Homemade Chicken Teriyaki

Greetings, my long-lost fellow food lovers! It has been so very long since we last saw each other. Has your life also undergone drastic changes in the last 12 months?? To catch everyone up, I got engaged in March, moved and started a new job in July, and got married in September. 2013 turned out to be a mighty crazy year, but it was a good one. I hope it was excellent for you also. One of my favorite recipes to come from 2013 was homemade chicken teriyaki, and I am SO stoked to share it with you! It’s absolutely finger-lickin’ good!

chicken teriyaki on a plate

I’m kind of particular about Chinese food. I don’t eat at Chinese restaurants much because I’m not always sure about the ingredients I’m eating, there’s the whole “you eat and are hungry 20 minutes later” thing, and I’ve rarely eaten at a Chinese restaurant and thought, “I must go back!!” Just doesn’t happen for me. On top of that, I rarely make Chinese food at home because it always seems quite complicated, and requires ingredients I never have on hand. Given that context, I have no idea what on earth prompted me to try America’s Test Kitchen’s Chicken Teriyaki the first time…maybe I just had all the ingredients? Whatever it was, I am thankful as this dish has become a regular in the rotation. In fact, this is the dish that Husband asked for on Valentine’s Day… it is THAT good. 🙂

Homemade Chicken Teriyaki (courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen – slightly amended)

Ingredients
2 – 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons white wine
3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 scallions, thinly sliced – optional

Steps
1. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet on medium-high until it shimmers, about 2-4 minutes. Place dry chicken, skin-side down in the pan. Place another, heavy pan or skillet on top to weigh the chicken down while it cooks. Leave it alone for 15 minutes.
2. While chicken is cooking, mix your sauce. Combine soy sauce, sugar, white wine, ginger, minced garlic, cornstarch, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Whisk until the sugar and cornstarch dissolve and the mixture is smooth.
3. Turn the chicken, and cook skin-side up for another 10 minutes. If you would like to use a meat thermometer, your goal is 170 degrees.
4. Remove chicken to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Pour off the chicken grease from the pan.
5. Whisk your sauce to recombine and pour into skillet over medium heat. Let come to a simmer, whisking or stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick or burn.
6. Add the chicken thighs back to the pan and spoon the sauce over the top. Spoon and simmer for several minutes as the sauce continues to thicken and get shiny. This should take 3 – 5 minutes.
7. Scoop your chicken and a generous portion of sauce onto a plate with your desired sides and eat up!

From raw chicken to sauced chicken

This recipe comes from one of the Test Kitchen’s 30 minute recipe cookbooks, and the few times I’ve timed it from start to finish, it’s taken me 34 – 36 minutes if I’m moving efficiently. I feel pretty good about that timing! Of course, it doesn’t take into account also managing sides to go with your dinner so it can help to have a partner in the kitchen to keep it all moving along so you can have dinner on the table in a timely fashion. We’ve eaten this with numerous iterations of rice, broccoli, carrots, and even pasta on the side. I recommend any of those to you!

up close chicken

Having made this dish about a zillion times now, I have a few helpful hints for you.

  • The use of the heavy pan or skillet on top of the chicken is critical to producing the crispy skin on the chicken. It helps press the thigh down into the hot pan, flattening it a bit, and increasing the surface area ratio of the skin to hot pan. I use a cast iron skillet or a Dutch oven.
  • Use a screen guard when you flip the chicken. This recipe generates a fair bit of grease, and it spatters. Kind of a lot.
  • The chicken should come right off the pan and be easy to flip from the first to the second side. If it resists, give it another 2 – 3 minutes. Don’t dilly-dally, trying to get it to flip. See aforementioned spatter.
  • If you have a flat whisk, it works wonders in the sauce when you first put it into the pan. If you don’t have a flat whisk, spend the $7 – $10 to get one. I use mine ALL THE TIME.
  • This recipe makes a generous portion of sauce because I like lots of sauce for my rice and any leftovers. You could cut it in half for 2 thighs and still have generous sauciness.
  • The flavor components (garlic, ginger, red pepper) really can be amended to your personal tastes. If you want it spicier, try adding more ginger or red pepper.

Grating ginger directly into the sauce
Grating ginger to measure

When I started making this dish, I was a little skeptical about skin-on, bone-in, chicken thighs. That seems to be the TOTAL opposite of everything I’ve ever heard about eating chicken. I mean, don’t we all eat boneless, skinless chicken breasts? Isn’t that the thing to do? However, I am 100% convinced there is no way this dish would work with boneless skinless chicken breasts. This meat needs the bone to help it stay moist and tender while cooking at a high heat. It needs the skin to protect the chicken and to develop the most ah-mazing crispy skin that takes well to the teriyaki sauce. Trust me, you want that crispy skin! If you are a white meat eater only, take a deep breath, pre-heat your skillet and give it a go – at least once. I have no reason to believe you will be sorry.

cooked chicken
I think the chicken reheats pretty well, although the skin loses a touch of the crispy factor. Nonetheless, the flavor is still finger-licking-good. I’ve taken it to work for leftovers and been quite satisfied. The sauce also keeps well for a few days covered and refrigerated, if you end up with extra sauce, but no chicken. Pour it over veggies or rice and add some zestiness to yet another meal! I really don’t think you can go wrong…even if you choose to eat it by the spoonful like some members of my house do.

Let me know how you like it and what side dishes went with your chicken teriyaki. I’d love to hear how it went for you! Happy eating!

PS – Pictures from the kitchen in Austin and the kitchen in Miami were used to illustrate this blog. 🙂
Austin Ingredients
Miami ingredients

Chicken Pastry Pockets

Long time no see, my faithful foodie followers! We all know that sometimes life happens, yes? Hopefully, since the last time we’ve all been together, you’ve had delicious food encounters, been adventurous in the kitchen, and perhaps found a new favorite food. I’ve had a lot going on in my kitchen, and I’m looking forward to sharing it all with y’all. The dish for this particular entry was born of my constant search for something fun and different to do with chicken breasts. One night, a search through my fridge turned up puff pastry and Laughing Cow cheese wedges. I thought to myself, “Surely I can combine these things for something delicious!” A quick Google search showed me that I wasn’t crazy and provided a template for my adventure. Now I bring my adventure to you: chicken pastry pockets!

Chicken Pastry Pockets

Chicken Pastry Pockets (adapted from: Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry recipes)

Ingredients
8 – 10 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast
4 wedges Light Mozzarella, Sun-Dried Tomato, & Basil Laughing Cow cheese
1 clove garlic – minced
7 basil leaves – chopped
1 sheet puff pastry – thawed
1 egg
splash of water
Seasoning of choice for the chicken
Olive Oil – no more than a tablespoon

Steps
1. Take your chicken breast and put it on a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, take a flat-bottomed implement, and then pound the chicken breast until it’s all one thickness across. I don’t go for a particular dimension, just something that is uniform. My implement is a drink muddler, but use whatever you have…a heavy drinking glass, a meat mallet, or a heavy skillet.

Flattening Chicken
2. Season your chicken breast on both sides with your chosen seasoning. I went with Greek because the flavors go well with the cheese.
3. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
4. Preheat your skillet by placing on the stove turned to medium-high heat, or 5 out of 10. Add your olive oil, and let it heat up for 2 – 3 minutes.
5. Add your chicken breast and cook about 3 minutes on each side. You don’t want or need to cook it through as there will be more cooking time in the oven. You are browning it and just starting the cooking process.

PreCooking Chicken
6. In a bowl, combine the cheese wedges, minced garlic, and the chopped basil leaves.
7. On a clean cutting board, place your puff pastry sheet, and begin to gently use a rolling pin to roll it out and make it a little thinner, and extend the edges.
8. When you remove the chicken from the heat, let it cool for a few minutes (perhaps while you finish step 7) before you chop it or slice it into small pieces. Don’t worry if there is an undercooked section in the middle.  The chicken will finish cooking in the oven.

Cut up Chicken
9. Score your puff pastry sheet into quarters. Spread your cheese mixture evenly onto each quarter. Just eyeball the amount. Add the chicken pieces on top.

Chicken Pastry Pocket Collage
10. Carefully, pick up each quarter’s edges and fold/tuck them over and on top of each other until all the edges and corners are folded up. Pick it up as a bundle and place it on a parchment paper lined or greased jelly roll pan, seam-side down.
11. In a clean bowl, beat an egg, add a splash of water, and then brush your mixture over the pastry pockets so they’ll bake up a lovely golden brown.

Chicken Pastry Pockets Collage
12. Bake for about 12 – 15 minutes. In my oven, I check them at 10 minutes and rotate the pan to ensure even browning. As always, when you take it out of the oven, give it a minute to cool before you eat to avoid scalding your tongue!

I hope you enjoy these as much as folks in my home have! I believe that you could substitute the flavor of Laughing Cow cheese for a tasty variety in your pastry pockets, but so far I’ve stayed with the tomato and basil option. In terms of leftovers, they do keep for the next day or two and microwave at work just fine. The puff pastry will lose its crunch. But it will still have the deliciousness you had from the day before.

Golden Brown Pockets
Let’s chat about puff pastry for a moment or two, shall we? I’ve heard on Food Network and seen several recipes that talk about keeping puff pastry in your freezer as a kitchen staple. I agree that is a handy recipe ingredient, and fairly versatile as well. However, let’s be real that puff pastry is not an economical ingredient, really. I cringe when I buy it, and I don’t buy it often. Lately I’ve been using crescent rolls as a substitute for puff pastry in a lot of recipes, although I have not yet tried it here. Crescent rolls are less expensive and so far seem to work just as well, although they are a little flimsier, in recipes where I’ve substituted them. For a while, my grocery store stocked crescent roll sheets instead of the triangles. The sheets don’t require as much manipulation, and that made them easier to use as a substitute. I’ve wondered about pizza dough and its efficacy with this particular dish. It might turn out to be somewhat like chicken calzones. If you try it, let me know!  Even with these options, I do think that puff pastry is worth the splurge, now and again.

While the puff pastry may balance it out calorically, I do appreciate that Laughing Cow cheese is a healthier alternative to cream cheese, which is what I saw commonly used as a binder in this type of recipe on the web. Plus it comes already flavored! In terms of your additional flavor boosters (here, the garlic and basil), I think you could vary it as long as you stuck with the theme of the cheese. If you wanted, you could chop up some sun-dried tomatoes or other Italian herbs. If you were using the Garlic & Herb Laughing Cow cheese, any complimentary herbs could be used with a clove or two of garlic. Should you venture out into the Queso Fresco & Chipotle, I still think the garlic clove would be a good idea with perhaps some peppers of your choice. A little Mexican oregano would also be appropriate, I think. There are so many possibilities for flavor additions!

I know that so many of us eat chicken frequently and are thus constantly in search of creative ways to serve up new chicken dishes. I hope this has inspired you to try something new in your home with just a few ingredients that you might not have thought about combining before. The prep goes quickly, and it’s incredibly tasty every time. Let me know how you like it! Happy eating!

Nutritional InfoChicken Pastry Pockets Ingredients per pocket
Calories: 474
Fat: 28.7 g
Carbs: 29.3 g
Protein: 21.3 g
Calcium: 9.7 %
Iron: 11.9%

Baked Chicken and Onions

I made this dish recently as a welcome home meal for my grandmother who was returning to her house after being in nursing home rehab all summer long. We invited her best friends to join her, my mom, and me.  When it was time to serve dinner, I got nervous cooking for everyone, but it turned out just wonderfully. Folks had seconds, and everyone had very complimentary things to say during the meal. Mary even wrote down the recipe before she left that night so she could make it at home, too. I think that’s an excellent compliment. I’ve also made this dish to take to friends who had just had a baby so I think it travels well also. There are two variations in the marinade, and I’ve made both so I’ll share how they each turned out along with their pluses and minuses. Give both a try to see what works for you!

Baked Chicken and Onions

Ingredients
1 fryer chicken/4 bone-in chicken breasts/2 lbs of chicken strips (I had chicken strips so that’s what I used.)
1 medium-large onion
1/3 cup flour
Generous pinch of ground rosemary
1 cup boiling water
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
4 tsp lemon juice
¾ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp poultry seasoning

Steps

1.       Marinate your chicken in a zip-top bag in the fridge using either Step A or Step B.
A.      You can marinate it in the sauce ingredients (the last four in the list) and then add the sauce to the pan before baking. It adds a nice brown color to the chicken, but it can get too salty very quickly with the soy sauce.
B.      You can marinate your chicken in Italian salad dressing. Just give a quick rinse before proceeding with the next steps. The brown color is missing, but it stays moist and not overly salty.
2.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3.       In a brown paper bag, put the flour and rosemary. Add the chicken pieces, fold over the top, and give several good shakes so as to coat the chicken with flour.

4.       Brown the chicken in a sauté pan for a few minutes on each side. You are looking for a slightly browned finish, but they don’t need to be fully cooked. (I used an electric skillet because that’s what my grandmother has. At home, I would have used a regular skillet.)
5.       While the chicken is browning, slice the onion into thin rings and put them in a thin layer on the bottom of your baking dish.

6.       Combine the last four ingredients to create your sauce if you didn’t do that to create the marinade during Step 1.
7.       Put the chicken on top of the onion layer; add in the sauce and the boiling water.
8.       Cover tightly with a lid or foil, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes. If you are using bone-in chicken, it will take closer to 45 minutes to cook. I took the chicken out halfway and turned the strips over so that both sides were in contact with the sauce which helped create the lovely browned look for the chicken. This is not necessary though – purely for aesthetic reasons.


Temperature Tip: When you bring meat out of the refrigerator where it’s been marinating, let it rest on the counter for a while to come up to room temperature. It will cook more evenly in the pan if you let it warm up a bit. It is totally acceptable to let it sit on the counter for somewhere from 30 minutes to an hour. I was at a BBQ class once, and the instructor-chef-man said he lets his beef rest at room temperature for 2 hours without being worried about bacteria or anything. All the chefs and cooks on Food Network also recommend taking the chill of the meat. If you put cold meat in a pan to cook, the outside will often cook much faster than the inside which leaves you with dried-out or burned meat. That’s not good eats.

I am a big fan of Penzey’s Spices (see their link on my left side bar!), and for a few years, they put out a magazine, Penzey’s One. It was a wonderful magazine full of stories about people and the role food plays in their lives. They would highlight certain regional areas or find a theme to gather recipes around. This recipe originally came from a grandmother who was given the recipe on her wedding day in 1948 by her mother. (Penzey’s One: Volume 1, Issue 2, 2005) Even though I’ve changed it just a bit to reduce the salt, I still like that this recipe has history and that there is a connection to a family in the New England area who also eats this. Thanks Barbara Sands for sending Penzey’s your recipe, and thanks to Penzey’s for publishing real life recipes. Happy eating!

Nutritional Content: 2 strips and some onions
Calories: 141
Fat: 1 g
Carbs: 4 g
Protein: 26 g
Iron: 6%