As I write this, the mouthwatering aroma of slowly cooking meat is wafting from my kitchen. It’s the beef adobo recipe of Glenda Barretto—chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and the culinary genius behind Via Mare Restaurant.
I learned the recipe from her last Saturday at the Maya Kitchen Culinary Center in Makati City where, together with Via Mare F&B director Bea Bautista Nitard and her team of chefs, Glenda shared her recipes for Filipino dishes such as tinola flan, ube rice, pitsi-pitsi, three fresh salads and the aforementioned beef adobo.
Glenda’s beef adobo recipe is a fine example of slow cooking. And when she says “slow,” she’s not kidding. The beef has to be steamed for four long hours, while the sauce has to be simmered for two. In other words, it’s not exactly for the hurried cook, requiring as it does copious amounts of time, planning, effort and infinite patience.
But the results—which we tasted after the cooking demo—are all worth it. Subjected to four lengthy hours on the stove, the beef was steamed into tenderness, pliant and yielding to the bite. Served with the velvety sauce and a cone of ube rice, it was comfort food elevated to the next level.
Glenda also showed us how they would plate the dish in Via Mare. Instead of serving the adobo with chopped tomatoes and red eggs as is often done by the home cook, she threaded cherry tomatoes and hard-boiled quail eggs into a cocktail skewer and speared this on top of two evenly sliced beef. Along with the ube rice and vegetables wrapped in a pouch of lumpia wrapper, the presentation was one pretty, appetizing dish.
Here’s Glenda’s recipe for beef adobo. (She used US beef belly, the closest equivalent of which would be the cut known locally as camto.)
Slow-cooked beef belly
For the beef:
2 k beef belly (one whole piece) or camto
6 cloves/ 30 g garlic, peeled and minced
½ tbsp/ 5 g black peppercorns
½ c/ 120 ml vinegar
2 tbsp/ 30 ml soy sauce
2 bay leaves, crushed
1 tsp/ 5 g salt
For the sauce:
1 k beef bones
30 g garlic
1 tsp black peppercorn, cracked
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp soy sauce
¼ c vinegar
4 c water
Cook the beef:
Put the beef in a marinating pan. In a bowl, combine the garlic, peppercorns, vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaves and salt. Pour over the beef. Cover the bowl and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
When ready to cook, wrap the beef tightly in two layers of aluminum foil. Steam over low heat (120°C) for about four hours or until beef is tender.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.
Make the sauce:
Put all the ingredients for the sauce in a casserole and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook for about two hours. Strain the liquid and discard the solids. Pour the liquid into a small saucepan. Taste it and, if needed, adjust the seasoning to taste (may add more vinegar, salt or soy sauce). If desired, heat the sauce further until it thickens.
Put the meat into the steamer only when the water is already boiling. Start counting the cooking time from the time you’ve put the meat into the steamer (with the water already boiling).
The heat temperature during the steaming process should be very low. Glenda Barretto says it should be only 120°C (measure with a kitchen thermometer if you have one), or just make sure the heat on the stove is turned to a very low flame.
To find out if the meat is tender enough, Glenda suggests using a barbecue stick. If you can insert the stick into the meat with only the lightest touch, then the meat is already tender.
Or, use a meat thermometer. It should register 165°C in the thickest part of the meat.
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