It’s Greek adobo, and it may be one of the best-tasting adobo to ever cross your lips. It has a terrific blend of hearty flavors and stirring textures from the mix of chicken, potatoes and cheese. Though it looks complicated to make, its simple preparation and presentation is part of its appeal.
Kotopoulo Lemonato is basically Greek Chicken Adobo braised in lemon, white wine vinegar and oregano with lots of garlic, extra virgin olive oil. It’s served with Greek potatoes and feta cheese.
“You rub the chicken with garlic before placing it in a braising pan,” instructs chef Robby Goco. “Then everything goes in it, like the lemon, vinegar, garlic and chicken stock.”
The braising takes about an hour or until the chicken is cooked. For consistency, Goco puts the chicken in the oven with potatoes and feta cheese. He also adds extra virgin olive oil for that succulent tang.
The meat comes out tender and juicy. It’s mild in flavor but you can still savor the zesty mix of lemon and vinegar that fortifies the meat.
“Actually, a really good combination for adobo is kesong puti,” says Goco. “The cheese cuts the sourness and sweetness of the adobo. The secret of the adobo is in the acidity. I use lemon for its citric acid and vinegar for the acetic acid. What happens with the acid is, it loses its sharpness once you cook it and then it slowly becomes sweet.”
Goco, a successful chef and restaurateur, grew up with two kinds of adobo served in their family house. One was Batangas’ Adobong Dilaw (with turmeric) and Pangasinan’s Adobo with Bagoong.
Goco’s mom, Marietta Goco, is from Lingayen, Pangasinan, where the adobo is a bit dry and sweet with liver and lots of onions and served with bagoong on the side. Meanwhile, Goco’s dad, former solicitor general Raul Goco, is from Taal, Batangas, where adobo is cooked in luyang dilaw with loads of garlic.
“I prefer the Taal adobo,” says Goco. “The meat is so tender it almost always falls off the bones. It is also served with kesong puti. Even in the house, there’s always kesong puti.”
Goco, who owns and runs Cyma branches, Charlie’s Grind and Grill, Achiote (a Mexican restaurant) and Le Monet in Baguio City, also hankers for adobo with gata and adobo with bagoong.
Goco also grew up in a house where food was abundant. The typical mealtime included four to five viands on the table.
“My mom would always say, ‘let’s not eat out because the food in the house is better,’” he recalls. “Family meals are very sacred, Even when you have a hangover, you have to eat all together. No TV as well. That’s the only time you get to talk to each other. Sometimes, our meals last for four hours.”
Now, Goco and his family see each other every Sunday for a family get-together in one of his restaurants.
Passion for food
Goco started his passion for good food at a young age. He baked his first cookie at nine. He would go inside the family library to check on the various recipe books and magazines.
“In the library, my dad’s books on law and the constitution were very sacred. We couldn’t touch them. And, because I was still small, I could only reach the bottom part of the shelves where the food books were.”
Throughout his high school days, he would sell baked goodies to his classmates, basketball friends and even neighbors.
“If I wanted extra money, it was always through food,” he says.
Goco was able to buy his own bicycle through brownies, chocolate chips cookies, cathedral windows and mango with graham crackers on top.
“I was able to buy some ovens and a car [from all these]” Goco says. “There’s always money in food.”
Though he had a hard time convincing his dad, who wanted his son to take up law in college, Goco eventually enrolled at the California Culinary Academy, then worked in several restaurants in New York. When he got back to Manila, he opened Tequila Joe’s with a group of friends. He later opened Café All Day and also joined VicVic Villavicencio’s chain of restaurants.
In 2005, Goco put up Cyma, a Greek restaurant, in Boracay.
“Because I wanted to have a restaurant by the beach, watch the sunset and drink my martini,” he says. “But, my dream of watching the sunset never happened. From day one I opened Cyma, I never saw the beach again. I was always going to talipapa to buy ingredients for the restaurant. I was feeding more than 200 people on a 35-seater restaurant.”
Today, Cyma has eight branches, including Cebu City.
Kotopoulo Lemonato (Greek Chicken Adobo)
1 pc or 1.1 kg whole chicken, cut into eight (neckless)
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
6 pcs lemon, juice only
¼ c vinegar, white wine
Salt to taste
Black peppercorn, freshly ground to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
½ tbsp oregano leaves
½ kg potatoes, peeled and wedges
Feta cheese, diced
In a heavy bottom saucepan, arrange chicken halves in a single layer. Place potatoes in between chicken cuts. Fill pan with water until half of the chicken. Add garlic, lemon, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce to a simmer until liquid becomes half. Continue simmering covered until chicken is browned. Top with feta cheese.
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