Monday, March 22, 2010

French Baked Adobo

There I was talking about shallots the other week, when the American living the sweet life in Paris, David Lebovitz, whose incredible wit and humor I absolutely adore, writes about a roast chicken with caramelized shallots a few days later.

I have been experimenting with different flavors and seasonings for roasted chicken for years because it's so versatile and very kid-friendly (for my own kids as well as for me being a kid still, though I was a kid myself when I started cooking chicken). So naturally the post interested me, apart from the fact that I got curious about the seasonality of shallots from half-way around the world.

But what got me really hooked on the recipe was that, on closer inspection, the marinade consisted of nothing more than the ingredients - soy sauce and vinegar - for a proper Filipino adobo, which is almost the Philippine national dish.

Well almost....the archipelagic nature of the country makes it difficult for one thing to represent the entire nation. In the case of adobo, it is eaten in the entire expanse of the archipelago, but the variants can be as many as the more than seven thousand islands spanning the country.

And I'm not even talking about the origins of the dish. Its main use in the past was for preserving meats in the absence of refrigeration, but history doesn't confirm whether adobo was created here, or was an adaptation of the Mexican adobado, which was probably brought here via the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade (or maybe it was taken to Mexico from here?).

But back to David's roasted chicken. He writes that he adapted the recipe from a book containing French farmhouse cooking. Now how did adobo arrive in France? Or maybe the French originated it?

The original recipe calls for only vinegar as marinade, but David is enamored of soy sauce for its umami angle, so he added some. The Filipino adobo also uses mainly vinegar, with the addition of salt or coconut milk depending on the region, though a large percentage of the Philippine population favors adobo with vinegar and soy sauce, so it's quite safe to say it's the most popular version.

One main difference between the French and the Filipino adobo, though, is the use of shallots in the former and garlic - lots of them! - in the latter. Which makes the French version sweet with the caramelized shallots, while the Filipino variant uses a small amount of sugar to sweeten the dish a bit.

One thing more - the Filipino adobo is mainly braised, and usually eaten with some of the thickened sauce from the marinade spooned over hot rice, while the French farmhouse one is baked dry.

Truth to tell, the adobo taste of the baked version was not really strong because of the small quantities involved (but it's easy to remedy that!), but what's forceful is the sweetness of the shallots. The soy sauce-vinegar served only to enhance the flavor of the chicken and support the savory effect of the shallots.

Which tells me exactly why adobo is a great way to cook chicken, be it in France, Mexico, the Philippines, or anywhere else in the world.

French Baked Adobo

1 kilogram thigh fillet (about 12 pieces)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 bulbs shallots

  1. Mix the first four ingredients and set aside for an hour up to three days in the refrigerator, turning over the chicken pieces twice a day.
  2. When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to about 180 degrees C, then mince the shallots finely.
  3. Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side up, on a shallow dish large enough so they can be laid down in a single layer. Sprinkle the minced shallots evenly on top.
  4. Bake for about thirty minutes, or until the shallots have caramelized.

Original recipe here.

  • David used red wine vinegar and advises against balsamic. I had an open bottle of white wine vinegar so that's what I used. The Filipino adobo uses vinegar made from cane or coconuts - I'd like to use that next time.
  • The original recipe called for one whole chicken cut up into eight pieces. I used thigh fillets to avoid the added task of deboning at the table for the children. If using bone-in cuts, increase the baking time by about 15 minutes.
  • I'd like to increase the amounts of vinegar and soy sauce, and decrease the olive oil, next time to pump up the adobo flavor. And use garlic!
  • In David's recipe the chicken was mixed with the marinade then baked immediately. I like to set aside marinated chicken first before cooking - it enhances the flavor. And chicken is more delicious reheated, so we don't eat it right after cooking, but prepare and cook it in advance so it can be eaten reheated the next day.

Related Posts
Pinaupong Manok sa Asin
Pinaupong Manok sa Sabaw
Pininyahang Manok
Adobo sa Mangga
Chicken with Old Bay Seasoning
Chicken Fillet with Mango
Chicken Mapo Tofu
Tinolang Native na Manok


Anonymous said...

I don't know about baked adobo. I like my good old Filipino pork adobo. Tita Roz

Kai said...

Oh yes nothing beats that Tita Roz!