Sous Chef Series: Kevin Luzande

How to make chicken adobo
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The first thing Kevin Luzande remembers making as a child was strawberry ice cream. "I put strawberries, milk and ice in the blender," he recalls. "It didn't look pink enough." So Luzande did what any reasonable tot might: He added ketchup.

The chef de cuisine at Los Angeles' Playa has since expanded his repertoire, thanks in part to culinary school and stints at the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey, David Burke's restaurant at the Venetian in Las Vegas, and Playa's sister restaurant, Rivera. But when he's cooking for himself, he returns to the Filipino classics he grew up eating, recipes perfected by his grandmother and shared with him. Chicken adobo is one example, a comforting braise flavored with soy and oyster sauces and a glug of vinegar. It's a worthy one-pot meal to add to your collection, and far more delicious than Luzande's childhood rendition of strawberry ice cream.

Chicken Adobo

Recipe adapted from Kevin Luzande, Playa, Los Angeles

Yield: 4 servings

Cook Time: One hour 15 minutes


Chicken legs and/or thighs, 3½ pounds

Sea salt, 1 tablespoon      

Freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon 

Grapeseed oil, 2 tablespoons

Large yellow onion, 1 (coarsely chopped)

Garlic cloves, 10 (finely chopped)      

Ginger root, 2-inch piece (peeled with the edge of a teaspoon and finely chopped) 

Ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon

Chicken broth, 4 cups       

Dried bay leaves, 2

Light brown sugar, 1 tablespoon         

Oyster sauce, 2 tablespoons

Dark soy sauce, ¼ cup

Cane vinegar, ½ cup

Chives, 1 small bunch (finely chopped)

Sweet red chile, 1, (seeded and thinly sliced)--optional

Edible flowers--optional

Steamed long-grain white rice, for serving


1. On a cutting board, place the chicken legs and/or thighs. Season with the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

2. In a medium pot set over medium heat, add the grapeseed oil. Heat the oil until it shimmers, about 2 minutes, then add the seasoned chicken skin-side down.  Cook until the chicken is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Use the tongs to turn the chicken pieces over and brown the other side, about 10 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a paper towel-lined plate. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pot and return the pot to the heat. Add the chopped yellow onion. Cook, using the wooden spoon to stir the onion often, until it is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, chopped ginger and ground cinnamon. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Return the browned chicken to the pot along with the chicken broth, bay leaves, brown sugar, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce and cane vinegar. Bring the liquid to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 30 minutes. 

4. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a serving dish. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the broth to a simmer. Cook, whisking occasionally with the whisk, until the liquid is reduced by three-quarters and is the consistency of gravy, about 20 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and ladle the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with chopped chives, sweet red chile rings (optional) and edible flowers (optional). Serve with cooked rice.

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