Confession: I’d never had Filipino adobo before I made it myself. Before developing this recipe, I spent at least two weeks (evenings only, granted) reading about it in books and online and being led down Filipino-food-culture rabbit holes, and I think what I’ve come up with based on that research is a classic, bare-bones adobong baboy (pork adobo); it features the traditional key flavoring elements of most adobo: vinegar, soy sauce, black peppercorns, and bay leaves. It is one of the most extraordinary dishes I’ve ever made, and yet it may very well be unlike any other adobo you’ve had.
I began the process of learning about this dish, which had long been a simmering fascination for me, feeling sheepish and a bit mortified, worried I’d get something wrong or offend a huge number of readers because my vinegar-to-soy proportion was not what their grandmothers and their grandmothers’ neighbors and all their neighbors’ ancestors had insisted on. But in all my recent reading about Filipino food, one thing that struck me is how open and accommodating Filipino writers are when describing their food and recipes, particularly when it comes to this dish called “adobo,” which it seems could be just about anything as long as it contains vinegar. This welcoming, anything-goes approach to traditional foods—certainly a function of the island food culture’s many, widely diverse historical influences—was so refreshing to me, and I hope you’ll read this pork adobo recipe and indeed all of the recipes in this book with the same level of informality.
Season the pork with the salt. In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat a little of the oil over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add about one third of the pork in a single layer and cook, turning occasionally, until the pieces are nicely browned on two or more sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker and repeat with the remaining pork in two more batches. Pour
Pour the vinegar and soy sauce over the meat and stir in the brown sugar. Add the lemongrass, if using, garlic, ginger, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
Put the rice in a sieve and rinse very well under running water. Dump into a
If there’s a lot of clear fat on the surface of the pork cooking liquid, use a large spoon to skim it off. Holding the cooker lid askew, drain as much of the liquid as possible from the cooker into a skillet (the one from browning the pork is fine) or a wide saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is reduced a bit, about 5 minutes. Pour it back into the cooker, turn the pork to coat, and serve with the rice (picking out the bay leaves and lemongrass stalks, if using, and making sure to spoon up some of the peppercorns as you serve—they sink to the bottom).
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