Just Like Coming Home (Plus a Recipe for Chicken Adobo)

First of all, thank you to everyone who left those wonderfully encouraging comments on my “I look fat” post. It really did help.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’ve been largely unsuccessful at losing weight this time around, and one fact kept pushing its way to the forefront: I’ve been attending a different meeting, one closer to where I live now, and I really don’t care for the leader. She’s not much of a listener, just lets members speak and at the end of it (if they’re saying something positive) says “A-right! A-right!” like some disengaged Brooklyn cheerleader. She doesn’t share much of her own experience, or veer from what seems to be a prepared script. On the other hand, while I was losing 100 pounds a decade ago, I kept going every single week—even during a nine-month plateau—in part because Judy, the leader at my Saturday-morning meeting in Astoria, was so great.

This morning, I went back.

It was a strangely reassuring feeling, climbing the steep stairs to the second-floor meeting room. I’ve hiked them something like 250 times, and always considered it a measure of my fitness to see how much trouble they gave me. Ten years ago I could barely reach the landing, and wondered what sadist had located the meeting in such an inaccessible-to-fat-people place. At the height of my gym-rat days, on the other hand, I’d take the steps two at a time. Today it wasn’t especially hard, though I felt it in my knees. But the warm welcome I received when I entered the room encouraged me right away—I was one of Judy’s stars in my five years of weekly attendance (I kept going every Saturday for two years even after I lost the weight, too afraid to see what would happen if I stopped. Hmmm…) Before the meeting started Judy chatted with a few of the members, comparing notes about vacations—she’s just back from two weeks in Italy, or as she pronounces it, It-ly (imagine how disappointed I would’ve been if I’d gone last week instead!). One of the women is leaving on a cruise, and Judy explained why she felt obligated to lie about her job whenever she and her husband take a cruise—it dampens everyone’s fun too much to know there’s a Weight Watchers leader at the table. It was a story I’d heard before, and I found that comforting. This warmth, this connection with her members, is exactly what was lacking in my Brooklyn leader.

When I stepped on the scale I was prepared for a gain—after all, I’d skipped last week’s meeting and didn’t feel particularly good about things—but miraculously I’d lost nearly two pounds, bringing my grand total for ten weeks to 4.6. Still not enough for the “I Lost Five Pounds!” bookmark WW hands out, but I grinned maniacally nonetheless. It felt like just by stepping back into my old meeting room, I’d made my first footprint on the right path.

For those of you still with me after slogging through all my weight-related ponderings, here’s a truly tasty, truly easy recipe for Chicken Adobo. It’s by Mark Bittman—I tore it out of the Times a few years ago (it’s also in How to Cook Everything) and it’s never failed me. The chicken turns a lovely deep brown, and takes on a lacquered glaze in the final broil. Make a lot—the leftovers are fabulous! I used some in Sesame Noodles with Chicken the other night, and the soy/rice vinegar-infused meat added a great extra layer of flavor. Today I’m going to make a huge pot of soup, and I think I’ll use the leftover sauce to enrich it.

WW readers: with the skin removed, it’s Core.

Chicken Adobo
By Mark Bittman
Serves 4

[Note: Bittman says that “if you’re going to make the dish a day or two ahead, you can poach the chicken in advance and refrigerate it, in our out of its liquid. Then proceed with the recipe—the grilling or broiling time will be a little longer—the cold chicken must heat through—so be sure to use a slightly lower heat to avoid burning.” I usually broil it right away—since we don’t eat the skin, the fact that it gets soggy isn’t an issue.]

¾ cup soy sauce [I use light]
½ cup white or rice vinegar [I use rice]
1 T. chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
½ t. freshly ground black pepper
1 dried chipotle pepper [I used the Chinese kind]
1 whole (3- to 4-pound) chicken, cut up [I used six chicken bone-in skin-on breast halves]

Combine all ingredients with 1 cup water in a covered pot large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. [Hello! Paging M. Le Creuset!] Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low or low (you want a slow simmer, nothing more). Cook, covered, about 30 minutes, turning once or twice, until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, start a charcoal or wood fire or preheat a gas grill or broiler. The fire need not be too hot, but place the rack just 3 or 4 inches from the heat source.

Remove chicken, and dry it gently with paper or cloth towels. Boil liquid over high heat until it is reduced to about 1 cup; discard bay leaves and chipotle; keep sauce warm. Meanwhile, grill or broil chicken until brown and crisp, 5 minutes per side. Serve sauce with chicken and white rice [I use brown].