Renowned chef Jessie Sincioco grew up eating and enjoying a very rich, thick, saucy, smoked-flavored chicken and pork adobo prepared by aunt Estelita Sincioco-Dy.
Jessie grew up under the loving care of Estelita since she was nine years old. Estelita is the younger sister of Jessie’s father, Juanito.
“At a young age, I was already exposed to a very delicious adobo courtesy of my aunt,” says Jessie, who openly admits that it was her aunt who diligently taught her how to bake and cook. “The thick, brown sauce is already a viand in itself. You’ll crave for extra rice.”
Estelita’s version is a result of her constant experimentation in the kitchen in order to come up with a distinct flavor for adobo, and not just the typical salty-sour kind. So, she adds chicken liver—not pork—into the mixture for that extra rich, heady taste. She then marinates the chicken liver and thigh and pork belly with soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaf, garlic, peppercorns and oyster sauce (to give it a sweetish flavor).
She leaves the mixture overnight to make sure all the flavors seep in to the meat.
The next day, she separates all the meat from the sauce and grills the liver.
“That’s the secret for that smoky flavor,” says Estelita. “You grill the liver and you either pound it or put in a food processor. The liver becomes your thickener.”
“Jessie likes it very much,” Estelita adds. “My kids and husband (Eduardo) also like it with a lot of sauce.” Estelita has four daughters—Nightingale, Beryl, Abigail and Poinsettia.
Estelita notes that the adobo with liver sauce actually tastes better after days of cooking and reheating. It’s also a versatile dish since you can pair it with rice, pasta or simple roasted or baked potatoes.
Estelita often pairs her adobo with fried fish and vegetables like ginisang ampalaya.
Apart from adobo, Estelita is also loved by her family and friends for her noodle dishes (lomi, pancit canton and bihon), kare-kare, Japanese sukiyaki and tempura.
Even in her 70s, Estelita finds cooking and baking her therapy. Even now that she cooks only for her hubby and eldest daughter at home in Provident Village, Marikina, she cooks and bakes to keep her culinary juices flowing.
Estelita has had several classes in the past. When she retired from her accounting job back in the ’70s, she concentrated on her hobby, baking. She attended various baking classes, such as Liberty Flour Mills, Sylvia Reynoso, etc. For several months, she learned to bake all sorts of cakes, which she also taught to Jessie.
Jessie’s gourmet version
Jessie has also been known for her gourmet version of adobo. She can do duck, lamb, chicken and beef adobo, depending on her clients’ preference.
Right now, one of the bestsellers in her restaurant (Chef Jessie’s Rockwell Club) is the Lamb Chops Adobo.
“I have guests who come to the restaurant and look for something Filipino in taste,” says Jessie. “So, one dish that’s very Pinoy is adobo.”
Lamb prepared adobo-style is quite irresistible. It’s a good combination since the vinegar ideally tames the gamey taste and smell of the lamb.
“I usually marinate the lamb in the adobo sauce for at least 30 minutes and bake it in the oven to really soften the meat, and charcoal-grill it at the last minute before serving,” Jessie says.
The lamb adobo has almost the same procedure as the duck adobo, which is equally popular in Jessie’s restaurant. She marinates the duck breast with the skin on in the adobo sauce, and slowly roasts it.
“I like my adobo with lots of garlic,” Jessie states. “And the lamb adobo goes deliciously well with grilled eggplant and tomato salad with arugula and lettuce.”
Chicken-Pork Adobo with Liver Sauce
(Estelita Sincioco Dy)
1 kg fresh chicken thighs cut into serving pieces
½ kg liempo with skin, cut into chunks
250 g chicken liver
¾ c white vinegar
7 tbsp soy sauce (coconut, Kikkoman or combined)
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 big head garlic, crushed with peel
2 tsp peppercorns, cracked
2 tbsp brown sugar (or more, depending on the sweetness desired)
1 bay leaf
1/3 c corn oil
½ c broth or water
2 tbsp shallots, chopped
In a big glass or stainless bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, peppercorns, sugar and bay leaf. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Add the chicken, pork and liver and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
The following day, drain meats from marinade, separating the liver. In a Teflon pan, fry chicken and pork until brown on all sides. Grill chicken livers until hard enough to pound to extract juice (or you can pulse in a food processor with the broth). Strain and set the sauce aside.
In an ovenproof saucepan, sauté shallots until translucent, add combined fried meats, half of the marinade, and liver sauce. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350°F oven or until meats are tender. You may remove the chicken pieces ahead of time, as pork takes longer to cook. Cover pan with aluminum foil and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes. When pork is already tender, put the chicken back and simmer for a few more minutes. Adjust the seasoning.
Note: Adobo tastes better if served a day after it was cooked.
Lamb Chops Adobo
(Chef Jessie Sincioco)
3 pcs lamb chops, trimmed
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pc bay leaf
½ tsp (3 g) black pepper, freshly crushed
10 pcs black peppercorns
2 tbsp (20 g) cane vinegar
2 tbsp (20 g) soy sauce
Combine garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns and soy sauce in a bowl. Marinate lamb chops with the mixture for at least one hour. Charcoal-grill to desired doneness. Rest.
In a pan, bring the marinade to a boil until reduced by 1/3. Add grilled lamb chops and simmer for about two minutes. Plate and serve with garlic rice, tomato-eggplant salad and kesong puti.