I loved this dish the first time I tasted it years ago. With its simmer sauce of vinegar, garlic and soy sauce, adobo is the hallmark dish of the Philippines. It came back into my life while we were taping a show in Honolulu. The Maunakea Marketplace in Honolulu's Chinatown has a food court of Filipino cooks cooking for Filipino diners. There I had my first adobo in decades and was hooked all over again.
The marinade does all the heavy lifting here. You marinate the chicken overnight, turn everything into a pot and simmer it. One of the cooking techniques that sets Filipino adobo apart is that you brown the meat after it is cooked, not before. That aroma of a browning, marinade-saturated chicken can drive you crazy.
Cook to Cook: Find palm vinegar from the Philippines in some Asian markets. It is made throughout the Pacific from the sap of palm trees and tastes particularly tart and brisk. Cider or white vinegar are good substitutes.
1. The day before cooking the chicken, take a large glass or stainless steel bowl and combine in it the soy sauce, garlic, black pepper, vinegar, tomatoes (break them up with your hands as you add them to the bowl), and the bay leaves. Add the chicken, making sure it is almost completely submerged in the marinade. Lightly cover and refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours.
2. When ready to cook the chicken, turn the mixture into a heavy 4-quart pot. Bring it to a gentle bubble, cover and cook 25 minutes, or until the center of a chicken thigh registers 175 degrees F on an instant reading thermometer.
3. With tongs, remove the chicken to a plate. Skim as much fat as possible from the cooking liquid, increase the heat, and start briskly boiling it down by half. While the liquid reduces, film a straight-sided 12-inch sauté pan with the olive oil. Heat it over medium high. Arrange the chicken pieces skin down to brown, standing back because they may spatter. Adjust heat so chicken doesn't burn.
4. When the chicken pieces are a deep rich brown on one side, turn the pieces and scatter the onion around them. Continue browning the chicken, and move the onions around so the pieces don't burn. Then, with a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken and onions to a serving bowl. Pour the boiled-down pan juices over them and serve. You could garnish the adobo with a scattering of thin-sliced scallions.
Reprinted from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper: Recipes, Stories, and Opinions from Public Radio's Award-Winning Food Show by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2008). Copyright 2008 by American Public Media.
Andrea Reusing is the creator of the restaurant Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of the book Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes. In this installment of The Key 3, she shares with Lynne Rossetto Kasper the techniques behind three of her favorite recipes: Turnip Soup, Overnight Braised Short Ribs and Tomato Salad.