Filipino Chicken Adobo

This may be my first recipe from the Philippines. The recipe calls for coconut milk means, which I knew meant that my family’s opinion would be split.  I love coconut, and give this recipe 4-stars. My coconut-hating son gave his sauce-less chicken just 2-stars. But if you like coconut, the recipe doesn’t require a lot of labor and can be made on a weeknight.

Don’t try it unless you like coconut

The odd thing about this recipe is that the chicken starts skin-side down in a cold skillet. According to Chris Kimball, as the skillet gradually heats up the fat under the skin will begin to melt allowing the chicken to brown. In fact, the chicken browned very well and I discarded quite a bit of fat. So far so good.

But the recipe had a serious flaw. While I followed all the cooking temperatures and times exactly, in the end the thighs registered only 140-degrees. 10 minutes longer and they were only up to 145-degrees. Another 5 minutes and they were still at 145-degrees. After 50 minutes on the stove-top I had to finish under the broiler until the chicken registered 175-degrees. Why? I have two possible explanations: (1) the burner was too low, or (2) because I used only 6 thighs and the recipe called for 8, more of the thighs might have been covered by sauce. The higher level of the liquid would have transferred more heat to the chicken.

Additional comments:

  1. Once I realized that what was going on I used a trick from the poached fish recipe, where I placed half an onion cut-side-down to occupy more space. The onion is there only to increase the level of the liquid. But perhaps I realized there was a problem too much liquid had evaporated for this trick to work.
  2. I only made 6 thighs but still my 12″ skillet was filled. There would have been no more room for 8 thighs specified in this recipe. They did shrink down a bit, but it would have been a tight fit which doesn’t really promote crisp skin.
  3. I would recommend pre-heating your oven in case your chicken isn’t coming up to temperature. If you prepare the chicken in an oven-proof skillet, just stick the whole skillet in a 350-degree oven.
  4. I substituted chopped shallot for chopped scallions, because that’s all I had in my kitchen.
  5. This recipe is from the Philippines, and has nothing whatsoever to do with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Originally the Spanish term “adobo” meant and vinegar or chili-based sauce that was added as a preservative to meat.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $5.50.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 1:00 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared the soup today are given below:

8 bone-in chicken thighs
1/3 cup soy sauce
13-1/2-oz coconut milk
3/4 cup cider vinegar
8 garlic cloves
4 bay leaves
2 teaspoons pepper
1 scallion

  1. Trim any excess fat or skin away from chicken and add to large bowl. Evenly coat chicken with 1/3 cup soy sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Peel garlic cloves. Remove chicken from soy sauce and place skin-side-down in 12″ non-stick skillet. But don’t discard the soy sauce.
  3. Put skillet on medium-high burner for about 8 minutes until the chicken becomes well browned. Meanwhile add coconut milk, cider vinegar, whole garlic cloves, bay leaves, and ground pepper into bowl with soy sauce.
  4. Temporarily move chicken to a clean plate and empty away any fat in the skillet. Replace the chicken in the skillet, again skin-side down. Add the coconut milk mixture to the skillet and continue to simmer for 20 minutes; uncovered.
  5. Flip the chicken skin-side up and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 175-degrees. (Note: If the chicken is substantially below 175-degrees finish cooking in a 350-degrees oven)
  6. Place chicken on a clean serving platter and tent with aluminum foil while finishing the sauce.
  7. Discard bay leaves and increase burner to medium-high. Cook sauce for 5 to 7 minutes to thicken. Meanwhile, slice your scallions thin.
  8. Pour sauce over chicken and sprinkle with chopped scallions.

12 Responses to Filipino Chicken Adobo

  1. Jenn_DC says:

    I saw this in last month’s issue, but I wasn’t really drawn to it until I saw it here. It was delicious!

    Because I can’t leave well enough alone, here are my changes: I only had chicken breasts and 2 bay leaves left, so that’s what got used. I also added about 1 tbsp of brown sugar while finishing the sauce. Thanks again!

  2. David says:

    I have cooked this recipe twice. The first time, the chicken was not done, as Mark suggests was the case with his attempt. I also do not use “non-stick” cookware, and used my trusty All-Clad 12″ skillet, sprayed with canola oil. Like, Mark, my first attempt was not cooked through, and my picky wife took a couple bits and complained that it was underdone.

    In my second attempt, I determined, like Mark, the dish required finishing in the oven. This time, with an insert thermometer in place after cooking on the stove top, it took about 10 minutes to get up to 165. After a 10 minute rest on the counter, the chicken was perfect.

    A couple notes: Getting the skin to crust was only partially successful. Kimball’s cold pan no-oil technique, which he suggests for pork chops to great success, works, if you finish in the oven.

    Eight (8) thighs is too many for a 12″ skillet.

    Unlike Mark, I had no hint of overly coconut flavor. I think this might be because I used tamari, a reduced and thickened soy sauce instead of plain soy. Both versions tasted terrific, tho’ . . .

  3. Tim says:

    I love that you show the process with all the f aux pas.
    There’s a reason they call it the test kitchen. But they aren’t as forthcoming. (which is good ’cause it would make tedious television.
    It makes my day to see experimentation and solutions in the kitchen.
    I need to get in touch with my brother-in-law and plan some exceptional meals.

  4. christine says:

    we did this recipe exactly as shown on ATK and it turned out fabulous. i didn’t think it was coconutty at all.

  5. Marie says:

    I saw the TV show and noticed that the cook trimmed a great deal of the chicken meat edges that contained fat. He comented that now the pieces were flatter. Would the trimming account for being able to fit 8 thighs in a 12 inch skillet?

  6. KS says:

    Most chicken adobo recipes don’t use coconut milk. That chef they consulted is from a small region in the Philippine Islands which puts coconut milk in EVERYTHING. 99% of Filipino chicken adobo recipes have no coconut milk.

    America’s Test Kitchen screwed up in that regard.

    These are the authentic recipes:

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