Friday, February 7, 2014

A Time for Teriyaki

As winter plows on and buries us in polar vortices, I'm always on the lookout for fast, easy dinner recipes that can be finished quickly, without having to sacrifice flavor or quality. I've been borrowing heavily from Nigel Slater's excellent recipe book Real Fast Food, and even begun to ponder Rachael Ray's milieux in a new light. The beef teriyaki recipe I share today, however, is purely a creation Aaron and I jiggered together over much practice of laying a speedy weeknight table. A little leeway taken with a package of minute rice turns this into a quick "one pot meal," and leveraging a hot oven cooks all the ingredients at once with minimal hands-on time. The end result is tender and flavorful, with the luminous gloss that gives teriyaki its name. This recipe feeds a family with ease and can be scaled up to feed an army as needed, but the real beauty, aside from the vivid colors, is speed of assembly.

In a jiffy
Originating in 17th century Japan, the "teri" or "tare" of teriyaki is Japanese for "shiny," referring to gleaming coat sugar gives to the meat. The "yaki," refers to preparation via grilling. Popularized among Americans, especially in Hawaii, by Japanese immigrants and the increase in Japanese restaurants starting in the 1960s, teriyaki is now perhaps one of the most easily recognized Japanese foods. It’s also one of the most common Japanese foods to find in America. The golden ratio for teriyaki sauce is 1 part soy sauce, 1 part mirin (Japanese cooking wine, sweeter and less alcoholic than sake), and 1 part sugar, blending into a perfect harmony of sweet and savory and resulting in a clear and lustrous sauce. Traditional teriyaki dishes are brushed or dipped in the sauce several times and grilled or broiled. We take a few liberties with our version. Roasting is a great cooking method that ensures a warm winter kitchen, concentrated flavors, and minimal fuss, so it seemed like a natural substitute. With everything neatly tossed on a roasting pan, you can wash your hands of everything and kick back until supper time.

International agents of flavor
Drifting further from authentic Japanese teriyaki, I used honey instead of the more common sugar, this imparts fuller flavor and a little extra thickness and sheen to the finished sauce, without having to rely on cornstarch. Another deviation is the choice of deeper, darker, aged tamari in place of regular soy sauce, which also gives it just a little more nuance and body. By using regular sake instead of mirin, the results are a little less sweet, with just a dash more alcoholic bite. Obsessed with how its pungency mellows into sultry sweetness, I loaded up on garlic, and minced ginger lends a peptic tang and subtle hint of heat. Even though it does not usually feature in classic Japanese teriyaki, garlic is a mainstay in most American versions. All in all, though, this sauce hits all the right sweet-sour-savory notes and carries the rich shoyu flavor and mahogany color to be expected of teriyaki.

Veggies, hooray!
A final departure from the standard is to include a basketful of fresh vegetables in what is more commonly a straight meat dish paired with several sides. This little shortcut helps speed things up and ensures a healthy meal you can feel good about sharing with your friends or children. With quick chop and stir, then you can "set it and forget it" until dinner time. This easy oven teriyaki is a great way to add a little more color to your winter table, a little more flavor to fast weeknight dinners, and a little more variety to a busy schedule.

Taste the rainbow
Easy oven beef teriyaki

1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup tamari
1/3 cup sake
6 cloves garlic, minced
2" "thumb" of ginger, peeled and minced

1 red onion
2 large heads (about 1 pound) fresh broccoli
3 bell peppers, any color
1-2 pounds skirt steak, thinly sliced

Combine the honey, tamari, garlic, and ginger in a large glass measuring cup and stir to combine. Set aside to rest.

Easy as 1-2-3
Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a large, heavy-rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Slice the ends from the onion, halve it, and remove the peel. Slice thinly. Toss on the foiled pan.

Cut the stems from the broccoli and cut it into florets. Add to the onion.

Thinly slice the peppers and combine with the other vegetables. Add the steak and drizzle with the prepared sauce. Use two large forks to toss the ingredients together until evenly coated.

Toss me!
Spread the meat and vegetables into an even layer across the baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, until the broccoli is bright green, the vegetables are tender, and the steak is cooked through.

Serve with rice. Serves 4-6.

Cheers!
 Also available in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

1 comment:

LCP said...

Love the weeknight dinner idea that does not require a slow cooker!