Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Eternal Bawang

Among all the memories of my immortal mother, Irene Imperial Sipin Bongolan, the one that sears itself most clearly in my mind is that of her standing over one of her All-Clad pots, smashing whole raw cloves of garlic, (or bawang in Ilocano) sizzling them until their edges got soft and golden brown.

That image pervades almost all my food memories. Its been associated with successful gravies, meat dishes, soups, party foods such as lumpia and pancit. The flavor of the garlic oil itself was enough to send you straight in from whatever you were doing outside to come to her and beg her for supper to come soon. You always knew something good was coming to the table when you smelled THAT smell.

Nothing more clearly placed my mother in the True Garlic House of Fame than when she came to a performance of Euripides "The Trojan Women", at Asian American Theater Company, where I played Hecuba. An emotional roller coaster that part, with all the sturm and drang and angst befitting a Greek tragedy. After all my character, a mother who loses husband son, daughter and grandson in one night-- has alot of murderous rage and overwhelming grief to work out onstage.

Now imagine doing that part with your mother in the audience, kleenex in tow, and safely stowed underneath her seat was a freshly made batch of garlic-laden chicken adobo!

Needless to say, if concentration was hard, the battle between nose and dramatic instinct was epic. By the time the cast did curtain call, everyone, actors included, nudged towards my mother's seat wondering what that smell was. Forget my fabulous performance. An actor's instinct prevails. Its AFTER the show---LET'S CHOW DOWN!

Chicken Adobo*

one dozen whole legs and thighs
Adobo Marinade
1-1/3 - 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1-1/3 c. soy sauce
2-3 whole heads of garlic, cloves separated, peeled and chopped fine.
one bay leaf
whole peppercorns

Combine all the ingredients of the marinade together before adding the chicken. Taste to insure balance between the vinegar tang and the soy sauce saltiness. Make sure neither one prevails. Pour over chicken legs (skin side down) in baking dish. Set aside in refrigerator for 1-4 hours to marinate, covered.

Take chicken out of refrigerator. Pour off excess marinade, leaving enough liquid to come a third of the way up the chicken pieces. Bake at 375 degrees for 1.5 hours. Chicken should be tender, and skin should be caramelized and slightly crisp.

Final note: try to keep the chopped pieces of garlic out from the tops of the chicken pieces and into the marinade liquid during cooking. You only have to taste burnt garlic once to not let it happen to you again.

*This recipe is dedicated to Jake and Addison. Chow down, my brothers!

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