If there is one thing we know about cooking, it is the “80/20 rule”. And in the case of cookbooks, this is almost doubly true. We tend to get more than 80% of our recipes from just 10%-20% of our (ever-growing collection of) cookbooks. So when we get a new cookbook and we find a bunch of good recipes, it is cause for a small celebration, or at least some extra cooking. And it looks like we have a winner with Debra Samuels’ “My Japanese Table“, her book on simple Japanese home cooking. So far we’ve made a number of recipes like Sushi Balls (good stuff and good fun) but often it is the simple recipes that define a good cookbook, and Samuels’ recipe for Teriyaki Chicken is a great example.
Samuels describes Teriyaki sauce as “the Swiss-Army knife” of Japanese sauces, and that description is spot-on. Sweet, salty and tangy, Teriyaki goes well with chicken, beef, fish, veggies and rice. It just works, and we use it often, particularly as a glaze for fish. But, somewhat shamefully, we never made it ourselves. Happily, Samuels has an easy recipe and we decided to make it, and we are unlikely to ever buy store-bought Teriyaki again, homemade is much better. The homemade sauce has bright flavor with just enough ginger, glossy color and smooth texture.
Making the Teriyaki sauce is simple. Just combine, simmer and reduce mirin (Japanese cooking wine), sake, brown sugar, soy sauce and fresh ginger. It takes about 45 minutes. but you can make Teriyaki in large batches and it will keep in the fridge for at least a month. But unless you make a very big batch, we doubt it will last that long- you can use Teriyaki on pretty much anything. Basically, you can put this on a shoe and it will taste good…but why not try Teriyaki Chicken, instead?
And while it seems so “old-school”, good homemade Chicken Teriyaki is incredibly tasty, and a reminder of why many of us fell in love with Japanese cooking in the first place. And it’s easy to make. Simply season and brown chicken breasts (skin on or off) then add some of the Teriyaki sauce and simmer the chicken, turning often, until done. Then, while you rest the chicken, reduce the remaining Teriyaki and chicken juices into a thick glaze. Coat the chicken with some of the Teriyaki glaze, slice and serve.
And how do you serve Chicken Teriyaki? Samuels suggests with rice, shredded lettuce, some toasted sesame seeds, and a squeeze of lemon, and that will be very good. But we suggest making lettuce wraps (like ssam) with the sliced Teriyaki chicken, Japanese rice (or coconut rice), toasted sesame seeds with a variety of sliced fruits and veggies. In this case we used sliced peaches, quick pickles and avocado. Tasty, and a pretty complete meal. (And while perhaps not traditional, a few drops of Sriracha also work pretty well.) But however you serve Teriyaki, the bright big flavors and beautiful color will remind you this is a dish you should make more often… Continue reading