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

Roasted Garlic

Until recently, I thought everyone knew about roasted garlic. I’ve seen other bloggers post about roasting garlic and read through their posts to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Nope. We’ve all got it, so why are we continuing to post about it? Why am I here adding to the blogosphere with another roasted garlic post? Well, my friends, I’ve learned that not everyone knows what roasted garlic is or that they can make it themselves to avoid paying $8 for it at a restaurant. That is quite possibly one of the biggest restaurant mark-ups out there I’ve ever seen. So sweet food lovers, I’m happy to share with you the various ways I’ve made roasted garlic, what I do with it, and why I encourage you to make it at home instead of eating it out.


Roasted Garlic

Ingredients
Bulb of Garlic
1 teaspoon light olive oil
1 tablespoon water

Steps
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice off the top third of the head of garlic, and peel off a few of the extra layers of the papery skin. Leave the last layer or two. You won’t need the top third for the recipe. We’ll talk about what to do with it later.
3. Put your head of garlic in an oven-safe dish along with the tablespoon of water.*

Oven Ready Garlic

4. Drizzle the teaspoon of olive oil over the top of the head of garlic.
5. Cover the dish and put in the oven for 45 minutes.
6. Check garlic to see if the cloves are soft and if it’s starting to turn brown. It might need another 10 – 15 minutes. Your goal is soft, brown, and a little bit caramelized around a few of the edges.

Soft, brown, and caramelized (and the pan cleaned right up!)

7. When you take it out of the oven, let it rest for a few minutes so that it burns neither your mouth nor your hands.

*Alternatively, you can wrap your bulb of garlic in a piece of foil so it’s a snug little bundle. If you go this route, omit the tablespoon of water, and just go with the teaspoon of oil. I’ve also used this method. I like it as it reduces the number of dishes you have to wash. The dish/water method seems to keep the garlic from over-browning and reduces waste. It’s your kitchen so you can make the call for your preferred method. The water will evaporate throughout the cooking, and it will get brown in the bottom of your dish, but don’t freak out. This will wash off.

There have been times when I have wanted a few cloves of roasted garlic but didn’t want to roast an entire bulb of garlic. In these cases, I will take a few individual cloves of garlic, leave them wrapped in the skin, bundle them in a piece of foil with just a dollop of light olive oil and cook them in the oven along with whatever I’m baking or during my preparations for the rest of my dinner. As it usually takes me 35 – 40 minutes to make dinner, this is just about the right amount of time to roast the individual cloves. Again, you are looking for the cloves to be soft and browning at the ends. They might be oozing a little bit too; this is a sign of done-ness. For this to happen, your oven needs to be at least 350 degrees. If it’s higher, you should check on the cloves starting around the 25-minute mark.

Decisions…decisions…

When you chop off the top third, you are left with a decision. Many folks just toss it because it’s full of tiny little pieces of garlic that are difficult to do anything with. If you are like me, or have a grandmother like mine who has greatly influenced you, perhaps you feel badly wasting anything including tips and pieces of garlic. I tried once roasting the top third with the rest, but that didn’t end well, so I don’t recommend it. But you could mince it up to go into your meal, or save it to mince later. Just remember to mince it soon as the cut pieces don’t save for too terribly long. It’s also okay if you just throw it away. It’s your kitchen and nobody will know.

My spreader of choice

There is so much you can do with roasted garlic. As one of my dear girlfriends has said, you can start with smearing it on your face and go from there. It is that good. The last time I made it, I took all the cloves out of the head of garlic to put into an aioli. I’ve put roasted garlic on toast, then topped it with cheese or tapenade or bruschetta. I like to put roasted garlic in mashed potatoes or mixed in my baked potatoes. You can smush it through a garlic press into pasta, soup, omelets, or anything else that strikes your fancy. Because roasted garlic has a much more mellow flavor than raw garlic as well as being so spreadable, it can be used as a good substitute for butter. When I was eating my gallbladder low-fat diet last year, I did a lot of roasted garlic-substituting. I did try once leaving out the oil, but it didn’t roast quite as well. The oil helps its spreadability as well the browning of the garlic. Without the oil, the garlic is sort of a pale, anemic color and is difficult to spread.

I got all the cloves out!

Let’s talk about why I believe you should never order the roasted garlic appetizer in a restaurant. At the grocery store, garlic can be 2 for $1.00 or for a real deal, 4 for $1.00. I cannot think of a time when I’ve seen it be more expensive than $0.50 for a head of garlic. Most of us have a bottle of olive oil in our house. Yes, I want to encourage you to use light olive oil which may require owning 2 bottles, but regular olive oil could suffice if you just wanted to have the one. But once you’ve purchased the one bottle of oil for likely somewhere between $5 and $9, depending on brand preference, you can have so many heads of roasted garlic out of that bottle for the price of one appetizer of roasted garlic from your local eatery. There is a fancy-pants restaurant here in Austin where you can order roasted garlic bulbs with toast points for $8.95.  I do vaguely recall they are generous enough to give you two bulbs. Even so, at approximately $4.50 for a bulb with a couple of pieces of toast, it’s not a great deal. Y’all, make this at home. Take your $8.95, get two bulbs, a loaf of French bread, some yummy cheese, maybe some tasty meats or olives, and make a full spread of it. I like to do this regularly, and I highly recommend it.

Roasted garlic cloves for aioli

The reason why I encourage you to use light olive oil over extra virgin olive oil for roasting your garlic is because I have read that the smoke points for the different kinds of olive oil vary with the smoke point for light olive oil being higher than extra virgin. Bad things happen to oil when it reaches the smoke point. First, the oil begins to break down and create free radicals which are bad for your body. However, they are not nearly as bad as flames in your oven, which is the other concern of oil reaching the smoke point. The smoke point isn’t too far from the flash point where the oil could break into flames. Danger, Will Robinson, danger. At the same time, there is A LOT of data out there on the various smoke points for oils, and they don’t all say the same information. This website is all about olive oil and has good information about smoke points so you can educate yourself to make your own decision. One blogger doesn’t even recommend using olive oil anymore; you can read about that and using ghee instead, if you like.

Spread the good word about roasted garlic, y’all. I’ve learned that too many of my dear friends have never eaten it or don’t know how to make it at home. It’s just not right. We shouldn’t be paying $9 for it at restaurants. We can roast our own garlic to use in a plethora of ways! It even keeps in the fridge for about a week if you want to spread out using it. We have options and they are delicious! But do spread the good word so that others can know the joy of roasted garlic. Happy eating!

Onion Herbed Meatballs

I have been away for far too long, my food loving friends. I apologize. Sometimes, as we know, life happens. But the good and delicious news is that I am back! And I plan to stay back! As we all also know, I am a big fan of food that you can make ahead of time and freeze to have available at your disposal when you need it. Mayhap it is cooked and only needs to be thawed and reheated. Perhaps it is still raw and needs to be cooked upon defrosting. The details of that depend on the particulars of the situation. However, the more work you can do in advance to help you out when you are short on time, need something to take to work for lunch, are short on energy, or otherwise need a boost in the kitchen, the better. One of the dishes that I’ve recently come to be a fan of in this department is the meatball. You can make a whole passel of them without too much trouble, freeze them right up, and then you have them at your beck and call to parcel out as you need. How beautiful is that?? The recipe below is my second pass at these meatballs, and I’ll probably continue to play with the recipe, so keep your eyes and taste buds on the lookout for additional meatball recipes in the near future.

Onion Herbed Meatballs and Pasta

Onion Herbed Meatballs (inspired by recipes in my cookbooks by Alton Brown and Mark Bittman – those are some good cooks, y’all!)

Ingredients
1 lb lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)
1 lb Italian sausage
1 cup minced onion
2 tbsp minced garlic
½ – 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil (your preference)
1/2 cup low fat ricotta cheese
1/2 Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley*
2 teaspoons dried pasta sprinkle (From Penzeys: dried oregano, basil, garlic, thyme)
1 teaspoon dried basil (not pictured – late addition)
Pinch of salt – to taste

Steps
1. Sauté your minced onions in a little bit of either the butter or olive oil (your preference) until they are soft and translucent. I let mine go until they got just the slightest bit of brown around the edges of a few. Take them off the heat, and let them cool while you work with the rest of the ingredients.
           
2. In a regular bowl, combine your ricotta cheese and bread crumbs. They can sit together for a few minutes to combine a bit.

3. In a large, roomy bowl, put in your beef, sausage, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, and herbs.
(When I was chopping my Italian parsley, I started with an overflowing, loosely packed 1/2 cup of leaves. I chopped them into a regular packed 2 tablespoons with a bit left on the cutting board. You can check out the pictures to see what I mean.)
                   
4. Beat your egg and pour into the bowl.
5. Add the ricotta and breadcrumb mixture.
6. Add the onions.
7. Using your kitchen’s best tools – your hands (how often do you hear that on the Food Network??), mix it together. Try to do it quickly and without too many passes through the meat, but also making sure the cheese and herbs get evenly distributed. The less you work the meat, the better. The more you handle the meat, the more likely you are to have a dense, tough meatball. It’s a similar concept to pie or biscuit dough.

8. I use a ½ tablespoon measure to scoop out a couple of measures of meat, loosely form them into a ball, and pan-fry them to taste-test for seasoning and flavor. You may wish to add an additional pinch of salt after tasting, more herbs, or more garlic. This is when I adjusted many of my seasonings that made the final ingredient list for your benefit.
9. Once your taste-testing has been done, and final seasonings added and mixed, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and set a jelly roll pan up with foil underneath a cookie cooling rack. (See picture below for set-up.) Begin to scoop and roll. Scoop and roll. Scoop and roll. Keep at it until all the mixture has been made into your meatballs. Mine didn’t all fit on the sheet at once, but I rolled them anyway to be prepared. Be gentle when rolling your meatballs. Remember – the less handling the better.
         
10. Bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake another 9. Take out of the oven and place on a paper towel lined surface. Repeat if necessary. Let cool just a bit before putting in the fridge. I recommend time in the fridge before freezing. And if you eat some while they are hot, I won’t judge, but mind that they don’t take the top layer of your tongue off.

Baked Meatball Deliciousness

*I used Italian flat leaf parsley because that’s what I had. Really any mixture of Italian herbs would do. I might use basil if I had some available or oregano or perhaps even rosemary. Use what you have at your disposal. I think it might be hard to go wrong with fresh herbs here. Unless you were using mint. That might not be good eats.

An additional note, these are quite onion-y as a cup of minced onions is a fair bit of onions. Sometimes when I make a dish the first time, I’m just winging it as I go along and not really measuring at all. The second time, when making for the blog, I usually tend to over-measure which I think I did with the onions. I like onions so I am okay with it, but if you are less of an onion fan, you might want to consider reducing that amount. I may even reduce it the next time around to let other flavors shine through. However, the boyfriend who is frequently in the anti-onion camp was just fine with them, so it just might be alright.

The rationale for my advice to you for letting your meatballs spend some time in the fridge prior to putting them in the freezer is fairly simple. You don’t want to put warm or hot food in the freezer next to other foods where it could bring the temperature of said food up. Certainly it won’t unfreeze, but if it gets a little melty and refreezes around the edges, that’s not good for your food. I’ve never done this myself, but I would be suspicious that if I put too much hot food in my freezer at once, it would be quite negative for the overall temperature of the freezer. Thus, I put slightly cooled foods in my fridge to cool all the way down. That is bacterially safer than letting it cool all the way down on the counter. I try not to put warm food next to anything dairy in the fridge, or near anything that makes me nervous in my gut for heat transfer. If possible, I’ll put some space around the cooling food to help with air circulation. Food safety first, people.

One of the reasons I choose to go with such a lean ground beef in this recipe is because the Italian sausage has quite a bit of fat in it. It is, after all, sausage. It more than makes up for the lack of fat in the ground beef, and the ricotta also helps keep the meatballs from being dry. Please don’t be afraid of using a lean beef in conjunction with the sausage. I promise, it is okay. I’m even considering exploring turkey with the sausage. I know that’s a little odd, but hey – someone’s got to try it, right? I can take one for the team. My grocery store carries the Italian sausage ground without the casing which is quite handy. If you can’t find that, just get mild Italian sausage with the casing, and then cut the meat out of the casing, dispose of the casing, and proceed onward. It might be tasty to explore a flavored Italian sausage here as well. LOTS of possibilities!

My recipe made 54 meatballs, all told. I think this is fantastic because now I’ve got tons of frozen meatball goodness in my freezer, and they are small enough to defrost quickly after work on a night when I was forgetful to pull something else out, or they can thaw in the time between breakfast and lunch so I can eat them for lunch at work. And friends, let me tell you, my last batch smelled so good that my co-workers were perpetually jealous of my lunch every time I heated up these meatballs. They were that good. Fifty-four meatballs will last the single eater (or even double eaters) quite a while. It’s such a great plan-ahead item. And with lots of room for improvising, I can’t wait to hear how you made these your own meatballs! Happy Eating!

Nutritional Information – Per Meatball                 

Calories: 50.7
Fat: 3.6 g
Protein: 3.7 g
Calcium: 1.3%
Iron: .8%