On vows and sourness

Dear reader, if there’s any vows that I wouldn’t mind repeating again besides my wedding vows, it’s this: I vow to always follow my instincts when it comes to cooking. My tendency to ignore my instinct has gotten me in trouble a few times in the past. Take, for example, test taking. In college, I always over-analyzed my test questions, and as a result, ignore my first instinct, which was usually the right answer. Today, many years later, you’d think I learned my lesson but unfortunately I am taking this mentality into the kitchen.


Let it be known that I am a careful experimenter when it comes to cooking. When I first started baking, I knew very little about measurements and tools; therefore, I tried to employ a method that I learned from my mother – cook with your eyes and use your taste buds. My mother never used any special equipment or measuring tools – she’d simply taste things as she goes along and used her eyes to tell her when something seemed right or not. I tried this out at first and found that all this trial and error puts a girl like me into a confused mode  – I didn’t know when something looks right, and being such a newbie at baking, I was afraid to take chances. Besides, I wasn’t in the mood to “taste” my foods, because really – who wants to eat unbaked dough or raw eggs? No thanks. Instead, I relied heavily on following the recipe, even if the recipe didn’t seem right to me.

It’s no surprise that I’ve had a few baking disasters. And recently, a chicken disaster.

How can anyone ruin chicken, you ask? Well, when one decides to follow a recipe up to the measurements but instead substitutes an ingredient for a similar ingredient. Yours truly is trying to learn to be a better cook, so recently she dreamt up dinner after feeling inspired by this recipe* As you know, I’ve been getting daily emails from NY Times Cooking, each day filling my inbox with luscious, drool-worthy photos and short blurbs about certain recipes. It makes my mouth water every time I read their emails, and being something short of a springform pan (human version), I sprung myself up from the couch I was sitting on, and promptly went to the store to purchase a few ingredients for this dish. We already had most of the ingredients in our pantry, so this would be a piece of cake, I thought.

Come Tuesday, I was so excited. I prepped all the ingredients while my daughter took a nap, and by 5:00 o’clock I was cooking! As I measured out the ingredients, I saw that it called for 1 1/2 cups of rice vinegar. Wait – check that again – ONE AND A HALF CUPS. Oh my, that’s a lot of vinegar, I thought. I didn’t have any rice vinegar in my pantry at the time, so I settled on regular white distilled vinegar. My nose scrunched in disgust as I poured out this much vinegar into my chicken, for vinegar always elicits an image of a cleaning agent. I told myself, maybe I should stop at one cup…but being the kind of person who follows a recipe religiously (at least the first time anyway) I went ahead and poured in 1 1/2 cups.

The rest of the recipe came together with little drama, and by the time I was done, the smell of vinegar still lingered in my nose. The chicken, however, was tender and moist, with subtle hints of coconut balanced with the herbs, brought into full fruition by the garlic (even though 12 garlic cloves is a little bit too much, in my opinion). I tasted these bad boys, and out came a pouring of ZING! – the kind of zing that makes you go, “Yikes!” after eating too many Sour Patch Kids. My eyes almost popped out of its sockets. Luckily for me, the chicken didn’t go to waste. My hubby and baby ate it anyway, and throughout the meal, my husband kept reassuring me that chicken adobo is supposed to be sour, and that I did a good job. Well, even with chicken disasters, I still have a fan base.

Lesson learned – follow your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, then stop right there. I am sorry to report that there are no illustrious pictures of this chicken dish, for I was too consumed with how sour it was to take out the camera. Yes, I am that shameful. Until next time. I bid you adieu with promises of better dinners, more drool-worthy pictures, and many more experiments.



-Substitute vinegar at your own risk. You already heard about how that went for me.
-These chilies can be found at Asian supermarkets. They’re small, and typically come in a package in the produce section.
-I used dry bay leaves in a container from Trader Joe’s and they turned out just fine. Hence, to use fresh or dry? – your choice.

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