Monday, November 21, 2016

Adobo Confit in a Palayok

Confit is a cooking method that preserves meat by cooking it slowly in its own fat.  
In Paris,  duck confit is a normal item in bistros and brasseries but one that my arteries and I 
try not to order too often as it is a delectable but sinful dish. 
I learned from a friend that a Filipina lady who lives in Lourdes (yes, where miracles happen) runs
an Asian deli and sells adobo confit, packed in small glass bottles.  
That of course set off a lightbulb in my head -- of course adobo is confit!
In the pre-refrigeration era of our great grandmothers, when meat had to be prevented from spoiling, one way to do it would be to make adobo --  freshly slaughtered pork would be salted, vinegar-ed
and slowly cooked to preserve the meat for days and weeks on end.

Confit preserves meat by cooking it in its own fat.  For this adobo,  instead of using a leaner cut like kasim (shoulder) or pigue (butt), I chose the fattier liempo or pork belly.  To make sure I would have plenty of lard to preserve the adobo, I even added half a kilo of back fat.
You're all familiar with the other ingredients of adobo -- good vinegar, lots of garlic, peppercorns, dried bay leaves and in this case, plain coarse sea salt instead of toyo or soy sauce.

Since the adobo would be cooked very slowly, I used my trusty unglazed palayok.   The palayok 
imparts a certain flavour to the adobo that you cannot get from an ordinary metal pot.  
Line the bottom of the palayok with the strips of back fat which will render as the adobo cooks.

Layer the chopped liempo in the palayok with salt, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves so the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout.   In subsequent tries though, I found that rubbing the pork pieces with salt worked even better. 

Three kilos of liempo just about fills the palayok almost to the brim. I have cooked almost 4 kilos of pork in this palayok but it was certainly a tight squeeze.  Put about 3/4 to a cup of water, cover the palayok and bring to a slow boil.

Once the pork is cooked, put in the vinegar.  You can experiment with the ratio but I find that a 
1:1.5 ratio of water to vinegar is just about right.  You can always add a bit more vinegar at the end 
if you wish. 
Please ...  don't use supermarket brands but try and source an authentic coco or palm vinegar.   
Bring the adobo to a boil again,  then lower the flame so that it will continue to cook at a low simmer.

I keep the palayok covered, after the vinegar has thoroughly boiled and the "sour" smell has evaporated.   I don't mix the contents but give it a good shake once in a while, to keep the meat 
from sticking to the pot.   Let the adobo cook until the meat is very tender -- about 3 to 3.5 hours.  That's how long it takes to make adobo confit. 

Here's the adobo confit, after more than 3 hours of cooking.  Even without soy sauce, the adobo 
has taken on  a natural light brown colour, so you will not miss the toyo at all.  
Before I remove the palayok from the stove, I give the adobo a final taste and stir in a tablespoon or two of patis.   The patis adds that last umami note.  And for someone who grew up in Malabon
patis is also my seasoning of choice.  

I have jars ready for storing my adobo confit, letting it cool completely before I cover them.
I normally just keep the jars on the kitchen counter,  adobo confit needs no refrigeration. 

Cooked for more than three hours, the pork is tender and just falls apart in your mouth.  
And, the longer it keeps, the better it tastes.   
A few choice chunks of adobo confit on top of some rosemary fried rice is perfect for a simple 
but tasty lunch!  


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