I first heard of Romy Dorotan, a Filipino chef and restaurant owner in New York City, a couple of years ago when he appeared on the Martha Stewart show. This episode of Martha caused me to go through three stages of increasing shock:
Holy shit! There’s a Filipino on TV!
Holy shit! There’s a Filipino on TV, and he’s on the Martha Stewart Show!
Holy shit! There’s a Filipino on TV, and he’s on the Martha Stewart Show, and he’s cooking Chicken Adobo!
After getting over my initial disbelief that Chicken Adobo was being prepared on national television by an actual Filipino, I remember thinking “I am definitely going to try and make that recipe.” Hmmm, so much for watershed moments — quite a bit of time passed before I was even reminded about that Chicken Adobo recipe.
In fact, it was this post by the Amateur Gourmet that did the reminding. The AG gave a glowing review of Dorotan’s restaurant, Cendrillon, and proclaimed the Chicken Adobo at Cendrillon his “#1 favorite chicken dish for 2005.” After reading that post, I remember thinking “I am definitely taking The Wife to Cendrillon on our upcoming trip to New York.” So much for to-do lists — we did go to New York, and Cendrillon was on our itinerary, it just never got crossed off.
So when Dorotan, and his wife Amy Besa, released their first cookbook on Filipino cuisine entitled “Memories of Philippine Kitchens,” I had to buy it. And buy it I did a couple of months ago. But would I ever cook from it?
“Memories of Philippine Kitchens” is an awesome cookbook, not just for Filipinos, but for anyone looking to expand their cooking repertoire. It goes into some pretty good detail about the history and culture of Filipino dishes, recounts the stories of Filipino cooks, and features recipes for classic Filipino dishes as well as some newer dishes that are made at Cendrillon. And of course, it contains the same Chicken Adobo recipe that was featured on Martha Stewart and the Amateur Gourmet. I couldn’t pass this dish up for the third time in my life could I?
The Chicken Adobo recipe in “Memories of Philippine Kitchens” is pretty much the same as the recipe posted here. There’s even a link on that page to watch the video of Dorotan on Martha Stewart. It’s a pretty standard adobo recipe: marinate the chicken in a vinegar/soy mixture and then braise. One difference between the TV version and the book version that I noticed is that the TV version calls for a quick broil of the chicken to crisp it up after the braise; the book doesn’t mention this step. I followed the recipe from the book, and didn’t broil the chicken because my mother doesn’t do that for her adobo, so I figured it would be fine without the broil.
Something else my mother doesn’t do for her adobo is add coconut milk to the marinade, an ingredient Besa and Dorotan include in their adobo recipe. As I learned from “Memories of Philippine Kitchens,” coconut milk is an ingredient indicative to the Bicol region of the Philippines. My parents are from the Ilocos region, where surliness and ill-humor are the ingredients of choice (actually, those are preferred ingredients of only my father, I shouldn’t make blanket statements like that, my bad). Anyways, I used canned coconut milk and looked forward to that sweet addition to the dish.
Problem was, I didn’t exactly enjoy this Chicken Adobo, although my wife loved it. For me, it was a bit too tart, too tangy, or very vinegary, which was surprising considering it had a good amount of coconunt milk to cut through the vinegar. But it wasn’t what I was used to. It wasn’t the Chicken Adobo I grew up with. And that’s the tough thing about any kind of “homecooking” — nothing is ever going to be as good as what you grew up with. So I’m gonna see about getting some Adobo kung fu from my mother one of these days.
And I’m not giving up on Besa and Dorotan’s recipe either. I could probably find a better quality coconut milk, and I think the broiling of the chicken would be good too. I’m sure I probably screwed up something along the line in this recipe, but perhaps there is more surliness and ill-humor flowing in my veins than I’d like to admit.