Adapted from a Just One Cookbook recipe
My original idea for this Sunday was to make a teriyaki beef stew, but Miriam said, “Too sweet.” I suggested chicken skewers and she agreed to that, as long as the meal was vegetable forward and low sugar. Japanese dishes seem to have a lot of added sugar, but I could work with that.
Properly, the chicken in yakitori is unseasoned and cooked over Japanese binchōtan charcoal. Salt (shio) or tare sauce—a mixture of soy sauce, saki, mirin, and sugar—is sprinkled or brushed on as the meat grills. Living in San Jose, I have given up on using a charcoal grill—too many “Spare the Air” days. While the chicken for yakitori is usually not marinated, I could not help myself.
There is a wide variety of yakitori , but for Sunday’s meal I chose chicken and green onion (negina yakitori). You may add things to the basic tare sauce to give it your own spin. To please Miriam, I was taking out the extra sugar and replacing it with the ginger flavored pickling liquid from a jar of gari—young ginger pickled in sugar and vinegar. My tare sauce would still have some sweetness from the sugar in the mirin and gari liquid, but it would still be far less sugar than some recipes called for.
I planned to use only the white parts of the green onion for the yakitori. I was left with a large pile of green onion tops and I had to think of a way to use them up. I got a bit carried away with Miriam’s request for making the meal vegetable forward and I made six other dishes: shiitaki mushroom skewers, salt pickled cabbage, hijiki and carrot salad, mizuna salad, miso soup, and a baked rice dish.
Karl’s Negima Yakitori (Chicken Thigh and Green Onion Skewers)
2½ lb. chicken thighs
⅓ light soy sauce
1 Tbs. gari liquid
1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbs. water
6-8 green onions, white parts only
1. Cut the chicken thighs into one inch pieces.
Tip: Remove any lumps of fat and gristle.
Note: This was a lot of chicken for five people, but I really wanted some leftovers for my lunch the next day. I had enough chicken for eleven skewers, each with five pieces of chicken (55) and four pieces of onion (20). After dinner we had two sticks left for Jan and myself.
2. Mix the tare sauce and pour it in a gallon zip lock bag.
3. Add the chicken, press the air out of the bag and seal it.
4. Marinate the chicken for several hours.
Note: I marinated the chicken overnight.
5. Remove the chicken from the bag and pat the pieces dry with paper towels.
Tip: After you skewer the meat and onions, let the skewers air dry for at least one-half hour. The meat will grill more evenly, if the exposed surfaces are dry and the chicken is at room temperature.
Note: Some cook’s would simply discard the marinade and make a second batch of the tare sauce to use on the grill. I am frugal, I heat the marinade in a small pan which causes the lipoproteins—the loose proteins released by the raw chicken into the marinade—to clot into what is usually referred to as “scum.” While this “scum” is edible, it would make your tare sauce cloudy and gritty. Straining the sauce through cheese cloth removes the scum.
6. Put your tare sauce in a small pan and thicken it with the cornstarch mixture over low heat.
Tip: Reserve the sauce for later with a basting brush
7. Cut the white parts of the green onion into 1-1½ inch pieces.
Note: When I was at the market, I chose a package of green onions that had thick, long white parts. Each onion produced 3-4 good pieces of onion for my skewers.
8. Soak your bamboo skewers for 30 minutes.
9. Alternately skewer the chicken and onions on the bamboo sticks.
Tip: Start with a piece of chicken—I folded over each piece, so that it formed a hump on one side for the visual appeal. Then slide on a pieces of onion. Continue until you have five pieces of chicken and four pieces of onion on each skewer. You should end up with a piece of chicken at each end of the stick.
10. Set your grill to high heat.
Note: If you are using charcoal, lay out a bed of coals large enough so that all of your meat is directly over the heat.
11. Grill the chicken directly over the heat and sear the meat on each side until it is starting to pick up some color, 4-5 minutes per side.
12. When you feel the chicken is seared to your liking, start basting the skewers with the tare sauce.
13. Continue turning and basting until the meat is cooked through.
Note: Unlike chicken breast meat—which goes dry and grainy when overcooked—thighs are far more forgiving.
14. Transfer the skewers to a serving platter and tent with foil to retain the heat.
15. Serve warm.
Tip: But they are still good cold.