Tuesday, April 22, 2014




Today’s word on food is ADOBOS

Writing my radio show brings me to some words that have a kind of aural personality. Latin-Caribbean cuisine abound in them; yuca, mofongo, fufú, boniato and the ultra-sensually sounding … guanabana are all legal prey to my pursuits. Today’s show is on the word adobo
Sounded out it as if someone was doing a short drum beat on your desk. Ba-bump-bum. Try it. A-dough-bo …. Ba-bump-bum.
Adobo means spice rub or marinade, and the particular recipe we include on the WLRN website was inspired by ones introduced by African slaves brought to Bahía in Brazil in the 17th century. But the actual birthplace is of some confusion and disagreement … There is little arguing that the Filipino’s have claimed adobos as their national dish. But it is adobo’s flexibility that allow this. When this transoceanic traveler met the foodstuffs of Asia … soy sauce found its way into the party. The talented chef … Edward Lee now of Memphis was raised by his Korean grandmother in Brooklyn has a recipe in his fine cookbook, “Smoke & Pickles” for an Adobo Broth in which he poaches chicken as a preliminary step to finishing them to crispy perfection by a frying method. The broth has no fresh chilies. It’s payload is delivered via soy, vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, bay leaves and crushed red pepper flakes.
The grandmother’s of the world seem to have endorsed crock pot cookery. I have been in the home of a Filipino “Granny” who thought I worked too hard sometimes … and offered to share her slow cooked version of Adobo Chicken. She layered bone-in chicken thighs in her crock pot with a zippy mixture of onions, soy sauce, granulated sugar and rice wine vinegar and went off to play cards with her neighbor lady friends. A few hours later she offered it up with a side of fluffy white rice. She popped each of us an ice cold beer and I was a happy man!
In Spanish cuisine the flavors are informed by olive oil, vinegar, garlic, as well as various herbs and spices. When it got to the New World … chilies climbed aboard and that is how I most commonly make and use adobos. 
The one I make most often is a wet kind of paste. It makes for a messy but fun way of cooking! I rub it on chicken, steaks, veal chops and even some of the more meaty fish before the thermal aspects of cooking starts … and most often I sear it to push the flavors deeply into the food and then finish it by roasting where the heat is more in a ‘surrounding’ mode. This also helps prevent the adobo from getting bitter which could happen if the searing were prolonged. When I make our home-made chorizo sausage recipe I massage my Adobo Paste in with the raw pork and pork fat to create a major jump in flavors. After studying my friend Ed Lee’s cookbook a bit more I might adobo rub a chicken versus his broth… and then fry the bird up. I might even take one more recipe he offers by serving it with a ‘Dipping Sauce’ made by simply mixing a ratio of maple syrup, fish sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice and habanero chilies. Yes I will! Can’t wait to get to Memphis to try his in person. 
Spice rubs have become a big deal and many home cooks and backyard grill enthusiasts boast about their secret rubs and spice mix elixirs. Want to trump the boys and girls in your hood?  Make Adobos. Don’t tell them how easy it is. Ba-bump-bum
I’m Norman Van Aken and that’s my Word on Food ©.
© 2013 Norman Van Aken