Chicken Adobo is a Filipino dish I first cooked in a class at The Chopping Block cooking school in Chicago, and I was amazed at how delicious it was, despite its relatively easy preparation—just dump everything into a pot and simmer. In the class, our instructor billed it as an example of braising, the process of cooking something half-submerged in liquid over gentle heat. I remember its exciting, vinegary flavors that were mellowed in the cooking process so they were no longer harsh. That, and the haunting flavor of garlic.
My attempt to make the recipe at home, though, turned out all wrong, so I abandoned the dish until recently. Haunting flavors have a way of coming back without any explanation. Stuck with a craving and determined to find a good recipe, I found myself at A Smart Mouth, which had a good distillation of what most recipes I found had: lots of garlic, bay leaves, and black peppercorns. It also had an interesting use of balsamic vinegar, which I imagined would bring a depth of flavor you wouldn't find with another kind—even if it was a little less authentic.
I was pretty happy with the recipe, though I shortened it considerably by skipping the 3-4 hour marinating in vinegar. I’m sure there are more involved, authentic ways to go about this dish, but
- 6 skin-on bone in chicken thighs or 4 legs
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 1 whole head garlic
- 2 bay leaves
Separate the cloves of garlic from each other and smash them lightly with the flat side of a knife to easily remove the skins. Add them with the rest of the ingredients—the chicken should be half-submerged—to a heavy pot. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes, then uncover and continue cooking until the chicken is tender, turning the pieces occasionally.
If desired, remove the chicken pieces and reduce the sauce to a thicker consistency, adding the chicken pieces back in near the end to reheat. Remove the bay leaves and serve with rice.