Adobo comes from the Spanish who explored, conquered and influenced regional cuisines throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and the Philippines. The word Adobo describes a sauce, a seasoning mix, or marinade. It is used extensively in Puerto Rican cooking to season meat and poultry before cooking, much like a marinade, in that the longer the protein steeps in the seasoning, the tastier and more tender it will be when cooked.
Unlike Mexican cuisine which is spicy hot from chiles, Puerto Rican cooks do not use hot chiles. Their dishes are packed with savory seasonings made of fresh vegetables and dried herbs and spices. Goya brand Sazon is also a seasoning salt mix used regularly in Puerto Rican cooking as a substitute for achiote oil (annatto seeds cooked in olive oil). Sazon is sort of the lazy cooks alternative to adding the saffron color to a dish. But that’s for another post…Asopao – Puerto Rican Chicken Soup uses Sofrito, Adobo and achiote. Mojo Isleño, a delicious sauce for seafood will be posted after that.
Okay, back to Adobo! One of the key ingredients in a fresh adobo is vinegar. I thought this unusual because lime juice seems like a better compliment to the garlic, olive oil, oregano and salt/pepper. However, I was assured by one of my neighbors Myrla Colón that Puerto Ricans prefer the flavor of vinegar over lime. So there you have it, authentic adobo of Puerto Rico contains vinegar…red-wine vinegar preferably. I’ve taken a bit of license here and offer lime juice as an option to the vinegar.
Filipino adobo chicken is simply chicken stewed in garlic, vegetable oil, soy sauce,vinegar and optional fresh ginger. It’s more Asian than Spanish so don’t confuse adobo chicken of the Philippines with adobo chicken of the Puerto Rican persuasion.
You can buy dry powdered Adobo with a variety of herbs and spices but an authentic Puerto Rican Adobo made of fresh ingredients is by far superior. This recipe will be cheap and simple to make since you probably have all the ingredients right in your kitchen now. Use this recipe to marinate chicken pieces overnight. They will be positively succulent when grilled the next day. Serve with rice and beans, green salad and a glass of your favorite wine.
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3 tsp sea salt
- 12 black peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano (3 Tbsp fresh oregano)
- 1 Tbsp red-wine vinegar (or 1 Tbsp lime juice)
- 6 Tbsp olive oil
- 8 chicken pieces
- In a blender or small food processor, grind garlic, salt, peppercorns and oregano with vinegar.
- Slowly add olive oil and whirl until emulsified.
- Wash chicken pieces in cold water and pat dry. Place in zip-lock bag or glass dish with lid.
- Cover chicken on all sides with Adobo marinade. Place in refrigerator overnight or at least 3 hours.
- Remove chicken from refrigerator. Turn pieces to coat with marinade and allow to come to room temperature.
- Remove chicken pieces from marinade. Reserve marinade for basting during cooking.
- Prepare grill. Over medium heat, cook chicken pieces for 10-12 minutes covered. Baste with marinade. Turn and continue to cook additional 10-12 minutes covered. Baste with marinade.
- Check for doneness. Juices should run clear when chicken is pierced with a knife in the thickest part of each piece.
- Just before the chicken is really done, move the chicken pieces to a high heat area of the grill. Brush one last time with marinade and grill just until browned to your liking.
- Only grill chicken over medium heat. High heat will only char the outside and leave the inside undercooked. If you can hold your hand over the area for grilling 5-6 seconds, the temperature is just about medium.
- Finish chicken over high heat to brown and crisp the skin as well as destroy any bacteria. If you can hold your hand over the grill area for 1-2 seconds the temperature is high.
- Do not brush the cooked chicken with the marinade that the raw chicken sat in. Any bacteria from the raw chicken will be transferred to the cooked chicken.
- If chicken breasts are really thick they’ll require longer cooking. You can butterfly the breasts so they will cook at the same rate as the thighs, wings and drum sticks.