Looking at my friends Island Vittles and Skewer It! blogs on yakitori I decided to start a series on that worldwide known Japanese specialty that is “Yakitori/焼き鳥/”Grilled Chicken”.
I hope that this series of postings on various basic recipes will help her and all other foodies interested in that simple, healthy and so delicious delicacy!
This particular series will deal with the cutting techniques which should help you make your own yakitori at home!
Yakitori Cutting Techniques 1: Leg:
You may of course buy legs separately, but it might prove a great idea to buy a fresh whole chicken and prepare it completely as yakitori for once!
In any case if you have only legs, here how you should go about it!
-Use the legs with their skin on if possible. It makes for so much tastier yakitori!
Separate the meat into upper leg (right) and lower leg (left).
Upper leg meat is more tender than lower leg meat because of tendons.
-Cut upper leg meat into approximately 25 mm/1 inch thick strips.
Do the same with lower leg meat.
Bear in mind that too big is better than too small! Bigger pieces will give out juicer chicken bits!
-Cut upper and lower leg meats strips into 25 mm/inch square pieces.
You may make the lowe leg meat pieces comparatively smaller as they take more time to cook.
-Insert skewers/sticks fromthe “meat end”.
Start from the smaller bits. Stab one lower leg meat piece first and then one upper leg meat piece. Repeat the same sequence.
-Leave plenty of space at the “handle” portion for better handling during the grilling.
Having an upper leg meat piece at the end will make for a greater “bite”!
-Each stick weighs approximately 40 g.
Yakitori Cutting Techniques 2: Breast:
-If you haven’t obtained the full chicken, choose a good quality chicken breast cut with all its skin. Check that the latter is frim and fresh. Frozen skin will not achieve the best results!
-Looking at the picture above, make a “high cut”by separating the comparatively fat part (left on pic but right in reality) from the more irregular part (right on the pic, but left in reality) because it is the spot where the wing joint is found.
-Cut the wing joint part into 25 mm/1 inch square pieces.
The fat part of the breast could be cut into the same pieces, but it would be a bit of an overkill.
Better would be to grill it whole skin down until the skin has turned crispy. Do not grill on the other side. Doing so the meat will still be half rare inside,making for a “juicy and tender” morsel best enjoyed with some ponzu instead of sauce/tare!
Serve it whole or cut into thin slices.
-Insert the skewer through the pieces with the skin surface always pointing forward for even cooking!
-If you decided after all to do the same with the “fat” part, bear in mind not to overcook it! In that case larger cuts would be better. The trick would be to have all the skin parts facing down and grill them skin down only!
Yakitori Cutting Techniques 3: Negima/Neck & Leeks:
“Negima/葱真” liteerally means “leeks in between”.
It is a very popular way of preparing yakitori and provides a great nutrition balance.
Note that negima can also be written 葱鮪 which means that tuna is used instead of chicken. Some people argue that it was the original form of negima!
-One uses the neck meat from the chicken. I told you taht everything can be used. If you don’t believe me, wait until the next postings! LOL
-Choose a long and comparatively thin leek with a clear white and green part.
-Cut the leek into 25 mm/1 inch pieces.
-Keep white and green pieces separate.
-If the white part is too thick, cut in half as shown in picture.
-Cut the thick part of the neck meat into 25~40 mm/1 inch~1 inch and half long pieces.
Cut the thin part of the neck into 40~50 mm/ 1 inch and a half~2 inches long pieces.
-Skewer in this order:
1) One piece of th thin part of the neck meat
2) Green leek piece
3) One piece of the thick part of the neck meat
4) White leek piece
5) One piece of the thick part of the neck meat
This will provide even exposure to the fire/grill
As the white part of the leek is longer skewer them separately for a nice combination! That latter is called “ikada”.
One meat skewer should weigh about 30 g.
Yakitori Cutting Techniques 4: Kawa/Neck:
The best part for kawa/skin yakitori arguably come from the neck of the chicken (choose a large specimen with a long neck!LOL), but other parts are ok. Still, strive for quality!
Scrape most of the fat from the inside of the skin and discard. Too much fat left and the taste will drop with an increase in smoke. Still, leave a little!
This is haow it should look after scaping.
Spread the skin and cut in strips 25 mm/half an inch wide.
Stab skins with a skewer to form yakitori about 30~40 g each stick.
The finished product!
To make a single stick you will need 50 g of neck skin, fat included.
Yakitori Cutting Techniques 5: Zuri/Sunazuri/sunagimo/Gizzards:
Gizzards are the two sticks in front. The back two are liver.
Bear in mind than some ingredients such as skin or gizzards might not be considered proper or healthy in some cultures!
Yakitori Cutting Techniques 5: Zuri/Sunazuri/sunagimo/Gizzards:
First clean the gizzards in fresh running cold water.
Cut out the red parts on both sides, left and right as shown in picture and discard.
Cut in half as shown above.
Cut off as much as you can of the hard skin as shown above. A bit difficult, I agree, but ry to cut out and discard only the hard white part. Well, as much as you can!
Pass the stick through each cut folded in two with the white part inside as shown above. This will prevent the gizzards from folding out. Count 3 to each stick.
Here you are!
6) LIVER & HEART
Interestingly enough, the Japanese call Liver, “rebaa” and Heart, haarto”, which nothing less than the Japanized pronunciation of the English words!
Naturally, liver in Japanese is “kanzou” and heart “jinzou”, but this refers more to anatomy than gastronomy!
It goes without much saying that you have to use absolutely fresh ingredients!
First wash in clear running cold water.
Peel off the soft thin skin off the heart and cut/discard any veins or blood vessels.
Take off fat but only within reason as it contributes to tasty morsels!
Separate the liver lobes.
Discard veins/blood vessels if you discover them.
Cut the lobes across into pieces big/small enough for easy grilling.
Cut the hearts legthwise to two thirds of their thickness as shown on above picture.
Discard any veins/blood vessels or blood matter.
Skewer the hearts with a stick. Two of them should be enough.
It is easier than it looks.
You may skewer the livers and hearts together but you will ened up in uneven cooking. Better separate them!
Skewer the liver with a stick. Three pieces is best for balance.
Here you are!
Now, you could make the sticks longer and the pieces bigger or liver and heart whole, but personally, the smaller the yummier it looks!
These are more or less appetizers, after all!
Shiri is often called “hips” in Japanese language. Actually it means bottom/derriere!
I still remember my Mum reserving that morsel for herself every time she roasted a whole chicken: “le cul est pour moi! The ass is for me!” LOL
In any case a healthy chicken should have a prominent “tail”! bear in mind it is not all fat as the chicken need themuscles to strut along its tail erected!
As shown on pic above, insert the knife and cut around the small bone and the meat attached to it.
Cut the fat around the sphincter/anus and discard it together with the sphincter.
Do that operation on both sides. Look at the pic above: you will discard the pieces of fat below the cut hips.
Insert the stick/skewer in the meat passing it just under the bone.
The stick is ready. The bone is a bit hard but succulent with the fat around it.
Now, if you don’t want the bone, cut around the bone as carefully as possible laving no meat or fat with it.
When instering the stick in the cut pieces, respect the same order skin fat/meat for even cooking.
Here are the complete sticks of boneless hips.
Now bear in mind they will cook faster and look smaller!