Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chicken Teriyaki Tenders with Rice and Asparagus

This is a great weeknight 30-minute meal that every family enjoys.  Teriyaki is a Japanese cooking technique where foods are broiled or grilled in a sweet soy sauce marinade.  I use chicken tenders which, because of their size, absorb the flavor of the teriyaki sauce nicely and they are inexpensive.  You can use a pre-made teriyaki sauce (I like the Kikkoman Teriyaki Takumi Collection - Garlic and Green Onion) or you can make your own.  You can make a good long-grain wild rice or you can use a rice box mix.

The meal starts in the morning before I leave for work when I prepare the chicken.  Chicken tenders are the little flap of meat that folds over the back side of a boneless, skinless breast.  This flap has a tendon which must be removed before cooking. If you prefer you can simply slice a regular chicken breast to use in this recipe, but because of the tendon the 'tenders' are less expensive and taste just as good.  Removing the tendon is not difficult.  To do this, I use a pair of pliers I keep for kitchen tasks and grip the white tendon piece that is sticking out.  I hold the chicken tender down and either pull the tendor out between my fingers or hold it down with the back of a knife and pull it under the knife blade, removing the tendon completely.   Once removed, I place the tenders in a zippered storage bag and add the teriyaki sauce.  I then place it in the refrigerator where it will spend the day until I get home to make dinner.

I start the rice first, because it takes the full 30 minutes.  I use a long-grain wild rice and add some sliced almonds because I like a little crunchy texture with this dish.  While the rice is cooking, you simply spray a baking dish with food release and add the tenders.  Place these in a 375F pre-heated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. 

While the chicken and rice are cooking, I quickly prepare the fresh asparagus and place it on a cookie sheet with some olive oil and salt/pepper.  I'm often asked if it is necessary to peel the asparagus.  I typically peel asparagus that has a thicker stock.  A thick stalk on asparagus is typical of the freshest, first cut of the plant.  I usually avoid asparagus that is very very thin, as these are typically from later cuttings although you certainly don't need to peel the stalks.  So with that said, I often do peel the asparagus after first cutting off the bottom dried out end.  This is easily done with a potato peeler as shown in the photo.  This ensures a tender, non-stringy asparagus that your family will enjoy.  You can see it removes the more fibrous outer edge.  (Never ever serve canned mushy asparagus.)  I add the asparagus to the 375F oven during the last 10-12 minutes of cooking time for the chicken, so it all comes out at once.

Finally, I like to serve this dish family style with the rice underneath the chicken.  Then I finely chop some celery to sprinkle on the top, because it both adds color and provides yet a little more texture to the dish.  And the entire meal is on the table in about 30 minutes.

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