I love getting creative in the kitchen, but sometimes it's just as important to get back to the basics and really understand how flavors work together. As I've spent more time cooking, I have become fascinated by the flavor profiles that are dominant in the food of various cultures, and I love making some of the "classic" dishes that I've never experienced before. The perfect place to start when looking for this type of thing is this month's cookbook of the month, Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything." In this book, he goes through many of the typical ways to cook each type of ingredient, and often gives variations that allow the dish to be transformed from one culture to another.
Chicken adobo is a classic Fillipino dish and involves stewing chicken in a vinegar-based sauce. Interestingly, the traditional way to make this is to first poach the chicken in the sauce, and then brown it (which is exactly the opposite of the way that meat is typically prepared).
Chicken adobo (adapted from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything")
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce (it will be way too salty if you use regular; use wheat-free tamari for gluten-free)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
freshly ground pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Combine everything but the chicken in a deep skillet or large pot and bring to a boil. Add the chicken, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Let this cook for about 30 min, turning a couple of times. Heat a grill pan on medium heat, remove the chicken from the skillet (letting excess sauce drip off), and grill the chicken until brown on both sides (about 5 min per side). While the chicken is cooking, reduce the sauce by letting it boil on high heat. Serve the sauce on top of the chicken. Serves 3.
I didn't exactly stick to the traditional method because normally you would use an entire chicken (with bones and skin remaining), but I think that I got close enough. I really liked the combination of the sauce ingredients, but it was a bit on the salty side, which hid the vinegar flavor. Perhaps switching the amounts of these two would work better. The combo of vinegar and soy sauce gave it a hint of an Asian flare, but it was very different than typical Chinese or Japanese food. It was also interesting that browning the meat after it was cooked seemed to have the same effect as browning it first (sealing in the flavors and juices). It was fun to try something different and experience a new type of food and a new technique! I have a feeling that it will be happening again this month.