Bryan Roof, a cook with from America's Test Kitchen, has a personal connection to the classic Filipino dish, chicken abodo. And he's cracked the code to making the dish perfectly at home. Roof shares the process and his recipe for Filipino Chicken Adobo by America's Test Kitchen with Francis Lam.
Sally Swift: When people talk about Filipino food, adobo comes up time and time again. I understand you have a personal relationship with it.
Bryan Roof: I was born in the Philippines and spent the first few years of my life there. We had a Filipino nanny who used to make this dish all the time. I'm familiar with it from my own experience and was excited to develop the recipe for it.
SS: Tell us what adobo is.
BR: At its core, it's very basic; it’s a braise of soy sauce and vinegar. You usually use chicken thighs or drumsticks, pork ribs or pork butt. There's a heavy handful of black pepper, bay leaves and garlic thrown in. It's has a pungent but luscious flavor.
SS: It's absolutely delicious. When you were working on the recipe, what did you think the issues were?
BR: A lot of recipes start with an acidic marinade. You usually use vinegar and soy sauce, combine them, marinate the chicken, and that ends up being the sauce in which you cook the chicken. But overly acidic marinades tend to make the chicken tough and rubbery. So, we removed the vinegar from the marinade and just used soy sauce, which gave us a lot of good flavor.
A lot of the braises also turn out to be very salty because of the soy sauce. We tried adding water to dilute it a little bit, but then we had no flavor whatsoever. So, we kept the soy sauce and the vinegar in the braise. We went to a restaurant in Brooklyn called the Purple Yam, and met with Chef Romy Dorotan – who’s actually married to Amy Besa who you spoke to earlier in the show.
SS: It's a small world.
BR: He told us about the method that he uses, from the southern Luzon island of the Philippines, that involves coconut milk. We came back to the kitchen and added coconut milk to our braising liquid. It was akin to adding oil to a vinaigrette. It helped to temper some of the sharpness, but you've still got a lot of good flavors. It’s a rich and luscious sauce that coated the chicken nicely; it was the saving grace for our adobo.
SS: Coconut milk is a great idea. Walk us through your adobo recipe.
BR: After marinating bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs in soy sauce for about 30 minutes, take the thighs and put them into a cold skillet – skin side down. This is a technique that I was familiar with from working in restaurants and cooking duck breasts; you want to render the skin out before you proceed. Turn the skillet on, and let the fat cook out from beneath the surface of the skin so you're not left with a greasy sauce. Run the chicken over medium-high heat until all the fat is rendered out – about 10 minutes. Dump the fat out of the skillet. Add the soy sauce from the marinade, along with vinegar, coconut milk, a big handful of garlic, bay leaves and black pepper, and let it braise. Flip it once throughout the cooking. It’s braised in about 30 minutes on the stovetop.
SS: Wow, that is fast. This is perfect weeknight eating.
BR: It’s flavorful, easy and perfect. One of my favorites.
On each episode of The Splendid Table we visit with the test cooks at America’s Test Kitchen to discuss a wide range of topics including recipes, ingredients, techniques and kitchen equipment.