Sometimes you just need a punch of flavor and depth from your food, that je ne sais quoi. A sensory overload to give your tastebuds a jolt of pleasure after weeks of dullness, like a dirty dream in a 30-year marriage.
I have already stated that keeping your calorie count low does not necessarily mean boring. Luckily there are dishes that are full of character and tantalizing flavors (remember that ceviche?) without too many calories. Take this chicken adobo: tangy, pungent, briny, delicious. If you are looking for something to make your tastebuds sing, this will have them chanting a cappella. I used low sodium soy sauce and tried to avoid mopping up the sauce with rice to keep it reasonably light, concentrating more on the flavorful meat. My family was only too happy to step in for me.
This dish, that is considered one of the Philippines' national dishes, was originally borne from the necessity to preserve meat in the heat. When the Spanish colonized the islands back in the 16th century, they saw the indigenous population stewing their meat in vinegar and named this technique adobo, after their own tradition of marinating meats, although they have little in common. Filipino adobo is usually made with chicken and/or pork cooked in a liquid made with soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, pepper corns and the key ingredient - vinegar.
I of course fell in love with Adam's version because you know I am always on the look out for an easy week night meal. His recipe, originally from April Bloomfield, requires using large quantities of garlic and ginger skin on, which also makes the former less aggressive. Once the garlic is cooked, it can easily be nudged out of the skin and eaten. The meal comes together really quickly, the only tricky part being browning the chicken, which took longer than I expected and turned out to be a little messy (meaning I had grease splattered all over my stove and counters. Next time I will use less oil). It is however really essential to get those flavors going, so don't skip it.
cooking oil (enough to coat the bottom of your pot)
8 chicken thighs and legs, skin on
2 heads of garlic, separated with skin on
1/2 cup sliced ginger, skin on
1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into eighths
about 1 tsp balck peppercorns
2-3 dried bay leaves
1 1/2 cups vinegar (white wine or rice vinegar)
1/2 cup soy sauce (I used low sodium)
Heat the oil in a large pot with a lid over high heat. I used my Le Creuset. When it is almost smoking, sear the chicken, starting skin side down until brown, making sure not to overcrowd the pot. Set aside.
Add the garlic, onion, ginger, bay leaves and peppercorns. Cook until the onion starts turning transluscent, then add in the chicken, the vinegar and the soy sauce. Bring to a slow boil, scraping up the caramelized bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Cover and let simmer gently for a little under an hour. The meat will be incredibly tender but rich in color and flavor. Serve with rice.