Adobo is comfort food for Filipinos: amazingly simple to whip up, with the ability to drop-kick the winter doldrums with the agility of a ninja. Vinegar and soy sauce work together in harmony to bring out the best in garlic and soften whole black peppercorns just enough to where when you bite down on one, its yields easily, filling your mouth with a welcome cheek-numbing spice that cuts through vinegar's tang. I learned this recipe from my friend Lidy Chan, who moved to the states over 20 years ago. It's one of her go-tos, and now one of mine. —Jackie Varriano
Test Kitchen Notes
For such minimal effort and just a handful of humble ingredients, this dish knocked my socks off. As soon as I inhaled the intoxicating aroma of the garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar hitting the hot pan, I knew I was in for some zippy deliciousness. But the standout element is the black pepper; I was tempted to cut back on it, and I’m glad I didn’t. Softened into submission, the peppercorns are piquant surprises (pleasantly so) between bites of rich, tender chicken. Next time, I’ll pour off a little fat after searing the chicken thighs, but other than that I wouldn’t change a thing. —Midge
Rinse chicken thighs and pat dry. In a large bowl, place chicken and sprinkle with salt, black pepper and garlic powder, turning to coat each piece thoroughly.
In a Dutch oven or deep cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Place the chicken thighs or drumsticks in a single layer in the skillet, working in batches if necessary, and fry for three minutes until golden brown. Turn, and fry another three minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and turn the heat down to medium.
Pour in the vinegar, soy sauce, water, peppercorns, bay leaves, and garlic. Bring to a boil. Add the chicken back into the pot and cook slowly, covered for 45 minutes or until so tender that the chicken meat falls off the bone.