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Smoky start guarantees the best shoyu chicken


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Lee Curran and Jacqueline Murai-Pedersen are after the same dish, but with different cooking appliances.

Both want to make that plate-lunch classic, shoyu chicken, but Curran wants to use a Crock-Pot and Murai-Pedersen wants to use her oven.

The same basic formula works for both, except that the oven method requires a bit more liquid, and of course the Crock-Pot requires way more time. The basic Japanese marinade is soy sauce, sugar (white or brown), ginger and sake (or sherry or mirin). It’s the same as a teriyaki sauce except that teriyaki is grilled or broiled.

The trick to really good shoyu chicken was taught to me by Paul Masuoka, owner of the now defunct Masu’s Massive Plate Lunch. He said to brown the chicken really well on really high heat — we’re talking near-charred here. If your smoke detector goes off, you know you’re doing it right, he told me. I do this on a portable gas burner outside — I’m not sure I know how to turn off my smoke detector.

More slow cookin’: Next Wednesday I’ll be continuing my monthly series on slow-cookery, island style, with some St. Patrick’s Day suggestions for corned beef.

SHOYU CHICKEN FOR THE OVEN OR SLOW-COOKER

4 to 5 pounds chicken thighs, skin removed, bone in
1/4 cup water
» Marinade:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1-inch piece ginger, crushed and minced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, leaves and stems

Combine marinade ingredients. Pour over chicken. Marinate 4 hours in refrigerator.

Place large skillet over high heat. Remove chicken from marinade (reserving all the marinade). Brown chicken well (this will create a lot of smoke; if you have a portable gas burner, it’s best to do it outside). Remove chicken to 9-by-13-inch baking pan or 5- to 6-quart slow-cooker.

Add water to skillet and deglaze (scrape up the browned bits at bottom of pan). Pour contents of skillet over chicken along with all the reserved marinade.

To bake: Add 1/2 cup water to chicken. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until cooked through. Turn chicken pieces several times so they are well coated.

To cook in Crock-Pot: Cook on low 4 to 5 hours or until cooked through. Turn pieces halfway through.

To thicken sauce (optional): Remove chicken pieces and skim fat from liquid in baking pan or Crock-Pot. Thicken sauce on stove top using a slurry of 3 tablespoons cornstarch or tapioca starch dissolved in 1/4 cup water. Sauce may also be thickened on high in Crock-Pot, but in that case tapioca works best.

Serves 6.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving (based on 5 pounds chicken and with cornstarch thickener): 330 calories, 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 180 mg cholesterol, greater than 1,500 mg sodium, 19 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 12 g sugar, 45 g protein

Hope springs eternal

Lee Ruggles is looking for a crepe recipe that she cut out of The Honolulu Advertiser 40-plus years ago. The filling included cream cheese, chives, curry, toasted almonds and wine. The crepes were layered in stacks with the filling (not rolled like most crepes), then cut into wedges.

"I would dearly love to recover this one, if anyone has it after all this time. Everyone loved this dish … especially guys, and I would like to do it again for an Easter brunch this year. Can you help?"

Well, can you, anyone? Please get in touch. As always, solving a recipe mystery wins the contributor a cookbook.

Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. Write "By Request," 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813. E-mail bshimabukuro@staradvertiser.com.

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