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Chicken Adobo + Gaining Perspective
Happy Friday, friends! You know those dishes that remind you of home? The ones that bring you instant comfort down to your core? For Cat Meyer, who I interviewed on the podcast this week, chicken adobo is that dish. Cat is half Filipino, and this is the recipe she makes at home. It’s a total bombshell, featuring a salty-tangy glaze that’s flavored with tamari, garlic, ginger, chilies and peppercorns. Most of us have dishes we crave that connect us to the past (like my mom’s blueberry pie or my grandma’s twice baked potatoes!). These foods ground us, comfort us, and grant us perspective—we can better understand who we are by tasting where we came from.
p.s. To all my vegetarian readers, I have some meat-free recipes coming for you soon! Also, for a mushroom-based version of adobo, try this recipe from Epicurious.
Perspective refers to the way in which we see the world—our point of view—which we have the power to change. Last week I explored the history of the American food industry, and I hope it helped expand your perspective, even if by just a nudge. As I stated last week, paraphrasing from soil scientist Laura Lengnick:
…we need to be willing to examine and accept this history [of our industrialized food system] with honesty instead of denying it, and that only in going there—with courage and vulnerability—can we begin to move beyond the current paradigms and create something new.
Perspective helps us to honor the past, but it also helps us grow. It’s “the ability to understand which things are truly important and which things are not” (Britannica). In that sense, having perspective is like being on a mountain overlook, allowing us to see things from a new angle and to make connections that we hadn’t before perceived. If we never stop to examine the view, we simply tunnel forward, failing to see the beauty in our lives, but also unconsciously perpetuating systems and habits that no longer suit us.
Taking perspective takes practice
I’ve found that taking perspective takes practice. It requires us to pause—to step out of our daily habits and patterns (even if for just a few minutes), and really examine our lives and our actions. This can be uncomfortable, especially since sometimes we won’t like what we see (don’t worry, that’s normal!). But as stated above, if we can have the courage to be vulnerable and truthful with ourselves, then perspective allows us to see the areas in our lives that are working, as well those that aren’t. It gives us the space to make conscious choices, ultimately helping us create the lives we want to live instead of letting life simply happen to us.
When the kids were little I shouldered most of the meal responsibilities in my house. At the time James was commuting to work, and since I worked from home (most days) it mostly due to circumstance. I would be simultaneously unpacking the kids’ bags, fielding their requests, finishing up work, and starting dinner prep. Dinner, which has always been my favorite meal of the day, became a major stressor in my day. I was on autopilot, doing things the same way I had always done them because I thought that was the only way that things could get done. I couldn’t see any alternative, because I never gave myself the time to pause and evaluate.
Change starts small
After a couple of years, my body could no longer sustain the system. I hit a brick wall, as I describe in this podcast episode (and this newsletter). I was forced to pause and reevaluate our routines.
Often when things aren’t working my instinct is to want to blow everything up and start from scratch, but I’ve found that if I look back with perspective, then I find that there are plenty of things that are working. Some of the biggest changes in my life have come through the smallest of actions, step-by-step. For me, this looked like taking deep breaths before starting dinner, which sounds almost silly in its simplicity, but which was the entry into a whole new approach to cooking dinner. Gradually, I became more intentional in the kitchen and I stopped multi-tasking. I also asked for help (I actually sent James an email expressing how overwhelmed I had become because I was ashamed to ask for help—I had created my own cage of perfectionism).
When we don’t take the time to pause in our lives, evaluating what’s working and what isn’t (and to have hard conversations when needed), we end up burrowing ourselves into deep ruts. We sacrifice our feeling of freedom for what we feel like we should be doing. We can’t see that there are always alternative routes we can take, and that sometimes the smallest of shifts can help take us there.
This week I moved our dinner hour from 5:30/6:00 to 6:30/7:00. We’ve always eaten early, because for years Juni would go to bed at 7:30 (and honestly, we’re usually starving!). When I found myself rushing to get dinner on the table last week, I decided to pause and ask myself “why?.” I realized that we’re no longer the people we were when Juni was an infant. Our dinner time had simply become a pattern. It felt safe. So I shifted things (and I’m happy to report that nobody has starved to death!). I know it’s a trivial thing, but it helped me feel just a little more free. And sometimes that’s everything.
Perspective is also a celebration
Having perspective also means acknowledging how far we’ve come. It’s just as important to look at what isn’t working to look as it is to honor and celebrate the path behind us. None of us would be here if it wasn’t for the tapestry of experiences that led us to this moment. We’ve all done hard things in our lives, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And yet here we are. Bask in it. Celebrate your strong roots.
Invitation this week
Autumn is a beautiful time to pause and gain perspective. As a wise teacher recently told me, as the leaves on the trees start to darken then fall, the trees are moving towards who they’re meant to become; they let go of what no longer serves them without resistance. We too are constantly becoming, but it’s our job to make sure that we’re on the path of our choosing. In order to grow, often this means we need to release the things that are holding us back (objects, habits, patterns, schedules, etc).
This week, my invitation for is to take a few minutes to gain perspective. Honor the path behind you while also evaluating if there are things are no longer serving you. What would you like to let go of that’s holding you back? What do you want to take with you as you continue to evolve and grow? Who are you becoming today? This week? This year?
Related essays and podcasts:
Certain recipes or dishes connect us to the past while also reminding us how far we’ve come. For Cat Meyer, who I interviewed on my podcast this week, this chicken adobo is that recipe. While she told me that her mom makes the very best chicken adobo, that recipe is under strict lock and key. Cat therefore makes this version at home, which is from Bon Appetit Magazine. I’ve adapted the recipe slightly for ease, and I swapped out the chicken drumsticks for thighs.
The secret to the recipe is in marinating the chicken before braising it (it can marinate for up to 1 day). The marinade then does double duty as the braising liquid. Rice vinegar is a key ingredient, imparting brightness to the succulent chicken.
While it might seem like a long cooking time, the recipe is really easy and most of the cooking is hands-off. The result is deeply lacquered chicken with a rich, umami flavor.
While for Cat this recipe is a link to her to her Filipino roots, for me it’s an exploration of a new perspective—a new way of tasting the world.
You can download a PDF of the full recipe here (I’ve also included text and JPEG versions of the recipe below):
Watch how the recipe comes together in this video:
Wishing you a wonderful weekend, and remember to nourish yourself with intention and love.
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine
This is Cat Meyer’s favorite chicken adobo apart from her mom’s recipe, which is top secret. The recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, but I’ve swapped out the chicken drumsticks for thighs and made some slight changes to simplify the process. The result is deeply lacquered chicken with a rich, umami flavor. The secret to the recipe is in marinating the chicken before braising it (it can marinate for up to 1 day). The marinade then does double duty as the braising liquid. Rice vinegar is a key ingredient, imparting brightness to the succulent chicken. While it might seem like a long cooking time, the recipe is quite easy and most of the cooking is hands-off.
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 70 minutes
15 smashed and peeled (or coarsely chopped) garlic cloves
3 Thai chiles (such as Bird’s eye chiles), or 2 serrano or jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
¾ cup tamari or soy sauce (I prefer low sodium)
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons palm sugar or light brown sugar
3 bay leaves
6 large bone-in chicken thighs (2 pounds) or 8 chicken drumsticks
2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil (such as grapeseed or canola)
1/4 cup water
In a bowl, combine the garlic cloves, chiles, ginger, rice vinegar, tamari, peppercorns, sugar and bay leaves. Add the chicken (or you can place the chicken in a large zip-top bag and pour the marinade over). Cover and refrigerate the chicken for at least 2 hours or for up to 1 day.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy deep-sided skillet (or saucepan) with a lid. Remove the chicken from the marinade (save the marinade!) and arrange it, skin-side down, in the skillet. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed, until the skin is browned and caramelized, about 4-5 minutes (if using drumsticks, turn them occasionally).
Turn the chicken over (so that it’s skin-side up). Carefully pour in the reserved marinade (with all the bits) and add the water. Bring the liquid to a simmer then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and cook for 35 minutes. Uncover the pan and flip the chicken over. Continue cooking, adjusting the heat to keep the liquid at a steady bubble and turning the chicken occasionally, until the sauce is the consistency of a loose glaze, about 25-30 minutes longer.
Arrange the chicken over rice and spoon some of the sauce over top. Garnish with sliced scallions.