This is a special recipe for me, because it’s from the first cookbook I ever bought here in the US, back in 1986, when my English was poor and my cooking not much better. Since then, I moved between different countries a few times, but always managed to take this cookbook with me. Ironically enough, it is not one of those “classic” cookbooks, but a simple, down to earth publication from Sunset called “Easy Basics for Good Cooking” (first published in 1982). My copy shows the passing of the years, with stains marking many of the recipes that I cooked again and again ;-). Maybe it’s not the fanciest cookbook in the world, but whenever I pick it up I cherish the memories, remembering how I was nervous trying to translate everything correctly, to find the right ingredients, and to cook a nice meal. Allow me to share with you a recipe that I’ve made so many times, in so many different settings, that I could probably make it with my eyes closed.
TERIYAKI CHICKEN THIGHS
(adapted from Easy Basics for Good Cooking)
8 chicken thighs
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
3 T honey
2 t grated fresh ginger
3 T dry sherry (see comments)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 t red pepper flakes
Place the chicken in a plastic bag or bowl. Combine all the other ingredients to form a marinade, mixing them well to fully dissolve the honey. Seal the bag or cover the bowl, and refrigerate from 4 to 24 hours.
Remove chicken from marinade and place all pieces skin side down in a single layer. Pour some of the marinade over them, to reach the level of the bottom fourth of the layer (see photo after the jump). Bake, covered with aluminum foil in a 325F oven for 1.5 hours. Remove the foil, turn the chicken pieces skin side up, and bake at 425F for 20 minutes more. If you like a particularly crispy skin (we do!) turn the broiler on and watch carefully, as the honey from the marinade might burn.
Serve it with white rice and some sauteed vegetable (baby bok choy is also perfect!).
jump for additional comments and photos….
General comments: the original recipe calls for a quicker baking time at a higher temperature. When I first started cooking, I couldn’t bring myself to change a single ingredient, let alone mess with baking conditions! But many years have passed, and now I am set on this variation, slow and long at first, a final blast of high temperature. The meat gets tender, juicy, and the crispy skin is irresistible…
You can substitute rice wine (Shaohsing) for the dry sherry.
Here are the chicken pieces ready to go into the oven…
The marinade is added to about 1/4 of the height of the chicken pieces….
After 1.5 hours, turn the pieces over (two of the pieces on the left have been turned over, the skin will be soft and pale at this point). If you want to make it “weeknight-friendly”, stop at this point, return to the fridge and finish the roasting at high temperature next day. The marinade can be used as the base for a sauce, thickened with cornstarch or just slightly reduced by boiling (keep in mind that soy sauce is salty).
Leftovers are still awesome next day!