Then there’s Task #386, Setting Smoothly Rich Background Music for Chicken Dishes. Though today’s entry, Adobo Aromatic Chicken, is a Filipino poultry preparation, bacon infuses the chicken with its signature buttery smokiness when its fat is used to pan sear the bird initially. After that, bacon itself makes an appearance just before serving, when it’s crumbled and added to the mix.
This leading presence is hardly surprising, when one considers the Philippine islands were part of the Spanish Empire for centuries. The two countries were bound to have influenced each other’s cultures, culinary and otherwise. Swine is central to both peoples’ cooking, and when a dish marries the two, as Adobo Chicken does, bacon inevitably will play a part.
Although the Spanish influence is undeniable, as the ingredients list includes molasses, bay leaves and sherry, and the name itself, adobo, is Spanish, it is, on balance, an Southeast Asian preparation. Limes, soy sauce and ginger give the dish its tropical character, its soul. Then there are the elements common to both cultures, like chicken, garlic and bacon. Silky, smooth bacon.
It is this eclectic blend of culinary influences that distinguished the recipe when it appeared the September/October 2018 Taste of Home magazine. These pages don’t dally much with ‘fusion’ cuisine, as too often it’s merely a contrivance, but Adobo Chicken speaks of centuries of shared history. It provides perfect opportunity to explore Filipino cooking for the first time.
By the way, lime wedges are recommended as an accompaniment. Make that more than a suggestion; adding freshly-squeezed lime juice elevates Adobo Chicken to near perfection. Its sparkling freshness beautifully balances, and complements, the dish’s richness.
Bacon is only one ingredient among many in Adobo Chicken, but it gives the preparation its silkiness. In fact, here’s another use for bacon – making ‘fusion’ cuisine worth pursuing for once.
Filipino Adobo Aromatic Chicken
- 8 bacon strips, chopped
- 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 large onion, chopped (*1)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 medium limes, plus more for serving (optional)
- 1/4 cup sherry
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (*2)
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped, for garnish
Using a grater or microplane, zest two limes, then juice them. Set aside the zest and the juice for later use.
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until it crisps. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to drain on a paper towel and set aside. Place the chicken in the skillet, and cook until it’s just browned, about three minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a slow cooker. (*3)
Add the onions to the skillet, stirring them until they’re tender, about three minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the lime juice and zest, sherry, soy sauce, molasses, ginger, bay leaves, ground pepper and chili sauce. Stir to loosen the brown bits at the bottom of the skillet. Pour skillet contents over the chicken in the slow cooker and cook, covered for three hours.
Remove the bay leaves and stir in the bacon bits you set aside earlier. Serve over cooked rice and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve with lime wedges, if desired. (*4)
1 – Of course, two medium shallots would be much better.
2 – The recipe isn’t specific, but I had some sambal oelek in the fridge, and it fits with the whole Southeast Asian culinary theme, so why not? Sriracha would work too.
3 – If you don’t have a slow cooker, you could transfer the chicken to a plate, then prepare the sauce in the skillet as instructed. When done, instead of adding the sauce to the slow cooker, return the chicken to the skillet. Reduce the flame to the lowest setting and cover the skillet. Stir the contents a few times throughout cooking, to prevent sticking. Not quite as effective as using a slow cooker, but you’re getting there.
4 – Not just as desired, but as recommended. Strongly. The “extra” limes give this dish its voice.