Monday, November 02, 2009

Soul Pagluto

Ask most folks from the Philippines what food they like best and they will probably say "adobo, of course." But pinning down just what adobo is involves a lot more than opening a Filipino cookbook. Adobo is basically stewed pork, chicken or seafood, or a combination of two or all three, sometimes with vegetables. and there is beef adobo and adobo sa gata, with coconut milk... Adobo originates in the Spanish word for marinade. But again, the marinade for adobo can include all sorts of things. One helpful Filipino cookbook says adobo is a kind of pork teriyaki. But equating adobo marinade with teriyaki marinade is about as useful as trying to compare oatmeal and roast duck. In short, getting the definitive recipe for adobo is as elusive as nailing Jell-O to a barn door with a pitchfork.
That said, however, and being a foodophile with friends in the Philippines, I herewith venture a version of adobo that I think is pretty good, and some of my Filipino (and Filipina) friends have grudgingly agreed. It is a nice change of pace from other kinds of stews, and is not all that hard to make. Here we go.
2 pounds of pork or chicken. (I'm using a pork roast for this particular demonstration)
1 clove of garlic
1 medium onion
1/2 cup soy sauce (Use the real thing, please)
1 cup water
1/2 cup sake--rise wine
1 tablespoon paprika
5 whole bay leaves
1 thumb-sized chunk of fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon rough-ground black pepper and 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vinegar. I use balsamic, which has a more elegant flavor.
2 Tablespoons corn starch
4-5 Tablespoons cooking oil. I use half canolla oil and half olive oil.

Tools: You will need a stew pot, a frying pan, and three mixing bowls, and a few sheets of paper towel.


Trim excess fat from meat and cut into cubes, roughly thumb-sized, or the same size you would use for stew meat.
Combine the water, sake, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, paprika, pepper and peppercorns and bay leaves in a big bowl. Add the cubed pork and stir so the marinade covers the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and let it marinate for at least an hour (refrigerate for safety, especially if you are in a warm place). I added a little cilantro to the marinade, simply because I had some handy.

Chop the onion and garlic fine and saute in two tablespoons of oil, stirring often, until translucent. Dump into a bowl and set aside.

Peel and thinly slice and chop the chunk of ginger.

Now, time out here to say that adobo is usually served with plain white rice, but I made saffron rice, and added a couple of shots of sake to the water for cooking. Use whatever rice you like, even minute-rice.

Pour the marinade and pork into a cooking pot, sprinkle the chopped ginger over the top, and add the bay leaves. Bring the pot to a gentle bubble, then reduce to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Steam the rice. (It takes about 45-55 minutes to steam two cups of Japonica rice)

Stir the pork now and then and notice how the aroma becomes more sophisticated. When it's ready, separate the pork from the juice. Slowly stir in the two tablespoons of corn starch into the juice and add the sauteed onions and garlic. Simmer and stir now and then as it thickens into a gravy-like consistency.

Add the rest of that cooking oil to a frying pan, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan, and crank up the heat until a test piece of meat sizzles as soon as it touches the oil....back off the heat a bit and gently add the pork, stirring often, until it is browned. Note that the pork will already be more or less brown from the soy sauce and balsamic vinegar in the marinade. What I mean here is brown as in cooked-meat brown. Take out the pork pieces with tongs (carefully) and drop into a paper towel-lined bowl to absorb the excess oil.

You should have been stirring that brown gravy-sauce during all this, and it should be about ready.

The rest is easy: spoon out some rice, add the chunks of pork, and ladle the sauce over the combination. This is nice with chopped tomatoes, or, for the brave of heart, salsa (which I used here).

I'm not sure what bon apetit is in Tagalog, but ... enjoy!