Chicken Yakitori

Earlier this summer I was looking for new chicken dishes to try on the grill and I tried yakitori. These kebabs are a popular item on the menus of Japanese restaurants and are very simple to make at home.

Yakitori is a traditional Japanese cooking method. In fact, it is one of the fastest and easiest grilling preparations there is.  Your favorite chicken part is cut in small pieces (I prefer chicken thighs because the meat stays juicy and flavorful), skewered, and then lacquered with a sweet, syrupy sauce while grilled over direct heat.

The emphasis on this dish is the sauce … which is both sweet and savory at the same time.  It’s made from a combination of Asian ingredients such as soy sauce, mirin, sake, and fresh ginger. No need to worry about serving this to little ones. Most of the alcohol in the sake evaporates when the sauce is brought to a boil. But if you prefer, unseasoned rice wine vinegar can be substituted for the sake.

To complete the meal, serve the skewers with a bowl of hot steamed rice and a crispy Asian slaw.

Chicken Yakitori

3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup sake
2 tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Skewers (if using bamboo, soak in water for 30 minutes)
Vegetable oil, for the grates

In a medium saucepan combine the soy sauce, mirin, sake, ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Put the chicken in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the marinade and toss to coat. Cover, place in the refrigerator, and marinate for 30 minutes.

Preheat a clean grill to medium-high with the lid closed for 8 to 10 minutes. Lightly brush the grates with oil.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off the excess. Discard the marinade. Thread the chicken onto the skewers.

Place the chicken on the grill. Close the lid and cook, basting with the remaining marinade and turning frequently to prevent scorching, until no longer pink the middle, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side.

Serves 4.

Cooking Tip: Mirin is sweetened rice cooking wine. It is found in the international section of most larger supermarkets.

Source: Simply Grilling by Jennifer Chandler (Thomas Nelson, 2012)

Photo by the talented Justin Fox Burks.

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Jennifer Chandler

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