Food Friday: U-Turn – The Adobo

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This is’s 1st entry to Food Friday; written by Erwin Ines who cooks and writes from Canada. Don’t miss his other beautiful musings on food.
Ang Pagbabalik: The Kaldereta
Tubong Lugaw
Egg Fried Rice
A Fil-Canadian Lechong Manok
Paru-Parong Bukid

While growing up, I vividly remember eating adobo almost three times a week. It was the most common dish the household helpers cooked, even during special occasions. It was on the table day and night and as time passed, I promised myself I will never cook, try nor touch adobo ever; whether they’d be chicken and/or pork. And so I did.

That was about 10 years ago, I think, or maybe longer. Yes, it has been that long since. I was even so amazed to myself that I have lasted foregoing eating the dish. It went down to the bottom of my list on many traditional Filipino foods I have an urge to try (living in a far away land) and went even lower after cooking school. For most part, I also avoided eating pork except maybe for bacon or Chicharon. I haven’t lost the Filipino in me as of yet.

I also love cooking and experimenting classical and traditional dishes, whether they’d be Filipino or not, but this one was just not there. At any rate, after several thoughts, naps and wandering around this darn gray, cold city, I have finally decided to give it chance. Furthermore, my palate has entirely lost that adobo taste. From memory, I vaguely remember that it was marinated in vinegar, black peppercorns, bay leaf, onions and garlic and drenched in heavy chicken or pork fat after it was braised; however, I have never tried cooking it, ever in my entire lifetime! Moreover, I felt that the marinade used was really, really insipid. It sort of hadn’t had the proper mixture of sweetness, sourness, spiciness, saltiness and tartness I got used to tasting. However, this was from way, way back when generally I had neither idea on how to even chop nor saute ingredients accordingly.

After a few days of research and grocery shopping, I discovered other ingredients that I can infuse into the dish without losing its ‘Filipino’ identity. But beforehand, I had to prepare the broth and decide on what meat I’d use for the dish. Again, after several more days of thinking and analyzing, I decided on using beef stew cuts instead. I saw some recipes where ducks, rabbits and frogs’ legs where adobod, but opted to use beef for a simpler and more kitchen friendly approach to the dish. I will do the duck later. Ingredients for the Duck Adobo are still out of my reach (time), so to speak.

Beef Broth (Beef Nilaga or Bulalo)
1lb to 1.5lbs of Beef Shank
Cold Water
Green Onions
Black peppercorns
White potatoes
Fish sauce

1. Bring the Beef Shank and cold water to a boil. Skim of scum as it rises.

2. Add other ingredients and simmer until the shanks are tender.

3. Remove the shanks from the pot and strain the broth. After straining, return the shanks back into the pot. Give it another boil.

4. Cut the potatoes, carrots and put them into the pot until tender. After several more minutes of cooking, add a stalk or two of celery and let it cook further.

5. Season with fish sauce.

Beef Adobo (Marinade)
1lb of Beef Stew Cuts
Beef Broth
Balsamic Vinegar
Dark Soy Sauce
Red Wine
1/2  can of Chipotle in Adobo Sauce
Crushed Black peppercorns
Bay leaf
1/2 Chopped White Onions
4-6 pcs. of Chopped Garlic
Ground Oregano
Bacon Fat for sauteing

1. Cut the Beef cuts in 1 inch cubes. Combine the marinating ingredients and adjust to taste.

2. Marinate the Beef cuts with the marinating liquid overnight to a day.

3. Saute onion, garlic and a piece or 2 of bay leaves in bacon fat. When aromatic, add the marinated beef cubes.

4. As it cooks, add the leftover marinade liquid into the pan with a little beef broth. Boil to simmer and shove the pan, covered, in a preheated oven at around 300degC-350degC. (Low & Slow & Depends on the oven).  Use a pressure cooker if necessary.

5. When cooked, the beef has to be so tender that it can be mashed with a fork or be ‘pulled’ common to many other braised meat dishes.

6. Reduce the Beef Adobo on the stove stop to achieve consistency (how wet or dry adobo is).

This dish has a more Mexican or Spanish approach to flavour. My style of cooking has somewhat been altered by wine and other influences. However, whose cooking isn’t? Each has his own name tagged into a certain dish. Anyway, the ingredients in the Chipotle in Adobo Sauce Can follow: Chipotle Peppers, Vinegar, Tomatoes, Onions, Sugar, Iodized Salt, Paprika, Soybean Oil and Spices.

The 1/2 can I used for the adobo sauce had a major spike, but the blend was very, very interestingly delicious. All the ingredients matched perfectly; giving a hint of each ingredient. It can match a bowl of hot steaming rice and beer anytime.

Leftovers can also be pan-fried, but that’s a whole new story and adventure altogether.

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When I was growing up, my parents and I used to eat out and try different restaurants after celebrating the Sunday Mass. Moreover, during the course of the summer break, I had the opportunity to see some places which, when looking back, I had never realized how lucky I was as a teen to be able to travel. My family and I went to Europe and some parts of the United States, and what I saw along that path of my life inspired me to become a 'Chef.' The 'whites' they wore for me, during those growing-up and finding 'myself' years, portrayed a sort of fascinating and powerful figure in an extremely sophisticated, higly inviting and invigorating work place; and still maintain an unblemished and clean uniform after a very busy service. That picture of a 'Chef' stuck to my head for so many years.

True enough, with meager resources left to spend for the youngest, that dream never happened. Life went on. I went to university and studied an insignificant course, Business Management, and after graduating, I ended up working as a Credit and Financial Analyst in the banking industry in Manila; slugging it out in the corporate arena in Makati. It was the first taste of being called a 'yuppie' and was almost always looking forward to an after-office eating and drinking extravaganza in the expanding and growing Makati Business District; and, of course, the weekend.

Anyway, forging ahead to my life today, that dream as 'Chef' stayed in the back of my mind all the time that when I left the Philippines for Toronto in 2003; and after finally settling down on my own in 2005, I had started studying Professional Culinary Arts Courses in the City College to get that almost long-forgotten 'dream' going again. It was a Continuing Education Course, and more or less, students who have also shifted careers or who were trying to find work (like myself) as a newly landed found ourselves working with pots, knives and fire which I believe and I felt, everyone in class have never, ever touched during their past, professional lives.

Since then, I have been working in and out of different kitchens; flipping eggs and hamburgers, grilling steaks, shoving bread and chicken in a 500'C oven, and almost anything that can be either deep-fried or toasted just to serve hungry, sometimes pesky, customers. I became a 'grease' cook; a short-order cook with no definite place of employment, and definitely not a 'Chef.'

My articles are based on the after-thoughts of my past and present day experiences in this fast-paced, starkling, and sometimes disheveling kitchen environment. I never imagined that a kitchen 'worklife' turned that way as against the 'Ideal' environment I had thought about for years. No regrets. During this journey, I've discovered food which I've never thought I'd be able to taste. I learned to appreciate wine and travel more; now that I have understood the culture of food to society. That was non-existent when I was growing up.

This journey has not ended. I'm still discovering and still learning. It's a tough industry to be in and for what's next or for where I'll finally end up in remain a sordid mystery.

13 thoughts on “Food Friday: U-Turn – The Adobo

  1. I too was not very fond of adobo, cooking that is, because I dont like the smell of vinegar :D

    But I somehow tried and liked some recipes from blogging friends…lemongrass on nilaga sounds interesting….might try that!

    Kitchenmauss last blog post..To the Land of Smiles

  2. “the beef has to be so tender that it can be mashed with a fork or be pulled common to many other braised meat dishes.”

    I could almost imagine how good it tastes.
    By the way, my style of cooking isn’t purely Pinoy as well.

  3. welcome to food friday! so glad you decided to join! :)

    haven’t thought of using balsamic vinegar while cooking adobo… mahal kasi yan. lol. i will try that one of these days…many thanks for sharing your recipe. :)

    happy new year!

    ps. have added you to the blogroll. :)

    maiylahs last blog post..Food Friday

    1. Hi Kier, he doesn’t have one. He’s quite busy but when he does find the time, he cooks and writes something very, very good and interesting. :-)

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