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Teriyaki Chicken is Copyright © 1998 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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background on the recipe
Teriyaki Chicken is a great dish that's ridiculously easy to make.
All you have to do is cut a chicken in half, and soak both sides in teriyaki sauce. It almost eats itself.
Don't get alarmed if the outside of the chicken blackens during the searing process -- this helps guarantee an interior as white and moist as the purest soul.
friends before food
Smart as he was, Leonardo Da Vinci never got to eat a cheeseburger.
Julius Caesar, short and sweaty after conquering all three parts of Gaul, was never handed a hotdog.
The he or she near the mouth of a cave who first lifted, on the end of a crooked branch, the weight of fire, was denied the pleasure of tossing up into the air, like a club, a spaceship, popcorn.
Nowadays, dishes from around the world and from flickering history are available to all of us, often frozen. We no longer need to travel to Hong Kong to eat a dish called Hong Kong Something, and with the aid of cookbooks we all can conjure Roman feasts where garlic is served as a vegetable.
The burrito lays down with the eggroll. Stand back.
One of the better results of this small-world chumminess is Teriyaki Chicken.
In this corner, chicken. A wonderful animal, close to the ground but a great opportunity to eat sex -- legs, thighs, breasts. Before World War Two, it was not uncommon for families in America to raise chickens in their backyard, the father chopping a head off after Sunday mass. Our parents tell us stories, and one my mother repeated over the decades was finding herself trapped in her family's chicken pen as a little girl, one of the chickens hopping up behind her and with a backward head-thrust pecking her on the calf.
In the other corner, teriyaki. This bottled black remedy sits silently on many a supermarket shelf, waiting for four fingers to encircle its neck all the way around to the opposable thumb, and lift it off to a descent into the colorful commercial jumble in the wire-meshed shopping cart. Less friendly than soy sauce, too foreign for mashed potatoes, its unscrewed orange cap bares a moist, plastic slit into which seeps wet darkness when you tilt it up to your red lips, as I often do, for a sip of the most dangerous taste of salt ever blended.
Put them together, and they spell Teriyaki Chicken.
Buy a chicken. Pull its bagged innards out of the red, ribby interior, and either fry and eat or discard (chicken liver is a glorious snack for the cook, something to sneak on a tripod of two fingers and thumb into the mouth while out in the living room shoes and fingertips wait for dinner. Burn some butter in a small skillet, drop in the livers, and sear over high heat until the outsides are the color of malt liquor. The interior should still be a deep enough ruby that it scares you. Eat off your fingerprints, looking around to see where everybody else is. Everything bad you've heard about liver refers to overcooked liver).
Once you've resolved the eat or discard issue, place the chicken, breast side up, on a cutting board. Insert a stout knife into its black cavity, blade side down, all the way to the back. Sawing the blade of the knife in and out, cut through the flimsy bones at the bottom of the chicken, until the halves separate.
Invert the yellow chicken, allowing the saw-through, now at the top, to naturally yawn apart. Place the heels of your hands on either side of the separation, and push down so that the chicken is now more or less flat on the cutting board, perhaps rising in a ridged hump at the middle above the underside breast bone. Taking the same silver knife, saw down in the middle through the plastic-colored breast bone, through the salmon raw chicken flesh, until you have two more-or-less symmetrical chicken halves laying moistly on the cutting board (wooden cutting boards add visual warmth to the kitchen but retain high levels of bacteria, even after a washing. Use plastic or stainless steel cutting boards instead. For warmth, buy earthenware canisters featuring high-necked geese wearing aprons).
If this were a perfect world, I would now tell you how to bone a chicken ("bone" means to remove all, or most, of the bones), but our world is not perfect. So instead, I'll tell you how to prepare this dish with the bones left in.
Examine the bisected body below you. If you see any thin, splintered bones or cheesy deposits of fat, tug them out with a stern look on your face and discard. Hold each half under the faucet, rinsing away red speckles and strings.
Dry, using paper towels that will turn pink and pearl during this process.
Place both halves in a large plastic bag. Pour into the bag the contents of a large bottle of teriyaki sauce, so that it darkly covers the chicken. If you want, add to this bagged mixture the squeezings of a big, fat lime, and four or five flattened cloves of garlic, but really, the teriyaki is enough by itself.
Let this bagged catch rest in the refrigerator for at least a day, and for as much as two days.
Lift out the now-dark chicken halves from the bag, letting excess moisture drip off.
Ideally, you'll fire up an outdoors charcoal grill at this point. If it's winter, or you live away from access to the great outdoors, twist on the broiler setting to your oven instead.
Place both halves skin side away from the heat source (in other words, if you're cooking the chicken on a charcoal grill, lay the heavy, limp halves rib side down. If you're broiling inside, place the rib side of the chicken halves so they aim up at the heat source).
After five minutes, flip (invert the halves so the skin side faces the heat source).
After five more minutes: If you're cooking on a charcoal grill, put a domed lid on the chicken and let sizzle for twenty minutes. If you're cooking in a broiler, remove from the broiler pan and put in a hot oven heated to 400 degrees for twenty minutes.
After the twenty minutes, you should have two chicken halves that are mahogany on the outside, burnt to the point of the cook's panic, and pure white inside, like a soul (the five minutes/five minutes routine sears in the chicken's juices, guaranteeing the halves will be moist).
The chicken is done when you pierce the top joint of the swollen leg with a knife point, and the juices flow out clear rather than pink.
Serve on a big round plate with your favorite rice preparation, moist and speckled, steam rising, and stir-fried broccoli rabe.
As you lower a long, hot chunk of white smoking chicken through your red lips onto your arching tongue, think of poor Da Vinci, doomed to forever annotate sewer sketches in mirror script inches away from genius, centuries away from a McDonald's.