Looking for some new Japanese dish ideas in Izakaya: the Japanese Pub Cookbook by Mark Robinson, I stumbled upon some luscious skewers photographs, and among them grilled chicken skewers (yakitori) with negi 葱 (one of the Japanese cousins of the leek and spring onion). I must have seen a similar combination hundreds of times in books and on the web, so it was time to give it a go, but substituting naganegi with simple leek. I have decided to call it negima 葱鮪, in spite of a different plant variety. Thank you, Hiroyuki, for this advice!
Even though I don’t have a grill (not to mention a charcoal one featured in the book) and even though I didn’t use the teriyaki glaze in the traditional Japanese way (the skewers should apparently be basted while they grill), the result was most satisfactory: the chicken breasts were juicy, while the leek was soft (but not mushy) and not as burnt as I have initially feared. The final teriyaki brushing step was more than welcome. For once I have stopped myself from sprinkling this dish with sesame seeds and used slightly tangy ground sansho pepper, which seemed (and proved) more adequate.
The happy grill owners will certainly know how to grill these skewers in the best way, so my instructions are only for grill pan users.
TIP: I have sprinkled my skewers with the Japanese sansho pepper, but if you cannot find it, you can omit it or sprinkle them with anything you want.
Special equipment: skewers, preferably short
Preparation: 40 minutes
Ingredients (serves 3):
2 chicken breasts (skinned)
2-3 leeks (maximum 1,5 cm thick)
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons mirin (can be substituted with 1 – 2 tablespoons syrup)
3 tablespoons soy sauce (or 4-5 if you have low sodium soy sauce)
(1 teaspoon sugar; I usually omit sugar)
3 tablespoons sake
(ground sansho pepper)
Soak the skewers in water for at least 15 minutes to avoid burning.
Cut up the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and salt them slightly.
Discard the leek leaves, leaving the white and also the light green part.
Cut up the leek into bite sized pieces too (similar in width to the chicken pieces).
Thread the meat and the leek pieces on skewers alternating a white leek piece, a chicken piece and a light green leek piece.
Brush the skewered meat and leeks on one side only.
Heat an oiled grill pan.
Place the skewers on the pan (oil brushed side down) and cover it (this way the meat will cook quicker without excessive drying).
After about 5 minutes check if the meat is not burnt and grill, still covered, for about 5 more minutes.
Brush the top of the skewers with oil and turn them.
In the meantime bring the teriyaki glaze to boil in a small pan and boil it until it thickens. Put aside.
Grill the skewers for 5 more minutes.
Place the skewers on serving plates and brush them with teriyaki glaze on both sides.
Sprinkle with sansho and serve.