June 17, 2021. Dear Kids- These recipes for the Classic Diner Chicken Teriyaki, a Deconstructed Chicken Teriyaki and a Vegan Carrot Teriyaki were inspired by the hundreds, or could it be thousands, of chicken teriyaki plates my friends and I downed at the Diner formerly known as “Quintessence”, which now only exists in its former patrons minds ever since it closed its doors in 2012. Back in the day, as a student and before I knew much about anything, we were staples at this very funky and very tiny and shiny dining car eatery turned late night, weekend dance club. I have to say I was a much better diner than dancer, but I didn’t let that stop me from hanging out long after the plates and tables were cleared and kitchen closed to make way for the art of dance in spite of that. It also gave me enough time to work up an appetite for one last meal in the wee hours of the morning at Denny’s, where the food paled in comparison, but nevertheless did what it had to do at that point- be better than that kids!
My friends and I weren’t the only ones that crammed into Quintessence for its famous Chicken Teriyaki Plate- an elevated and stylish diner meal that drew people in from all over the area and was on most every table any time you walked into the place. The plate featured a teriyaki grilled and glazed chicken breast, wrapped around a long slice of carrot and a scallion that was surrounded by ribbons of spinach pasta glistening in a basil forward vinaigrette and a colorful green salad accompanied by a mini-pitcher of mystery creamy dressing. I always thought the dressing was Greek, but internet research suggests it was a sweeter dressing, mass produced by food distribution giant, Sysco, that may or may not have been called “Paris Dressing”.
Believe me when I tell you, the alchemy created when all these diverse and potent flavors pooled together on the plate was nothing short of amazing- that, or it was just pretty good and perhaps time and other “influences” have clouded my recollection. I guess the only way to know just how good it was is to make it yourselves to see what you think.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
Classic Quintessence Diner Style Chicken Teriyaki
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1-2 long carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/2” wide strips
- 4 scallions
- kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 8-100 toothpicks, depending on your knife skills, to hold it all together
- 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/3-1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons rice or other vinegar
- 1-2 teaspoons mince garlic, ginger and/or hot sauce, optional
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Spinach Noodles and Dressing
- 1 pound spinach fettuccine or other pasta shape
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup cider or other vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey, optional
- 3/4 cup canola oil
- kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Make Your Own Green Salad
- Chopped lettuce of your choice with sliced carrots, cucumbers and radishes or whatever you have- all tossed up!
- Spinach Noodle Dressing and Teriyaki Sauce to taste or We’ll Always Have Paris Dressing from the Lecture.
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, optional
COOK AND PLAY
Get into the weekend Q Vibe with “Genius of Love”, by Tom Tom Club and pour yourself a drink- like a lemonade- as you grill! If I wasn’t your father, I’d also have you play “Erotic City”, by Prince, another late night Q-Classic, and put a little “somethin’ somethin’” in that lemonade. Click here for the Official Dad’s Dinner Diary Cook and Playlist!
1. Even Steven. You need to get those irregular shaped chicken breast more or less evenly flat for proper cooking so use a sharp knife to cut horizontally through the middle of the thicker lobe of the breast, stopping short of cutting it off, and open it up like a book. Repeat with remaining chicken.
2. Hammer Time. Place breast cut side down in between plastic wrap and pound evenly with meat hammer, rolling pin or other pounding device, working from the center out, until the breast has an even thickness. Repeat with remaining chicken.
3. Chicken Strip Challenge. Use kitchen scissors or a knife to cut breast into one long strip by cutting an inch or so in from the edge of the breast and continuing along the perimeter in a “spiral” to the center of the breast, trying to keep the 1” wide chicken strip intact so it can be wrapped around the carrot and scallion without using too many toothpicks to hold it together- Challenge Accepted!
4. Wrap It Up. Starting at one end of your chicken strip, place end of carrot and scallion on top of chicken and secure it with a toothpick. Carefully wrap the chicken strip around and up the carrot and scallion like a snake until you reach the end of the strip and secure that end into the carrot and scallion with another toothpick. Let’s face it, there will be times, especially when you first make this, when you won’t be able to harvest one long strip of chicken from your breast and that’s OK and one of the reason the good lord made toothpicks. So use as many toothpicks as you need to wrap your chicken strips around your veggies- just don’t forget to remove them or have your guests sign waivers before dinner. Repeat with remaining chicken and brush with oil and season with salt and pepper to taste- remembering the teriyaki sauce will be salty.
Grillin’ Time. Preheat grill to medium high heat, clean off any grate debris with a wire grill brush and carefully oil grate with some canola oil. Cook chicken over direct medium high heat (meaning the chicken is cooked directly over a burner that’s lit), making quarter turns every 4 minutes or so until cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. If chicken is charred enough on the outside, but not cooked completely through, move to indirect heat (meaning over a burner that is not lit, while the other burner(s) are lit and with the grill top down) until cooked through. If you like, feel free to baste chicken from time to time with teriyaki sauce (recipe follows). I prefer to add the sauce off heat and serve more on the side because the sugar in the sauce can easily burn and also makes a mess of your grill. Place chicken and portions of Spinach Noodles (recipe follows) and salad on four serving plates. Sprinkle plates evenly with toasted sesame seeds if you like and serve extra Teriyaki Sauce and Spinach Noodle Dressing on the side.
- Make You Own Mix. Combine soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and, if using to spice things up, garlic, ginger and/or hot sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.
- Slurry Power. After a bit of simmer, taste and adjust vinegar and sugar as you like. Stir up cornstarch and water mixture (“cornstarch slurry”) to bring to an even consistency and then stir half of slurry into soy sauce mixture. As sauce simmers it will thicken. Stir in more cornstarch slurry to get to the thickness you prefer. Set aside.
Spinach Noodles and Dressing
- Noodles Popeye Would Eat. Get a big pot of salted water going and cook spinach noodles according to package directions or your preference. Drain, transfer to large mixing bowl and toss with soy sauce. Set aside while you make the dressing.
- Dress It Up. In a 16 ounce Mason Jar or similar lidded jar, add cider vinegar, dried basil, Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons honey if using, 3/4 cup canola oil, salt and pepper. Secure lid and shake vigorously to combine. Toss a 1/2 cup of this dressing into the noodles and serve noodles at room temperature or make ahead and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat- bring refrigerated noodles out 30-60 minutes before serving to take off the chill.
Deconstructed Chicken Teriyaki. Looks aren’t everything! After all, if that were the case, your Mom would never have married me. So, while the Classic Q-Dinner Style Chicken Teriyaki is undeniably the winner in the looks department this Q-Deconstructed Chicken Teriyaki is much easier to make and still looks pretty darn good. It’s also actually my favorite way to cook and eat Q-Teriyaki- no need for butchery to cut and wrap the chicken and the carrot and scallions come face to face with the char of the grill for deeper flavor. So flatten your chicken breast, brush with oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss scallions and carrots with oil, salt and pepper and grill it all up by preheating grill to medium high heat, cleaning off any grate debris with a wire grill brush and wiping grate down with some canola oil. Cook chicken over direct medium high heat, flipping as needed, until cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. If you like, feel free to baste chicken from time to time with teriyaki sauce or add off heat. Place chicken and portions of noodles and salad on four serving plates. Sprinkle plates evenly with toasted sesame seeds if you like and serve extra Teriyaki Sauce and Spinach Noodle Dressing on the side.
Vegan Carrot Teriyaki. I am a little bit proud of this innovation where I trim and peel 4 fat carrots (see Note below), core each carrot with a metal straw and stuff them with thin scallions or lengthwise sections of fat scallions that fit into the channel made by the straw. You will likely need a long skewer to dislodge the last carrot core from the straw and definitely clean the straw with a little straw cleaning brush. Once you have the scallions threaded through the carrots, season carrots up with oil, salt and pepper and preheat grill with medium high heat. Grill carrots over indirect heat, turning now and again and finishing, so carrots can be easily pierced with a knife, over medium high direct heat to get some char. If you like, feel free to baste carrot from time to time with teriyaki sauce or add off heat. Place carrots and portions of noodles and salad on four serving plates. Sprinkle plates evenly with toasted sesame seeds if you like and serve extra Teriyaki Sauce and Spinach Noodle Dressing on the side.
Note- If carrots are really thick, after you core them and before you stuff them, you may want to par-cook them in the microwave by placing them on a microwave safe plate and cooking them on high power for 30 second intervals until there is a little give when you press down on them.
We’ll Always Have Paris Dressing. After countless minutes of late night, when I couldn’t sleep, internet research I am relatively confident that the salad dressing served on the side of the Q Classic Diner Teriyaki went a little something like this- in a small bowl whisk up 3 tablespoons cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons honey (probably corn syrup in original), 6 tablespoons of mayo and salt and pepper to taste- adjusting vinegar and honey as you see fit. As for me, this is a bit too sweet and I’m happy most of the time using the noodle dressing and teriyaki sauce as my salad dressing.
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