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Extra steps intensify crockpot chicken adobo

By Betty Shimabukuro

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:33 a.m. HST, Mar 18, 2011


The holy grail in crockpot cooking is a dish that peaks after nine to 10 hours — a work day plus commuting time. Under this magical scenario you plop the ingredients into the pot in the a.m. and come home to a dinner ready to serve. You are Supermom/dad. Pat yourself on the back.

Yes, there are recipes like this, mostly involving giant chunks of meat, dried beans and soups. But not chicken.

I am in the midst of a crockpot crusade (introduced in this column on Jan. 5), aimed at collecting local-style recipes that work with long, slow cooking. I've had some mediocre results, and I'm here to report: Don't try to slow-cook chicken for 10 hours. Even eight can be dicey.

Overcooked chicken gains a dry, sort of mealy texture. If you're not picky, it's fine and you'll have lots of sauce to moisten it up, but these results are why lots of people give up on slow-cooking. The food's OK, but not great.

I've found the best timing on chicken is about six hours, sometimes less, with a little attention midstream (turning the pieces for even cooking). I do chicken dishes on my day off. There's usually enough for a meal that night, plus leftovers for an easy weeknight meal later.

My crusade — dubbed "Slow Ono" — will continue with a new recipe on the first Wednesday of each month. I welcome requests and suggestions. After the first installment, reader Merry Lee Corwin asked for a recipe for adobo.

The usual local version of adobo is chicken or pork simmered in a simple vinegar-based sauce. Traditional Filipino recipes will sometimes include coconut milk or sugar — and they often call for broiling, grilling or frying the meat at the end to crisp the outside.

This recipe calls for marinating as a first step, and in the end broiling the chicken and thickening the sauce. All this is meant to intensify the flavor, but if it's too fussy for you, just throw all the ingredients in the crockpot and cook. Eat it straight out of the pot. You'll still be satisfied.

SLOW-COOKER CHICKEN ADOBO

4 pounds chicken thighs, skin removed, bone-in (see note)
1 large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
» Marinade:
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced

Combine marinade ingredients. Pour over chicken pieces and let marinate, refrigerated, at least 4 hours.

Place onions in bottom of slow-cooker. Top with chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then turn pieces and sprinkle the other side. Add marinade to pot. Cook on low 5 to 6 hours, until chicken is tender. Turn pieces halfway through, if possible.

(If cooking ahead to serve on another day, refrigerate chicken and onions separately from juices. When ready to serve, proceed with the next steps.)

Place chicken on broiling pan and broil 5 minutes per side until lightly browned.

Skim fat from liquid in slow-cooker. Place liquid in small pot on stove; bring to simmer. Dissolve cornstarch in water and stir into pot, continuing to stir until mixture thickens. Serve chicken with onions and pour sauce over all. Serves 6.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 250 calories, 7 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 145 mg cholesterol, greater than 1,200 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 36 g protein

Note: I remove the skin to cut the fat, but for a more crispy end product, leave the skin on; it will crisp up under the broiler.

Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. Write "By Request," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813. E-mail bshimabukuro@staradvertiser.com.

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