Category Archives: Sauce

My Stepmother’s Filipino Chicken Adobo

My Stepmother’s Filipino Chicken was a popular post. I’m sort of rethinking how often I write these as I’m finding three times a week is a bit much.  Tell me your thoughts. 

I called my father to wish him a happy birthday. He’s hard of hearing now, so I’m screaming into the phone. He still doesn’t understand English very well. As a Filipino, who was in the U.S. Navy, he never quite assimilated. He did try, though. He married a Caucasian woman and then that went belly up. (I was a by-product of that first union.)

On his second try at marriage, he gave up attempting to be “white” and married a former Filipino beauty queen, Myrna. They had two sons. I lived with them in their Virginia Beach ranch home for a short while in my teens. It was the first time that I ate well. One of the great memories I have of being with him and his family, Myrna or her mother, Grandma, was cooking Filipino food: chicken adobo, pancit, lumpia, or guisantes (simmered pork and peas) for a family dinner. My father never used utensils when eating. He ate only with his hands and fingers; somehow, food never dropped onto on his clothes.

There was to be a party at the house. I think it was a birthday party, but I don’t recall. The morning before, about a dozen of my Dad’s friends, my tios or uncles – depending on whom you ask — all speaking Tagalog (the native dialect of the Philippines), came over and began digging a hole into the backyard. Into that pit, about four feet deep and eight feet wide, lined with banana leaves, a bonfire was started. By early afternoon the next day, and about three or four cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon later, the men were cooking up a whole pig over blistering coals.  Between slugs of beer, a discussion of basketball and smoking cigarettes, they took turns slowly rotating the carcass; occasionally, throwing water onto the pig, creating a delicious billow of white smoke. Its purpose was to create a crispy skin and succulent roasted meat.

Their wives – my stepmother along with aunts and tias, about a dozen women in all — gathered in the kitchen and dining room, rinsed vegetables in pots of cold water. Two ladies to a pot.  Carrots cut into matchsticks, tomatoes diced, and onions chopped. The smell of pig’s blood simmering with Thai chilies was perfuming the house. Sweet. Spicy. Earthy. It mingled with cigarettes and constant chattering.

Sometime around 2 in the afternoon, more friends showed up. No one knocked or rang the bell; they just greeted with hugs and kisses. The elders met on bended knees, and heads bowed. Their folded hands kissed in blessings.


Chicken Adobo (Myrna’s recipe)
Quartered chicken, using only legs and thighs. (I used about 3 lbs of chicken thighs)

For every cup of soy sauce, use a half cup of white vinegar. ( I used two cups of soy sauce and a cup of vinegar. You might want to do a cup and a half of soy sauce.)

Bay leaves. About three of four. (I used four fresh bay leaves but dried is good too.)

Garlic. “…as much as you want,” she says. (I used a whole head).

A quarter teaspoon of whole peppercorns. (Myrna’s instructions, “Throw in peppercorns.”)

Place everything in large pot and bring to boil, about 20 minutes. Cover slightly with the lid not all the way on the pot. When it gets to boil, turn to low heat to simmer, cooking for another 20 minutes but check the chicken and baste with the sauce. Cook until chicken is cooked through, with juices running clear. Serve over rice. Make it fancy with chopped scallions.

Note: I do not know of a Filipino who uses sugar or fries the chicken after it’s been braised.

The End. Go Eat.

I8tonite: 4th of July Homemade Barbecue Sauce

American Flag
American Flag

Barbecue is a fundamental right of every American to enjoy. It is an American creation as much as our Declaration of Independence. It not just a food for celebration, it is a showcase of our cultural melting pot that helped to create our nation.

Barbecue, the act of grilling or smoking meats with a fire may or may not come from the Spanish word barbacoa. Historians seems to be uncertain but they do know that the technique came to the United States by way of the Caribbean, via the Spanish and the reprehensible slave trade. Cooking over slow-burning coals, although brought to the shores in the 17th century, became rooted in our country’s Southern states by the late 19th century and is every bit as American as jazz and rhythm and blues.


A very, very truncated version of barbeque history is that slaves had much to do with the barbeque as we know it today. Pigs were plentiful and hid in the woods so they were free. However, it was a long process to clean the animals so gatherings were created to butcher, prepare, cook — and give away — as much of the meat as possible. The sauce was adopted with a vinegar and tomato base to “mop” the meat, saturating it to assist in cutting the pig’s fat and possible gaminess of a wild hog upon eating. The slow-roasted meat, like in many cultures, was basted and then served with the same sauce.

As we celebrate this auspicious day in our country’s history, we are cooking a time-honored tradition that was created — not by just one culture – but by many generations born in the United States and on American soil.  For me, it brings to mind why we honor July 4th – for freedom for all — and that whether you are black, white, gay, straight, hermaphrodite, transgendered, yellow, orange, gender-neutral, rainbow-colored or albino the first sentence of the second paragraph from the Declaration of Independence: “… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress, July 4, 1776


Homemade BBQ Sauce (Adapted from the kitchn) Makes 3 cups

I tablespoon olive oil

½ chopped red onion

4 – 5 garlic cloves, minced (I love garlic)

1 (8-ounce) can of tomato paste and 1 (8-ounce) can of tomato sauce or 1 (16-ounce) can of tomato sauce.

2 teaspoons of cumin, preferably freshly ground and toasted

4 tablespoons of dark brown sugar

¾ cup of apple cider vinegar

¼ cup of honey (or molasses, agave syrup, maple syrup, Karo syrup). Each one will impart a different flavor so it’s up to the cook and what you have in your pantry.

1/8 cup of Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup of yellow, brown or Dijon mustard (never grainy)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

Several dashes of hot sauce to taste (if you want it with some kick.) I used sriracha as it had the heat. I wanted to temper the sweetness with some high temperature on the finish.


Let’s make this puppy:

Using a medium size sauce pan, drizzle in the olive oil and get it hot. Throw in the onions and cook until soft. Add the garlic. Stir until fragrant.

Add the cumin and tomato sauce/puree. (Add 8 ounce of water if using the puree). Stir.

Now add all the remaining ingredients and stir until thickened. Add more water, if you would like a thinner sauce. Also, at this point, see if you want to add more sweetener or make it zestier.

Use it as a baste for meats or non-meats. Serve extra on the side.

NOTE: This is a homemade barbeque sauce. It’s delicious but you can definitely play around with the ingredients. There should not be a hard and fast rule. Just deliciousness.