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Friday, June 18, 2021

Chicken Adobo with Spring Garlic and Summer Beets

 

Not your nanay's adobo...

I love that Filipino food is having a moment right now. I especially love that Filipino culture is having a moment right now. While a part of me is bitter and screaming "we shouldn't have had to wait this long for visibility", most of me is thinking about how happy I am and how seen I would have felt as a child for having these eyes that kiss the corners along with my dark skin finally recognized. I am excited and relieved for mga anak ni pinoy that will grow up in a more colorful and intersectional America. I don't often like to jump on bandwagons, but if I'm going to do it, I must do it right.

I would never share my personal adobo recipe that I do all the time. That's mine and mine alone. All that being said, I do make versions of my classic Adobo Manok at Baboy that change depend on what ingredients I have available. What you should know first and last about Filipino food is that it is highly individualistic. You will never find two Pinoys that agree on what an adobo should be or what it should not be. No seriously. We like to fight about it. We all agree that our moms make the best adobo, but that's about it. 

The word "adobo" is kind of like the equivalent of the word "braise." It's an adjective, a noun, and a verb to describe a dish and how it's prepared. An adobo is anything stewed in vinegar with garlic, bay, and usually black peppercorns. You'll find as many variations of adobo as you'll find stars in the heavens. For the sake of this recipe, we'll be sticking to the Adobo Manok at Baboy base, which is considered to be the classic adobo that is - as far as I'm aware - the national dish of the Philippines. Adobo Manok at Baboy translates to "chicken adobo with soy sauce." My mom makes hers with potatoes and baby bok choi. I make mine with longanisa and tons of onions. This week for my CSA box I got a ton of spring garlic as well as some beautiful summer beets. I'm sure you know that I simply had to use them. Here's how I made this adobo!

Chicken Adobo with Spring Garlic and Summer Beets
serves 4-6

  • 4 chicken leg quarters, bone-in, skin on, about 3.5 - 4 lbs
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed, plus one whole head of spring garlic
  • 1 c white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 c dark soy sauce
  • 2 c distilled water
  • 2/3 c white sugar
  • 3 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 small beets, greens attached
  • 1/4 c minced fennel bulb
  • 1 longanisa sausage, sliced thin while frozen
    • Trust me, it's easier to slice thin when it's frozen
  • Coconut rice or steamed rice, as needed
Crush your garlic with your kosher salt and sugar to make a sort of paste. Mix this with the vinegar until dissolved, and add in the soy sauce, water, peppercorns, and bay leaves all to a large bowl. Add your chicken leg quarters and mix well. Ideally, marinate this overnight, but two and a half hours is sufficient. 



For the spring garlic I simply cut the whole bulb straight in half crosswise, and then sliced 1/4" discs from the whole shaft. The beet greens were cut thin into ribbon cuts, and the beet root was quartered. Of course you can add more vegetables, as you like, but I felt that the beets, greens, garlic, and fennel was more than sufficient. Again, there are no real rules in adobo so long as those flavors of sour are balanced with spice and salt and even a tish of sweetness. I don't like my adobo to be too sweet but - again - this is highly variable.




When you're ready to cook, remove your leg quarters from the marinade and set on a sheet tray. Don't discard the marinade! Pat dry with paper towels so the skin is dry. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a large casserole pot. Add the garlic head, cut-side down and fry until brown. Remove the garlic. Sear each leg quarter, one at a time, until the skin is nice and brown, and set aside. Add your beets, greens, garlic greens, fennel, longanisa, and garlic head and saute briefly. Add back the chicken and pour in the marinade. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 25 minutes on medium-low heat. 


When you're ready to serve, uncover your pot and remove the chicken pieces from the broth and set aside on a plate. Bring the entire pot back to a boil and cook until reduced by about half, or until the broth has turned into a gorgeous sauce. Make sure to adjust for seasoning! It should be bright and sour with a big punch of salty garlic-ness(that's definitely a word). When your sauce is ready and thick, return the chicken to the pot, toss well in the sauce, and serve with rice.

This dish serves a family of four to six, but my husband and I consume it with regularity, as the leftovers are masarap, or "delicious." If you're curious about adobo or Filipino food and culture, I highly recommend the book I Am Filipino: And This Is How We Cook by Nicole Ponseca. This is a wonderfully comprehensive volume with beautiful pictures.

I love this version of the classic adobo because the beets give it such a beautiful color. Beets are wonderfully earthy and they add a certain depth of flavor to such an acidic and bright dish. The greens are naturally high in iron, potassium, and - oddly enough - vitamin C! When eating healthy, it's great to look for foods that are naturally beautiful colors, like the beautiful red beet. Any red-colored food is going to be naturally good for heart health, so do keep that in mind. 

I hope you've enjoyed spending a little time with me this day, and that you're excited to get a taste of the Philippines. I can't tell you how much joy it brings me to share a piece of me, my culture, and my own history with you. Happy cooking and happy eating!



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