The following recipe is dedicated to the attendees of the March 17, 2019 performance of Sunday Night at the Opera, where this dish was served.
Dishes featuring an Agrodolce, or Sweet-and-Sour Sauce, are common in Sicilian cuisine. The National Dish of the Philippines, Adobo, shows similar flavor characteristics, but without using any sugar. We served Chicken Adobo at our Opera Night as part of our family style dinner, and everyone loved it so much that we decided to offer the recipe online.
Fair warning: there are 7, 641 islands in the Philippines, and there are at least that many variations on the Adobo recipe. Everyone has their own take on it. The following is to my way of thinking both the simplest and easiest, utilizing only 6 key ingredients aside from the chicken.
A few additional notes: Many recipes call for marinating the chicken in the sauce for up to 24 hours before cooking. If you have the time, do it. But it’s not essential.
Many Adobo recipes call for much higher levels of soy sauce. But a scant quarter cup mixed with one and a half cups of vinegar keeps the sodium down to a reasonable level. Adjust to suit your taste.
Bone-in, skin-on Chicken Thighs are recommended, because they’re almost foolproof. But any bone-in cut, such as drumsticks and breasts, also work. If you like how this turns out, remember that there are also excellent recipes for Pork Adobo, Seafood Adobo and even Vegetable Adobos.
This recipe for Chicken Adobo can easily be doubled or tripled in volume, it can be made the day before and re-heated, and that it tastes even better the next day. Which means it’s perfect for parties or family get-togethers.
Serving Suggestion: Keep it simple. At home I always serve Adobo with a steaming hot mound of Thai Jasmine Rice, a nice green salad, a bottle of hot pepper sauce and a scattering of chopped scallions and cilantro leaves. The rice absorbs all of the delicious flavors of the sauce. And the salad cleanses your palate.
1 1/2 CUP VINEGAR (see note below) 1/4 CUP SOY SAUCE (see note below) 4-6 BAY LEAVES 1/2 TB WHOLE BLACK PEPPERCORNS 8 GARLIC CLOVES, PEELED AND COARSELY CHOPPED 2 TB OIL 6 SKIN-ON, BONE-IN CHICKEN THIGHS SALT PEPPER
COMBINE THE FIRST FIVE INGREDIENTS IN A BOWL. PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 375 F.
WARM THE OIL IN A LARGE SKILLET OVER MEDIUM-HIGH HEAT. PAT THE CHICKEN PIECES DRY WITH PAPER TOWELS AND SEASON LIGHTLY WITH SALT AND PEPPER. ADD CHICKEN TO THE PAN SKIN SIDE DOWN, WITHOUT CROWDING.
COOK THE CHICKEN, TURNING OCCASIONALLY, UNTIL BOTH SIDES ARE NICELY BROWNED. PLACE THE CHICKEN SKIN SIDE UP IN AN OVENPROOF BAKING DISH AT LEAST TWO INCHES DEEP. POUR THE SAUCE MIXTURE OVER THE CHICKEN AND ADD ENOUGH WATER TO BRING THE LIQUID LEVEL 2/3RDS UP THE SIDE OF THE CHICKEN.
PLACE THE BAKING DISH IN THE OVEN UNCOVERED AND COOK UNTIL THE MEAT IS TENDER AND THE SAUCE HAS REDUCED. DURING THE BAKING, TURN THE PIECES OVER A COUPLE TIMES SO THAT THE FLAVORS ARE ABSORBED.
REMOVE THE DISH FROM THE OVEN. THIS DISH MAY BE SERVED IMMEDIATELY, OR COOLED FOR LATER USE.
P.S. IF YOU PREFER A THICKER GRAVY, STIR A COUPLE OF TEASPOONS OF CORNSTARCH DILUTED WITH 1/8 CUP OF WATER INTO THE HOT SAUCE.
VINEGAR & SOY SAUCE NOTES: For a classic adobo use Filipino-made Cane Vinegar. It has a very low acidity, and produce a dish with a gentle, almost sweet flavor. Substitute White Balsamic, White Wine or Cider vinegar.
If possible use Filipino soy sauce. It’s stronger and darker than Japanese-style soys. Alternatively, domestic Kikkoman or any Chinese soy sauce is perfectly fine.
Local Asian markets usually carry Datu Puti cane vinegar, and Date Puti or Silver Swan soy sauces. All are very reasonably priced and worth seeking.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT ADOBO: Sam Sifton of the New York Times wrote an informative piece in 2011 about the many variations of adobo. CLICK HERE to see it.