This week I came across a cheap chicken and no, not factory farmed – it was free range and corn fed! I thought it might need some preservation in order to keep it “fresh” for Sunday, so my choice was freezer or adobo. Since spatchcocking and marinading works perfectly for the recent sunny weather and barbecueing, the chicken’s fate was sealed by the time I got home.
Back in the 16th century, the Spanish and Portuguese combined tried and tested food pickling in vinegar with their newly discovered pimentón from the Americas to create a delicious method of preserving meat and fish while adding flavour. The Spanish called this mixture Adobo, the Portuguese equivalent being Vinha d’alhos (which is the origin of vindaloo). This meant that perishable food could be kept adobado, in barrels on long sea voyages without it spoiling. Vinegar (above 5% acetic acid) kills bacteria and pimentón inhibits insects and mould growth, providing that meat or fish is completely submerged.
These days, adobo is more commonly used as a marinade (prior to cooking), although food cooked in vinegar and pimentón (en escabeche) for preservation in cans or jars is still incredibly popular. In Mexico and South America, adobo has taken on a new dimension as a sauce marinade or sometimes dry rub. Philippine adobo is somewhat different. When the Spanish conquered the Philippines in the late sixteenth century, they discovered that the indigenous people had a cooking method that used vinegars (cane, coconu, palm, etc.) soy, garlic and other ingredients, but not generally pimentón. The Spanish called this adobo de los naturales (adobo of the natives) and the term adobo has stuck. The word adobo comes from the Spanish verb adobar – to marinate.
Before marinating, spatchcock the chicken, by removing the back bone – see here for my step by step pictures. Don’t skewer the bird until after marination.
Opening up and butterflying the chicken allows a marinade to penetrate all the meat and the bird will cook faster without drying out.
Chicken Adobo recipe:
1 medium sized chicken
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
3 sprigs thyme (torn up)
1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
a heaped teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
a heaped teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Mix up the adobo ingredients in a bowl and make sure the chicken is coated all over (inside and out). Keep the pollo adobado (chicken in marinade) in the fridge. The best method of doing this is probably in a plastic bag (or plastic food container) for maximum saturation and immersion, unless you have a large barrel of adobo and walk in fridge to hand. The marinade may react with metal, so metal containers are not recommended. My chicken was marinated for 48 hours, but 12 – 24 hours in adobo will impart a good flavour.
When it’s time to cook, soak two wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before using – this stops them burning. Push them diagonally through the legs/thighs to the wings on the opened up side of the chicken, see here. If cooking in the oven, turn the chicken skin side up. On a barbecue, cook skin side down to start with and turn over when the bird has browned sufficiently. Do sprinkle on salt and pepper before cooking. Reserve the marinade to make a gravy, but don’t use a raw marinade on cooked meat even if it does contain vinegar!
Typically the weather turned cold, so the chicken went into a hot oven at 240ºC, which was turned down after 5 minutes to 180º for an hour. Check to see that the juices run clear, or use a meat thermometer. Chicken should be cooked to a temperature of 75ºC. Wrap the bird loosely in foil while you make a gravy with the leftover marinade and some stock.
Stir some plain flour into the drippings on the bottom of the oven dish, over a gentle heat and slowly mix in the reserved marinade and some stock. Taste and add seasoning if necessary.
Serve with roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables, or potato salad if dining al fresco. The chicken was extremely moist and tender with an infusion of pimentón and a slight piquancy from the red wine vinegar. The vinegar flavour is subtle and not in the least bit overwhelming. I enjoyed a glass or two of Marqués de Caranó Gran Reservado (a Spanish red blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Cariñena grapes) with my supper.
Oh Mad – here I truly love both the recipe and the history to look up ! I cook adobo-style dishes all the time but, as you can imagine, exclusively in Filipino ways ! I had no idea the method was so wide-spread and could be so different ! Love what I have done for decades . . . now to learn how you do it . Don’t think potatoes will enter my way of serving tho’ !!
Thanks Eha – I sure it will be great without potatoes!
Lovely! This is a very popular dish in the Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles, where I lived for 18 years. Anything spicy works for me😁
Thanks Nadia – I have a Mexican pork adobo in the fridge right now. I love spicy too.
This is so lovely MD. The chicken is obviously a good one. I look forward to trying the vinegar Adobo method. Excellent.
Thanks Conor – it’s work well with most meat and fish.
A fine-looking bird and a very interesting cook. I’ve made Mexican adobo a number of times but not a Spanish version. A must-try.
Thanks for the history and the links, it was very informitive. Man, wouldn’t it be cool to have a barrel of adobo setting in a walk-in?
Thanks Ron – yes indeed, you just go and pull out a chicken or a leg of lamb when you get hungry in the evening.
I remember reading about the history of tapenade, where 2000 years ago some capers preserved in olive oil sat in a large amphora for a couple of years and eventually became a paste of tapeno (tapenade). Imagine that in the walk-in!
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