken skin-side down in the pan; put as many chicken thighs that you can fit in the skillet but not so many that they're touching each other, as they need air flow to fry (if you have more chicken than can fit in the skillet, cook the chicken in batches). If you have a splatter guard, cover the skillet after you've added the chicken. The chicken will spit a little (or a lot if you didn't pat it dry). Leave if for a couple minutes, using your tongs to check it to see if it's browning and getting crispy. Adjust heat as necessary if the chicken is either browning too quickly or not browning at all. When it's brown on one side, turn the chicken over, so it can brown on the other side, following the same procedure. If you want to brown the sides of the chicken on the skin side, you can do that too, by balancing the chicken on its side against other chicken, the side of the pan, or by holding the chicken on its side with your tongs.

Place browned chicken in bowl or casserole dish when done.

Pour reduced sauce over chicken and serve with white rice.

Clockwise: Chicken in vinegar-chicken broth mixture before it is stewed; brushing cooked chicken with ketchup, my secret ingredient; browning the chicken skin-side down; browning the other side of the chicken thighs.

Browned chicken in its stewing sauce, which has been reduced by half.


Lori said...

Your chicken adobo looks amazing. I am super impressed with your techniques!

Veron said...

I've never tried glazing adobo first in ketchup or hoisin before pan frying. That does sound really yummy!

Kasey said...

I recently read about adobo in Saveur. Really looking forward to trying this recipe!

Anonymous said...

I made this tonight (with coconut milk and ground pepper) and it was amazing. The ketchup definitely added an unexpected level of flavor. I'll definitely be making this again soon!

Ninette Enrique said...

J, thanks for trying this out. I don't know anyone who uses ketchup but me, but now you've done it too. Maybe it'll be the latest craze. :)

Lauren said...

If I use a cast iron pot in the oven, sort of like a Dutch oven, what temperature should it be on? My chicken is marinating as we speak! So looking forward to trying this out.

Ninette Enrique said...

Hi Lauren,

I hope it's not too late to answer you. When you're cooking the adobo in the liquid, it should be at a low-medium simmer, similar to when you cook at stew. You don't want it really boiling. Thanks for the heads up. I'll add that to the recipe.

Lauren said...

Hi Ninette,
I am so glad I waited for your answer. I decided to marinate overnight, so it is ready to go for this evening's meal. Thank you so much for sharing these delicious recipes, and thanks to tastespotting for finding them an even wider audience!

Ninette Enrique said...

Lauren, I added more details to the recipe above, so take a look if you've already printed it out. I'm a "wing it" cook and don't really measure or time anything, so you and others' feedback will help me see the gaps and make the recipe useable to others. Let me know how it goes!

Lauren said...

Well, we loved it: me, my husband and my toddler, who ate an entire chicken thigh! Next time I will reduce the sauce a bit more, and steam some veggies to go alongside but this is definitely going into the rotation. Thanks so much.

Kevin said...

That chicken looks tasty!

Ninette Enrique said...

Thanks to all of you for your comments. I really appreciate it. Now I just have to get the hang of taking better photos. I have no light in my house and just my daughter's Canon Powershot. Any tips are welcome.

Aggie said...

I bet the pan frying at the end puts this over the top. I love your secret ingredient. I have a package of chicken thighs in the freezer that have this written all over it. I'll let you know when I make it!

Past Expiry said...

Chicken soup themed cartoon for your blog !

Anonymous said...

Glad we came across this today. We'll be making our own non-traditional version of chicken adobo for a dinner party next month, so it's good to read how others have made it. It looks delicious!

Ghostface Killah said...


i just tried the ketchup glaze and it was a huge hit! thanks so much for your creative nuance on this traditional recipe

Korynball said...

This recipe was a huge hit at dinner tonight - thank you so much!!! I will definitely be looking at the rest of your blog and trying those recipes too!!

Leslie said...

I never thought to brush hoison sauce on .. gonna try it now. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great read, i love food especially Buckeyes Chicken

Anonymous said...

Mmmmm....this Adobo chicken looks " Tasty " I will try it sometime. Thanks for sharing :)