Thursday, August 29, 2013

Filipino Chicken Adobo

This past weekend I caught an episode of America's Test Kitchen (ATK). Aired on most PBS channels, this is what I think cooking shows should be all about -- the techniques and science that go into making a meal. And while the show's host does do an occasional stunt or two to make a point, you won't find the celebrity chef showboating that seems to be all the rage these days. Yeah, I sound like a crankypants, old thing, but when the Food Network ditched chefs like Sara Moulton and brought in twits like Sandra Lee, well, let's just say the craftsmanship of cooking was singing its swan song on that particular TV channel.

In any case, the ATK is hugely informative, provides good product reviews for kitchen equipment and ingredients, and any recipes I've made from their show or cookbooks have been on the money.
Case in point: this recipe for Filipino Chicken Adobo. For starters, I thought, like I suppose many people did, that "adobo" meant a spicy, red, chili-based sauce. And while it can be that, it's also much more. Here's what ATK has to say on the subject:

"While many Americans think of “adobo” as the tomato-based sauce packed in cans with chipotle chiles, the most basic definition of the word is “sauce” or “seasoning.” The Spanish term originally referred to a vinegar- or chile-based sauce or paste that was added to meat as a preservative. Over time, the term came to apply to similar dishes in Latin American and Filipino cuisines. In the Philippines, where adobo is considered the country’s national dish, it’s a braise commonly prepared with chicken or pork. Vinegar and soy sauce (acetic acid and salt are natural preservers) flavored with aromatics like garlic, bay leaves, and black pepper serve as the braising liquid. The tangy cooking liquid is then reduced to make a sauce, and the dish is served with steamed white rice."

The other thing I found interesting was how the chicken was cooked, but more on that in a minute. First let's take a look at the ingredients:

Ummmm, chicken (surprise!) -- specifically bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.

The rest of the cast and crew:

Please welcome 3/4 cup cider vinegar, eight peeled garlic cloves, four bay leaves, two teaspoons of black pepper, and a partridge in a pear tree. Okay, so maybe not that last one.

But wait! There's more! You'll also need 1/3 cup of soy sauce, which will serve as a marinade for the chicken thighs.

Let those babies soak up that marinade for 30 to 60 minutes in the fridge.

Now here comes the interesting (well, at least I thought it was interesting) way to cook the chicken.

Remove the thighs from the marinade (don't toss the marinade; you'll need it in just a bit), and place the thighs skin side down into a unheated pan.

I know! How weird not to preheat the pan. It was explained on the show that this technique is like when you are rendering fat from bacon. Start with a cold pan. Anyhoo, with the thighs in a cold pan, crank the heat up to medium-high. You're looking to sear the skin, which should take about 7 to 10 minutes.

In the meantime, whisk together the coconut milk, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, pepper, and soy sauce.

Once the thighs are brown, remove them from the pan and discard the fat in the skillet. Then you'll put the thighs back in the pan, skin side down, and add the coconut milk concoction you just whisked together.

Bring everything up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Then flip the chicken over and continue to cook for about 15 minutes. When done, remove the thighs to a plate and tent loosely with foil.

Pick out the bay leaves from the coconut mixture and skim off any fat from the surface. Cook the liquid over medium-high heat until the sauce thickens (about 5 to 7 minutes).

It's time to plate!

I made some white rice while the chicken was simmering and while the sauce reduced, David knocked out some steamed broccoli. BTW - it's now "officially" his job to figure out what veggies we'll have with meals and to prepare said veggies however he likes. YAY! 'Cause you all know by now my whole thing about even thinking about the veg in the first place.

But enough about all that. The taste. Oh my, the taste. The skin on the the chicken had a beautiful caramelization and the meat was just as juicy as could be. And while I was afraid that the eight cloves of garlic would overwhelm the dish, they mellowed out big time. But the sauce was the hands-down winner. It was slightly tangy from the soy sauce, had a nice little pop from the cider, but all balanced out with the coconut milk. 

Without a doubt, this recipe has a home run, and I would highly recommend giving it a go yourselves. You won't regret it for one little second.

P.S. If you are on Facebook, you might want to check the America's Test Kitchen page and "like" it. By doing so, you'll receive feeds on all kinds of helpful tips, demos, and recipes.

P.P.S. This post is in no way a paid endorsement; just passing on, what I think, is a great resource.


  1. Wow, that is a great not only sounds good but looks good too. Will have to give it a try, unless you are opening a restaurant..then I want to make reservations. Hint hint.

  2. Thanks for the heads up on the fb page!

  3. Ms. Dianna - this dish really rocked. As mentioned in the posts, I don't recall ever making one of the Test Kitchen recipes that wasn't on the money. P.S. Sweet thought about the restaurant, but it ain't gonna happen. But it would be fun to do some party cooking with Bruce and Papi Thomas. Hmmm, something to think about.

    Anon: You're more than welcome for the FB link. I love their feeds. Thanks for reading our blog and feel free to share it.