I have quite a few recipes I have developed over the years for various people, for various reasons. They range from starters through to desserts. Even a drink or two. I find it huge fun to play about in the kitchen, taking a recipe and melding with another, changing it so much it bears only passing resemblance to the original. Or starting from scratch with an array of ingredients and building a dish based around a technique and/or a main ingredient. I tend to do this ‘cuisine-play’ when I have good friends around, then we eat the results! I like having an audience, I guess, so I hadn’t been much in the mood to do any experimenting for the last couple years or so, living toute seule… and on Atkins to boot.
That is… until lately… now I have someone around me who appreciates my culinary efforts, is ‘kindly critical’, AND knows how to match wine to a meal, so I feel much more inspired. So I have been banging out new recipes in my little postage-stamp-sized kitchen. Ah... for a big kitchen where I could really let rip...
In my dream kitchen, I will have either a four-oven Aga or a commercial Viking or Wolf range oven plus a centre island with a proper gas-fired wok burner with seating around the countertop so people can be in the kitchen with me and watch me and we can socialize, drink wine and converse while I cook. I will have a Kitchen Aid area, a marble table for pastry and cool granite countertops. I will have plenty of counter space/preparation area so my friends can pitch in and help, if they like. Plenty of seating so they can just kick back and watch if that is more appealing. I think the kitchen is the Spiritual Centre of the home and I want a big kitchen! Space for a sofa or two, space for dogs and children and lots of big windows bringing in the light. I LOVE cooking for people and talking, laughing, drinking wine or cocktails and all the while discussing things as I cook. I suppose it’s a bit showing off, maybe, but on the other hand, I like showing people how to do what I do as I enjoy sharing my knowledge. Good thing I chose the profession I did, huh? (Well, one of them at least…)
Whenever I make one particular recipe, Maruyama Chicken, I can’t help but chuckle to myself. I made up this recipe in honour of my friend Karen Maruyama when we were both students at SDSU. Kind of like Teriyaki Chicken but better, with lots of garlic and the bite of ginger and chile marinated into it. It’s served with coconut rice. I brought it over to her house for a ‘Japanese Potluck’ I had been invited to. Her aunt, uncle, and some of her cousins were visiting from Japan and this was a welcome dinner in their honour. After a hysterical evening, started by lots of toasts with little cups of sake, and then sitting around laughing and eating, her (male) cousins brought out this t-shirt they wanted to give to me, if I would model it and let them take a group picture. Karen and I looked at each other… the t-shirt was in Japanese. Since her Mom didn’t say anything, we thought, yeah, go on, it’s harmless enough, so I went in the other room and changed into this rather tight t-shirt. “What’s it say?” I asked. “It says ‘Japanese’, as in female Japanese,” one of the cousins replied. So we took lots of pictures with the cousins pointing at my t-shirt and grinning and me in the middle smiling (as you do when you have no idea what is going on.)
It was only later, when we looked at copies of the developed photos that we realised what all the smirking was about on the night. Emblazoned across my pert 36DD chest was the Japanese for Nipponese or Japanese-American street slang ‘Nip on these’. Japanese girls tend to be rather less well endowed (unless surgically enhanced) than most Americans are. (I say Americans because I include women as well as a lot of American men… I think most Japanese women would be proud to sport some of the man boobs I have witnessed on both Florida and California beaches…)
I am sure Karen’s cousins got a lot of mileage out of the photos when they got back to Yokahama…
Still, got a nice t-shirt out of it.
½ cup Mirin (Japanese Sweet Cooking Wine)
1/4 cup honey
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
6 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon ketchup
½ yellow onion, grated
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or more/less to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
First make the marinade:
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat on stove stirring until the brown sugar is dissolved and all the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Allow to come to room temperature. The marinade can be made ahead of time and held under refrigeration for three days. You get best results if you use it right away, though.
Marinade the chicken: If using the boneless breast/thighs cut up, a couple hours marinating will suffice but I leave it overnight. If using the bone-in chicken, I leave it for 24 hours marinating in the fridge, turning it several times. This can be facilitated by bunging the whole thing in either a heavy duty freezer bag and turning it over every few hours or into a large Tupperware container and just giving it a good shake when you remember.
Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade, and either bake in a pre-heated 375°F/180°C oven on a rack over a foil-lined grill pan/baking sheet or on the BBQ, over coals that are grey-ashed over (so medium heat.) You could also use the marinated meat to do kebabs, threading the meat on wire skewers or bamboo sticks. (Soak the bamboo sticks in water for a few hours so they don’t burn from the heat of the BBQ.) The chicken interspaced with red, yellow and green bell peppers, fresh or canned pineapple chunks and ripe cherry tomatoes would be a colourful and flavourful mix.
While the chicken is cooking, reduce down the marinade to about half of the volume or less. It will go very dark, thick and syrupy. At this point you can strain it for a glossy glaze or leave it as is for a chunkier sauce. Pass this around so people can help themselves to more.
Serve with coconut rice and Yum salad, if desired.
(I'll post the rice and salad recipes one of these days.)