Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chicken Yakitori

Traditionally, Yakitori is a Japanese-style preparation of meat, usually chicken, on bamboo skewers grilled over high quality Binchotan oak charcoal and basted with a soy, mirin, sake, and sugar-based sauce (aka 'tare'). Chicken Yakitori from a really good Yakitori restaurant or an Izakaya (something along the lines of an informal Japanese gastropub) is an experience not to be missed since these establishments usually offer a wide array of chicken parts for you to select from, e.g., chicken thigh or breast meat, chicken meatballs, chicken skin (grilled until nicely crispy), chicken livers, chicken tail, chicken wing, chicken gizzards, etc. For the home cook, however, delicious Yakitori can be achieved by either broiling the skewered marinated chicken in the oven or grilling them on your outdoor BBQ and here I have versions for both methods using boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The prep is super easy, with the longest part being the 1 hour cooking time for the Yakitori sauce. 

1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sake
1 cup mirin
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 scallions, cut into 1" sections
4-5 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 slices of ginger (or 1 tbsp. grated)
1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 pkgs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into large dice

Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese Chili pepper blend), for garnish

Sliced or minced scallions for garnish

1. Combine all the sauce ingredients together in a medium pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat; simmer for about 1 hour, uncovered, or until reduced by half and glossy in texture (should yield about 2 cups).

2. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature and strain. If not using right away, let the sauce cool, strain, then place in a container or bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3.  Pour about 1 cup of the cooled Yakitori sauce over the diced chicken. Mix well and let marinate 30 minutes to 1 hour.

4. Soak 12 bamboo skewers in water at least 1 hour before cooking. Skewer about 5-6 of the marinated chicken pieces onto each skewer, wedging them snugly next to each other to help keep them moist during cooking (gaps allow air to flow around the chicken pieces, which may cause them to dry out).

You can either grill or broil the chicken skewers in the oven:

1. Since I don't have a Yakitori grill, I just set up a regular grill with hot coals; place the skewers on a disposable aluminum grill pan and place on the grill grate. Grill the chicken about 3-4 minutes, then turn the skewers over.

2. Brush the chicken with some of the extra Yakitori sauce. After another 2-3 minutes, turn the skewers over again and brush the other side with Yakitori sauce.

3. As soon as the chicken is cooked through and the sauce lightly caramelized, remove the grill pan from the heat.

1. Preheat the oven to 475F.

2. Place the marinated chicken skewers on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil.

3. Broil the chicken in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, turning the skewers over once.

4. Adjust the cooking time as needed, making sure the chicken is just cooked through and lightly browned. Remove from the oven.

Sprinkle the cooked chicken with a little Shichimi Togarashi. Serve the skewers on plates with some extra Yakitori sauce and steamed white rice on the side.

Some other great sides are grilled or roasted asparagus, Japanese eggplants, and/or shishito peppers.

Scallion sections, grated ginger and garlic, soy sauce, mirin, sake, and brown sugar.

Combine all the sauce ingredients together in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, uncovered, until the sauce has reduced 
by about one half and it is a glossy consistency.

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Strained Yakitori sauce, cubed chicken, and bamboo skewers soaking in water.

Once the Yakitori sauce has cooled, pour 1 cup into the cubed chicken pieces 
and toss well to combine. Marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Skewer 5-6 chicken pieces onto each bamboo skewer. If broiling, broil at 475F for 10-15 minutes, turning over once. 

For grilling: place the marinated chicken skewers onto a perforated grill pan and place over a hot grill. Cook Grill the chicken about 3-4 minutes, then turn the skewers over. 

Brush the chicken with some of the extra Yakitori sauce and turn the skewers over 
again after 2-3 minutes. Brush the other side with sauce.

Sprinkle the chicken with a little  Shichimi Togarashi.
Serve with steamed white rice, extra Yakitori sauce, grilled eggplant 
and/or Shishito peppers on the side. Garnish with chopped scallions. 

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