Recipe Review: Mark Bittman's Chicken Adobo

A few weekends ago, a food-loving friend made this dish for a hungry backyard crowd, and it was a big hit. Fortunately, we were there with a camera and an empty stomach. So, although we technically didn't follow the recipe ourselves, we asked questions, chewed slowly, and made some mental notes about the finished product...

Chicken adobo is a Filipino dish that involves simmering chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, vinegar, and bay leaves. From what we've read, the technique varies from recipe to recipe. Some call for boiling the entire pot down until the liquid is thick and the chicken is falling off the bone. Others say to soak the chicken for days then pan-fry it.

Bittman's recipe, from his cookbook How To Cook Everything, calls for poaching the chicken in the soy sauce mixture, then grilling it. How appropriate, it being Grilling Month and all.

We were sitting outside with a book and a cocktail while our friend was preparing the chicken, so this is what we know: He may have added some extra garlic, and he stuck the pot of poached chicken in the fridge for several hours before it was time to grill, which was a great make-ahead trick. You can boil the chicken early and then enjoy the afternoon.

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When it's time to finish the chicken, you take it out, throw it on the grill to crisp the skin — it takes very little time, given the fact that it's already cooked — and, meanwhile, boil the liquid down to a thick, syrupy sauce.

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The chicken was juicy (no time to dry out on the grill) and peach-tinged from the poaching liquid that had seeped under the skin. Our only warning is that this dish is S-A-L-T-Y. Much of its flavor is from the soy sauce, and if you like salty food (we do), this is your bird. But with the concentrated finished sauce, plus the flavor that's already imparted to the chicken during poaching, it was just shy of sodium overload. Definitely use low sodium soy sauce, or maybe sub in some chicken broth.

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The original recipe is in How To Cook Everything, but it was also published in 2002 in the NY Times:

And for those of you without a grill, Bittman posted a similar recipe that's finished in the oven:

FYI, we didn't eat ours over rice, as Bittman suggests. We grilled potatoes instead.

Related: Keep It Simple: Grilling Tips from The Los Angeles Times

(Images: Elizabeth Passarella)

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