the minimalist and me: chicken adobo

Mark Bittman has unquestionably earned his “Minimalist” moniker.  Every time I make one of his recipes, I am amazed by how so few ingredients can create something so very yummy.  It makes me want to smack my forehead with the palm of my hand and shout, “By George, he’s got it!”  But that could hurt, and I’m not into full-contact sports.

What I am into is Chicken Adobo.  What is this dish, you ask?  It is a Filipino classic (so Mark says) that is twice-cooked.  First poached in soy sauce, coconut milk, garlic, water, white vinegar, and bay leaves, then grilled under the broiler (or on your grill, if you happen to be so lucky), this chicken is crispy (the skin) and moist (the meat) all at the same time.  Pour the reduced pan sauce over top, and you are in garlicy, soy saucey, coconutty chicken heaven.  And I’m not talking about the giant coop in the sky.

Since I can never be truly satisfied with anything I make, I did have one small beef with this recipe: the 3/4 cup of soy sauce made it a bit too salty for my refined palette (that last part is supposed to make you laugh, or at least roll your eyes).  Luckily, I found this article by Mark as part of his regular New York Times contributions, where he addresses this salty problem.  Turns out, if you buy high-quality soy sauce for this dish, you should be golden (apparently the cheaper stuff — Kikoman, cough, cough — has a lot more salt).  I think that even using reduced sodium soy sauce could help.


Time: 45 minutes

3/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup white or rice vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 dried chipotle pepper

1 whole (3- to 4-pound) chicken, cut up (with legs separated from thighs); or use 2 pounds bone-in thighs or leg/ thigh pieces cut in two.

1. Combine all ingredients with 1 cup water in a covered pot large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low or low (you want a slow simmer, nothing more). Cook, covered, about 30 minutes, turning once or twice, until chicken is cooked through. (You may prepare the recipe in advance up to this point; refrigerate the chicken, in the liquid, for up to a day before proceeding.)

2. Meanwhile, start a charcoal or wood fire or preheat a gas grill or broiler. The fire need not be too hot, but place the rack just 3 or 4 inches from the heat source.

3. Remove chicken, and dry it gently with paper or cloth towels. Boil liquid over high heat until it is reduced to about 1 cup; discard bay leaves and chipotle; keep sauce warm. Meanwhile, grill or broil chicken until brown and crisp, 5 minutes per side. Serve chicken with sauce and white rice.

Yield: 4 servings.


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