Adobo. What is it? Is it a method of cooking? Is it a seasoning? Is it a sauce? Is it a dish? The simple answer is yes. It is all of the above. The word adobo is derived from the Spanish word adobar, which means to marinate. Before the days of refrigeration, meats were marinated in vinegar, garlic, chilies and salts as a way of both flavoring the meats and also preserving them. The style of adobo cooking is both Spanish and Filipino in origin. When the Spanish colonists came to the Phillipine Islands, they discovered the native people marinated and cooked their meats in a similar way as was done back in Spain, and they called this style of cooking adobo. The adobo way of cooking is to marinate meats in a flavorful sauce made from vinegars, garlic, chilies and salts, and various other ingredients overnight, then to cook the meat in the same sauce. After the meat has cooked and simmered and is done, it is then browned in oil before serving. In the Caribbean Islands, the word adobo has a completely different meaning. To the Caribbeans, particularly those in the Domenican Republic and Puerto Rico, adobo is a type of dry rub made from various herbs, spices and seasonings that is rubbed onto meats before cooking them. In Spanish and Mexican cooking, adobo is most commonly referred to as a type of sauce that is used, usually made from chipotle chilies and other bold herbs, spices and vinegar. Adobo is also a dish all unto itself, and is the unofficial national dish of the Phillipines. Whether it is used as a spice or a seasoning, a cooking method, or as a sauce, some form of adobo is very popular all throughout the areas where the Spanish had their colonies and left their influences. As with any dish that is very popular throughout the world, there are many different varieties and versions. No one way is right and there are no wrong ways either.
Dinner was tamales, which are Mexican/Spanish, so I made my adobo as a sauce for the tamales. I also made mine as a creamy sauce, rather than just the traditional vingary type sauce. By adding cream and butter, the acidity of the sauce was reduced and it was just perfect for the tamales. And since adobo is more Spanish in nature than Mexican, I chose a smooth, velvety red wine rather than a margarita to accompany the meal. I did not make my tamales this time, but I do quite often. As much as I love to make them, they are very time consuming, and if I am running short on time, why make them when there are so many wonderful tamales that are already made all around.
Creamy Adobo Sauce
2 TBSP canned chipotle chilies with their sauce, minced
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 onion, chopped fine
1 TBSP garlic
1 tsp dried cloves
1 TBSP cinnamon
1-2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 stick of butter (optional)
In a hot skillet, saute the onions, garlic, spices and chipotle chiles until the onions are soft and translucent, for about 8 minutes.
Once the onions are softened, add the vinegar and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. I used red wine vinegar, but you can use whatever type of vinegar you like. Each type of vinegar will change the flavor of the sauce. Have some fun with it and mix it up. Use differnet kinds of vingegar every time you make adobo.
After the vinegar has evaporated, add the water, and again cook down until most of the liquid has evaporated and has cooked off.
Cream and butter are optional. I love a rich creamy sauce, so I added both. After the liquid has been cooked off from the sauce, add the cream and mix well.
Adding butter is just adding the finishing touch. Add it right at the end, when the sauce is done and incorporate well into the sauce. Now it is ready to serve over your meats, or like I did, tamales.
I was using up leftovers as our side dishes. I had a bean salad, some beets and sauteed Brussels sprouts with onions. They all complimented the tamales and adobo sauce very well and made for a very colorful plate. !Desfruitas!