Having grown up in a majority-Asian neighborhood, there is a certain art to Asian cooking that brings joy to the palate. In particular, this week’s Thursday afternoon dinner of teriyaki chicken.
Lots of options here, depending on schedules, amount of labor you want to invest, and so on. For those on a short clock, boneless, skinless chicken, doused in a bottle of Kikkoman Teriyaki sauce is OK. Provided it gets 4 or 5 hours in the fridge and then is brought slowly to room temp prior to cooking.
As it comes from the bottle it’s “OK” but not close to the tastes of youth. Depending on which Asian family, there were lots of options to enhance what’s arguably a good baseline sauce.
For example, in families with a Philippines or Pacific Islander background, the addition of something “sour” was favored. This was usually pineapple. Since everyone was on a budget in the 1950s and 1960s, the short cans of Dole pineapple rings worked.
A good portion of the juice went into “basic teriyaki” sauce. Which wasn’t around, so equal portions of soy sauce and the sweet-sugary liquid from the canned fruit was used.
The thrust of this was a moderately short soak of pork; tenderloins were overpriced, but chops (without bone) worked well. The rings of pineapple were arranged – one per chop – atop the meat and into the oven it went. After a four-hour marinade bath, into a baking dish at 350F till tender and done. Rice? Fried banana (or several), and for the grown ups, some hot sake. Yum.
Kicking It Up
In traditional Japanese, the saucing is generally “middle of the road” – favoring complexity over extremes of tooth.
One major improvement we like to add to the basic teriyaki (soy sauce, sweetener (honey is fine, but brown sugar is great – and a shot or two of saki) to ramp-up the ginger.
Asian markets usually have fresh ginger you can cut down and mince. Running across a strong (cooked) piece is a grand reward. But, since the number of solid Asian markets in East Texas is limited, we keep several bottles of Ginger People Ginger Juice 5fl oz 2pk ($9-bucks at Amazon) on hand.
Add ginger juice to taste. Which for me is about a tablespoon to 1/2 cup of uncut teriyaki sauce.
Pappy Ure, I think it was, came up with the idea of adding several shakes of garlic powder (*NOT garlic salt!!!) to the mix. Laziness has set in with the arrival of our 70’s, so reaching for a bottle of HOWARD’S Garlic Seasoning Bottled Juice | Gluten-Free, All Natural, Shelf Stable| 5 Ounce – which is $7-bucks worth. It’s not quite the same as freshly mashed and pressed garlic (vinegar makes it more stable, though), but close-enough for many things.
Howards also makes an onion juice, but honestly, onion and teriyaki is…how to say this? Not very refined.
Pappy was always happy with basic teriyaki sauce (soy and sweetener – the pretense of honey being magical in teriyaki is over-rated compared to adding a teaspoon of garlic juice and a tablespoon of ginger juice). One other fine addition is several flakes of cayenne pepper.
One of these days, I keep threatening to order a bottle of Mad Dog 357 ECO 1 Million Scoville Ultra Pure Pepper Extract and try adding ONE DROP to the teriyaki. But science like this is best performed on younger people.
While pork, beef, and chicken all work – and pork especially well with the pineapple – other variants exist. In Chinese cookery, the orange chicken recipes sometimes have soy sauce and some sweetening. Experiments with taste including lemon and orange is therefore enjoyable.
One that’s still on my list is to take basic teriyaki and “Go Danish” with it. Thinking pork here, and adding some cardamom and nutmeg (plus garlic, of course) and trying that option.
Not sure whether it will be suitable for fresh red potatoes swimming in cardiologist juice (butter) with some fresh-ground pepper and parsley, but rice seems pretty safe.
Quest for Perfect Pizza
Having gotten the wood-fired pizza oven together just in time for the Blizzard of ’21 in East Texas, we got very close to the “perfect pie” on the BBQ.
Turns out, our 16-1/2″ pizza and baking stone fits perfectly on the BBQ. So after a 25-minute warm-up (to ensure the stone was hot, which cooks the bottom) on went a properly revised Di Giorno thin crust Suprema that had been warmed to room temp. Sliced ‘shrooms and more cheese.
Didn’t take long, even in 30-degree weather on the BBQ deck. Was wasn’t just good, it was damn good.
Got a “Weather and Taste” theory I’ve been working on for half a century: Why is it that food is so damn good when eaten outdoors compared with inside?
Noticed it on our sailboat all the time. A steak was always OK but when cooked on the propane BBQ hung on the stern rail of the boat, it was somehow much better. And the closest to perfection was while tied to a mooring buoy off the backside of Blake Island west of Seattle. With Mt. Rainer in the background, a bit of smoke coming from the BBQ, and a (very) large glass of white wine. OMG!
Speaking of White Wine…
What the hell ever happened to Cribari vino Bianco?
I was first introduced to it at the reopening of Howard Hughes’ Desert Inn remodel gala in Las Vegas in (was it ’78?). The head chef gave a bunch of old school reporters (this was back in press junket days) a cooking lesson (amazing, to say the least!). He served vino Bianco right from the jug.
I must have consumed dozens of those gallon jugs over a lifetime…but somewhere along culinary memory lane, they disappeared. I’ve been looking for them now for a year with no results.
I have come close. It turns out that while Cribari Cellars doesn’t seem to make it, over on the bonaquistiwine.com site, there’s an imported version of vino Bianco. But, as always on this quest, seems like, “Out of Stock.”
Nevertheless, it’s described on the page as something worth drinking:
“This white wine is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Cortese which is the white grape of Piedmont in NW Italy. Crisp and clean and bursts with mineral and citrus fruit. Sourced from a co-op winery with 1100 acres of vineyards farmed by its members.”
One thing (if I can make a suggestion to the Bon Aquisti people?): A lot of us (not-even) wine snobs would sure appreciate being able to back-order some of the really good wines. A chat with your web developers, perhaps? (Or, maybe there aren’t enough people who know what they want…just passing along an idea.)
You can kinda get to the taste of vino Bianco by taking a bottle of Chardonnay and putting in a cup or two of organic while grape juice. But, it’s not the same, trust me.
Food, Life, and ESP
A note from the crackpot food research department around here.
I mentioned that 3-days before the snow here, both Elaine and I had a very distinct sense…but it was more like a knowing…that a weather event was coming. Which it did.
In sensing it… I learned long-ago that when a “new sense” of something arises, it’s worth pausing whatever you’re doing, and trying to pinpoint where in your experience that sense is coming from.
For me, the sense was right next door to the memory of the sense of taste.
Which has opened up a whole new realm of personal energy research for me. Let’s put this out there as a crackpot theory and let you roll it around for a while:
“People have five basic senses: Taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound. Therefore, in order to really improve your psychical inclinations, you need to “balance deeply” so that you’re always ready to receive insights from Universe.
Therefore, a daily practice to improve your Mind would be relaxing in a meditative state, and then “going around” to each of your five senses and remembering (as intensely as you can) the absolute best and also the absolute worst of each of your senses.”
My thinking is that experiences (interactions with the external physical world) form something akin to psychical fence lines. So, by going back and “patrolling your fence lines” regularly, you will become more attuned to the world around you.
This theory may not be as crazy as it sounds: Consider the case of people who insist that they are improved by taking ice-cold dips and scalding hot saunas. If you aren’t aware of his work, see The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Full Human Potential. Bring your own bathtub full of ice.
Thing is, when you look at his book – and others of the same genre, such as The Way of The Iceman: How The Wim Hof Method Creates Radiant, Longterm Health?Using The Science and Secrets of Breath Control, Cold-Training and Commitment – you will find these are mainly tapping into the space either side of tactility (touch).
We don’t have anything (*particularly) against ice-water bathing, for example (though the soap doesn’t come off as easily, what having some oils in most of it. But we would rather do our Inner Work in a more rounded fashion.
Listening to loud rock and roll, disco, Blue Note jazz, and a large helping of R&B of the Memphis sort while drinking too much of a great wine and stuffing ourselves with perfect pizza. While looking into each other’s eyes…and…yeah… well, TMI, maybe…
But if Wim Hof gets amazing results with touch-related extremism, maybe some of the 1-million Scoville would open up something (besides blowing the top off your head from heat)…
Contributions Still Welcome
Not sure how many more weekends our Saturday Gourmet columns will last. Getting near to the “high work” time of year. Spring chores like Garden, Yard, Shop, Projects and so forth.
So, if you have ever wanted to write (free, no compensation) an article to share with your fellow nibblers, send it on in. We reserve the right to edit for spelling and content (if marginal). Picture or two if you think it works.
Maybe we could do a little more than regular foody sites.
But, then again, most people don’t realize that all we take from Life is housed between our ears and some of those have to be memories of great times and tastes.
Write when you get hungry,