I am always drawn to poetic dish names, so rare in European cuisines. Doesn’t Wind in the Pines (Toriniku Matsukaze-yaki, 鶏肉松風焼き) sound incomparably better than Chicken Loaf? One might wonder how a baked chicken loaf can bear such a beautiful name? According to Shizuo Tsuji, the author of the magnificent “The Japanese Cooking. A Simple Art”, where I found this recipe, the grains sprinkled over the top evoke the sand on a pine-bordered beach, while the boiling kettle in tea ceremony is like wind blowing through the seaside pines. To be precise, toriniku means chicken, matsukaze “wind in the pines” and yaki describes the grilling/pan-frying cooking method (even though this is supposed to be baked in a hot water bath, not grilled, but I suppose this is due to the fact that baking is not really popular in Japan…).
Apart from the magical name, the final original step of this recipe was what has captured my attention. The beautiful yellow colour is obtained by brushing raw egg yolk over the freshly baked loaf; the yolk cooks instantly and forms a sunny layer over the otherwise pale, unappetising dish. Even though my first Chicken Loaf looked and tasted wonderful, I have allowed myself several modifications, hoping they do not destroy the original idea. My way to prepare this dish gives a very similar result: a filling and warming, but surprisingly light meal. It has certainly brought a ray of sunshine to the cloudy, snowy weather we have been having.
My first Chicken Loaf seemed too dry, which is often the case with cooked minced lean meat. Therefore, I have added some silken tofu, the trick which I have been practising with dumplings for quite a long time. Since I always try to simplify the cooking steps, I have switched from hot water bath in the oven to steaming (but both methods are described below). Not only is it easier this way, but much quicker. Moreover, if you serve rice too, both can cook in the rice cooker at the same time. Last but not least, I have decided to serve this loaf in individual baking dishes rather than preparing a traditional big flat loaf. If you want to know the original recipe, I advise consulting Shizuo Tsuji’s book.
This dish would be equally good served with rice and Japanese pickles and, in a more European way, with a green salad and bread. I would advise also serving it with a sauce of your choice.
TIP: If you wonder what to do with the two leftover egg whites, you need exactly this amount to prepare the Easy Chewy Coconut Cookies:
Special equipment: individual baking dishes (not obligatory)
Preparation: 1 hour
Ingredients (serves 2):
2 small chicken breasts, minced (you can mix them in a food processor) or 2 medium chicken breasts, if you skip tofu
4 heaped tablespoons drained silken tofu
2 tablespoons sake
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar (or syrup)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or more if you use low-sodium soy sauce)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice (squeezed from freshly grated ginger, about 2,5 cm/1 inch)
white poppy seeds or toasted white sesame seeds
If you decide to bake the dishes in the hot water bath, preheat the oven to 230°C.
If you decide to steam them, wash the rice and prepare it to cook in the rice cooker.
Put half of the ground chicken in a pot with saké. Cook over high heat, stirring until the meat changes the colour.
In a big bowl combine the raw meat, 1 egg and 1 yolk, salt, sugar, soy sauce, tofu and mix well with a spoon or your hand.
At the end add the cooked meat and the ginger, mix again.
Spread the meat mixture in the individual dishes and bake them in bain-marie (hot water bath) for 30 minutes or put them on the steaming tray in your rice cooker and leave there until the rice is cooked.
Remove the dishes from the oven and brush quickly with the remaining egg yolk and sprinkle with the seeds (the yolk will cook on the hot surface and give a beautiful colour).
If you have steamed the dishes, the yolk might not set (your loaf might not be as hot), so either brush it with yolk and put back to the steamer for a minute (and sprinkle with sesame afterwards) or brush it with yolk, sprinkle with seeds and put under the broiler for one minute.
Serve with a sauce of your choice, rice, bread, salad, pickles…