A few months ago I married into a large, loving Filipino family. I had never tasted Filipino food before my husband and I started dating, and I quickly learned to love the staples of family parties: crispy lumpia, pancit, chicken adobo, pork menudo, kare-kare, and leche flan. I astounded them with my love of rice, and the fact that I grew up with the same imported jasmine brand they used. So when it came to deciding which cookbook to try first, I knew it would have to be Fine Filipino Food.
I have spent many hours as an observer over the years, but I had never tried to make the dishes myself. My mother-in-law doesn't cook, so my husband wasn't able to offer any advice. I chose Chicken Adobo with Coconut Milk because adobo, as Bartell notes, "could very well be called the national dish of the Philippines" and for its simplicity. I knew the dish was a success when I kept catching my husband taking pieces from the pot!
Chicken Adobo with Coconut Milk
(as featured in Fine Filipino Food, page 57)
1 (2-pound) chicken, cut into serving-size pieces
1 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
2 bay leaves
1/2 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp raw or brown sugar
1 tsp patis (fish sauce) or 1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 (12-oz) can coconut milk
1. Mince the garlic. First remove the brown end of the clove, then crush it under the flat of your knife (I used about 12 medium-sized cloves to make 1/4 cup).
2. Combine the garlic with the vinegar, soy sauce, ground pepper, bay leaves, peppercorns and brown sugar in a non-aluminum 4-quart pot. Aluminum interacts chemically with vinegar and affects the flavor. I used a stainless steel stock pot, but you can also use ceramic, glass, or wrought iron cookingware.
3. Mix well and add in the chicken. I used a chicken breast of the same weight to avoid cutting up a whole chicken. (However, you might have complaints about the lack of drumsticks.) Marinade for 2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator.
4. Place the pot on high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is tender. (This is a good time to start your rice cooker.) You can remove the chicken and broil them 1 to 2 minutes on each side, but I skipped this step in the interest of simplicity. One-pot meals are easy to clean up!
5. Add the patis (or salt) and coconut milk and boil until it has been reduced by half. You'll see it take on lighter, creamier color. Remove the bay leaves. Serve over a bed of rice with the sauce.
The moist, tender chicken stands on its own, but you can round out your meal with steamed broccoli or Jicama Salad (page 41). The crisp jicama is perfect for a light summer salad.