Food tells a story and everyone has a story to tell. Chicken adobo, the national dish of the Philippines, is part of my story. To me, Filipino food is the bridge between Spanish and Asian cuisine. It’s my vehicle for exploring new and exciting ingredients in Asian cuisine while still staying true to my cultural roots.
If I had to pick a dish that best defined me as a person and as a cook it would be this one. The reason this dish is so meaningful to me is because my grandmother cooks something so similar to it that it may as well be chicken adobo. I grew up eating her braised chicken wings and to this day every time I eat them I’m transported back to my childhood. I chose to use Long Island duck to replace the chicken in this recipe because I think the gaminess of the duck goes really well with the strong flavors of adobo. Also, I really like duck.
Coconut rice is very delicious and extremely easy to make. The coconut, to me, is a symbol of my tropical roots. It is a reminder of where I come from and how it can really help to elevate even the simplest dish to new levels. My mother grew up in the Dominican Republic and one of her childhood memories is eating fresh coconuts off the tree. Although coconuts are more of a coastal delicacy, they were still available in her town from time to time. Getting a coconut to sip on was sort of like what getting an ice cream is to kids today. I think the refreshing taste of the coconut helps to clean the palate after every bite of the duck, causing you to really want to take the next one.
I like make coconut rice using a fresh coconut. First off, you need to drain the coconut of any liquid by cutting into the eye with a knife; the liquid can be saved and used to make drinks. I like to reserve a little liquid for the rice itself to help accentuate the coconut flavor.
Our source of Coco Milk
Once you’ve extracted the liquid, hold the coconut as shown in the picture on the left. Take the back of a cleaver (or small hammer) and give a sharp blow to the side of the coconut. Turn the coconut and continue hitting with the cleaver in a rotating motion. Eventually you should see a fault line develop after which you should be able to pull apart the coconut into two halves. It takes a bit of practice to find the sweet spot, but once you find it the rest is easy as pie. Remove the pulp and blend it with an equal amount of boiling water to make coconut milk. Once you have the coconut milk just substitute it for water in a normal recipe for rice.
A Beautiful Bird: The LI Duck
I don’t like to buy pieces of poultry. It’s much more economical (and fun!) to buy the whole bird and break it down. One of the things I love about cooking is using as much of the product as possible. Complete product utilization fascinates me and it is one of the reasons I love using duck wings for this recipe. People don’t normally use the duck wings for much more than making stock. But why not cook them and serve them as appetizers? When you buy a whole bird there are a number of ways you can break it down and cook the parts. You could confit the legs, braise the wings, saute the breast, and make stock with the trimmings. The duck practically pays for itself.
I like crushing garlic with a mortar and pestle. It somehow makes me feel closer to my ancestors.
So here’s what I do when I make duck wing adobo: Break down the bird and reserve the other parts for tomorrow’s dinner; brown the wings and legs in a some neutral oil. Once the duck is browned and there are some sucs in the pan, remove the wings and legs and add some rice or white vinegar to delgaze. Then add crushed garlic, salt, and pepper and stir until the salt has dissolved. Put the duck back into the pan, cover, and cook about 20 minutes. Remove the lid, add some soy sauce, cover, and cook another 10 minutes. Remove the duck and reduce the sauce until nappant (thick, non-watery) consistency. Serve the duck over some of the coconut rice and coat with the sauce.
The finished dish: Buen Provecho!
Some sauteed spinach goes nicely with this dish. I like to saute my spinach with some garlic, salt, pepper, and a little lemon juice. The beauty of adobo is it goes well with any poultry dish. So if you ever need a quick appetizer to go with your main dish think about throwing together some good old fashioned adobo!