By Vicky Rose Pacheco
I thought I knew how to make adobo. I’ve been making the white version all these years and I wanted to make the one with soy sauce. I think this is the adobo that foreigners are familiar with. When I contemplated including Chicken Adobo in Sentro 1771’s new menu in Greenbelt 3, I thought it was going to be a walk in the park. We placed it on the menu last March but I had to test the recipe four times, not counting the couple of times I did it at home. Each recipe testing had to be a four-whole-chickens batch. Gosh, how many trials was it going to take? I wanted to achieve a Chicken Adobo that was dark and shiny, just the way Tibay makes it. Tibay is our clan’s resident cook. I badgered her for the recipe several times but she ignored me. I thus resorted to texting her, asking her questions which she could answer with a yes or a no. Eventually I gave up and decided to do a take five and a take six.
After two months, I think I am midway. I already got the ratio of the pork to the chicken. I am lining the bottom of the pan with pork fat. I am using native garlic. I am using sukang paombong. I am using Silver Swan soy sauce. I marinate the chicken in vinegar, salt and crushed peppercorns. It is still not coming out the way I envisioned it. Since I am doing a batch of four whole chickens at a time, I cook it in a tall pot. Unfortunately, not all chickens are touching the liquid. I would think that the top is being steamed instead of stewed. I think that’s one of the contributing factors to its non-success.
Maybe I’ll cook it in a deep roasting pan so that it will be level, then I’ll just place it in the oven. I don’t know, this is one big batch.
Another thing I’m going to do with the adobo is to fry it after it is cooked in vinegar. I wanted to avoid the frying procedure for “lower fat” purposes and because of tediousness, but I guess that deep dark color comes from browning the pieces in fat. Yes, I’ll try that right away!
The Kare-Kare, on the other hand, launched last December, is not the dark orange- brown and shiny Kare-Kare I’ve been aiming for. The flavor of the peanuts is still lacking, despite already putting five kilos in one batch. Mind you, we are using the famous Iligan peanuts which are flown all the way to Manila. Every week, I have been monitoring it and we’ve been tweaking the recipe every single time, but only through verbal instructions via Claudette, the sous chef. Why isn’t it the same as the one in our house? I can’t invite my parents to taste it yet. Wait ‘til I get my hands on it. I’m not going to give instructions anymore, I will do it myself.
And so it happened that when we opened Sentro1771 in Serendra last May, I got a chance to personally make the Kare-Kare sauce from the start. Since we did not have ox intestines at that time, I used beef bulalo. I sautéed the garlic then the onions, and I added the bulalo. Then I added the beef broth from the boiled boneless beef shank. I added the ground peanuts which I passed through the blender to make a smooth paste. Then I simmered it for about two hours. In between, I was adding atswete coloring several times.
Slowly, it was becoming this rich stew which I recognized! Yipee! Malapit na! I had not added yet the toasted ground rice. It was only then that I realized that it should only be added once the right color and peanut flavor have been achieved. Treat the rice like any thickener, dissolve it in water then add. The bulalo worked well because of its bone marrow inside for richness and depth of flavor and the tendons on the outside for that meat flavor. Had I used ox intestines, these would have disintegrated before the right color and flavor have been achieved. Of course, I am talking here about the sauce only being cooked one big giant cauldron. I had yet to add the boiled ox feet, ox tail, tripes, and boneless shank. However, I was already quite pleased with the result. It was really getting there. Unfortunately, it was nearing dinner service so I had to park it and resume the following day.
In the middle of writing this article, I ate breakfast. I had leftover Chicken & Pork Adobo with soy sauce from a previous dinner and I said, why not fry it once and for all? The pieces were browned and the garlic was browned and got all stuck together with the pepper… it looked very appetizing. Yipee! I got the look! However, in the taste department, it lacked the oomph of the vinegar and it’s because this was the version that was not marinated prior to stewing. Now this adobo looked like Winnie’s. Winnie is the cook of my aunt on my dad’s side. She has been cooking for my Lola Angustia and my dad’s side of the family for many years now. It’s my lola’s recipe but Winnie’s execution. Every time we ate at my Lola Angustia’s house, she would always have this adobo and it would always be wiped out by. What a wonderful turn of events! I’ll chuck Tibay’s adobo and go for Winnie’s instead. Now it’s time to teach it to the cooks.
Cooking, and not only Kare-Kare and Adobo, is really an unfinished business. It never ends. Be it at home or in the restaurants, I continuously discover something new each time. It is always subject to time, temperament, judgment, temperature, quantity and quality of ingredients, size of cooking vessel, technique, and food memories. It is such a joy to experiment and discover at the same time. I hope it never ends.
(The author is the COO & Executive Chef of the Chateau 1771 Group of Restaurants. The Chateau Group (www.chateaugroup.com) includes Chateau 1771 (European No Borders) in Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City; Sidebar in El Pueblo, Ortigas Center, Pasig City; Sentro 1771 (Modern Filipino) in Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati City, and in Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)