Cheap Eats:
Chicken and Pork Adobo

When you say the word "empire," the first thing to pop into most people’s minds would be British or Roman, but Spain at one time was among the titans of empire builders. I think we sometimes forget that because most of Spain’s colonies became independent before this century, and also because, though Spain discovered the New World, a lot of other countries followed, including France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Prussia, and England. But Spain left some lasting legacies around the world, including their language and their cooking.

It is the Spanish legacy that makes the islands of the Philippines something of an anomaly in Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, the cuisine and culture both were influenced as much by Spain as by India, Malaysia, and China. Hence, in Manila, you can get egg rolls (or lumpia, as they are called there) with your arroz con pollo. (It is interesting that, in the Philippines, where peoples’ names and many foods are so obviously Spanish, the language is not — the indigenous Tagalog survived.)

The national dish of the Philippines is a "stew" called adobo. Originally made with pork, it is now as often made with pork and chicken, or even with chicken alone. Adobos are Spanish in origin, and, though they have largely disappeared in Spain, they can still be found in Spain’s former colonies, altered in each to suit local tastes and available produce. Whatever the regional differences, the elements that all adobos have in common are garlic, salt, and something acidic.

One of the nice things about adobo is its resilience — it can be refrigerated or frozen, and then reheated and served. In fact, it may be even better reheated, since the flavors seem to become more complex and inviting over time. This is a wonderfully flavorful dish, with a rich, slightly sweet-sour taste.

Chicken and Pork Adobo

4 Tbs. vegetable oil

4 lb. cut-up chicken

1 lb. lean, deboned pork, cut into cubes

½ cup water

⅓ cup soy sauce

⅓ cup cider vinegar

⅓ cup sherry

1 cup chicken broth

5 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Put the oil in a large casserole or Dutch oven and place over medium heat. Brown the chicken pieces, a few at a time, on all sides (but don’t cook through), then remove to a plate.

Put the pork cubes in the same pan and brown for 10 minutes, turning frequently. Add the water, cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. When done, remove pork to a plate.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, sherry, chicken broth, minced garlic, and black pepper to the liquid in the pot. Stir to combine, and cook for 1 minute over low heat. Remove from burner, and return pork and chicken pieces to pot, stirring to make sure all pieces are bathed in sauce.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover the pot and place in oven to cook for 1 hour. If any of the chicken or pork is "sticking out" of the sauce, you may want to stir the adobo once or twice during cooking, to make sure everything has ample opportunity for exposure to the juice. Remove from oven, and skim off excess oil/fat, if necessary. Spoon pork, chicken and sauce over white rice, and enjoy.

Serves 4‑6.


Don’t worry too much about exact weights. I’ve never seen a package of fresh, unprocessed meat or poultry in the grocery store that was precisely a pound. I sort of average, e.g., last time I found 3.78 lb. chicken and 1.33 lb. pork — that’s close enough. Remember, this is being made every day by thousands of villagers who simply run down a chicken in the back yard, and don’t bother stopping to weigh it.

And, as a reminder, it’s okay to use cooking sherry in recipes. It’s significantly cheaper than drinking sherry, since it’s not taxed as liquor, and the small amount of salt added as a preservative doesn’t really affect its taste when it’s used in cooking. You’ll find it in the vinegar section of the store. Or, if you made last July’s recipe (Chinese pork and noodles), you may have a bottle already.

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