The last time we visited our friends in Lousiville, they took us to the English Grill for brunch to have a Hot Brown. Now when they first mentioned it, I was a little worried. The last thing I think of when I hear the term ‘hot brown’ is food. But luckily this dish gets it’s name from the hotel it originated at (The Brown Hotel), not because of something that happens to you after you eat it.
After reminiscing about our trip to Kentucky, I decided to make hot browns for dinner. I knew this was rich and heavy, but man, after seeing the ingredients it’s no surprise why. Tons of butter, tons of heavy whipping cream, and tons melted cheese topping a half pound of sliced turkey breast finished with crispy bacon. Woah… Not something I want to eat everyday, but so delicious!
The recipe I used is from The Brown Hotel website. The story of how the Hot Brown originated is shared their too.
Yakitori is grilled skewered chicken. It can be any part of the chicken. I’ve had liver (not my favorite), gizzards (not my favorite), cartilage (definitely not my favorite), and the regular parts like thighs, legs, breasts, and skin (not my favorite either, but Aya loves it!). It’s one of my favorites and I always make sure we get some when we visit Aya’s folks in Japan.
One of my first solo dining experiences in Japan was with yakitori. Aya’s parents suggested a place where I could just look at pictures on a menu and order by number. That way it would be easier for me since my Japanese vocabulary is very limited. But hey, I can count to ten!
When looking at the menu I immediately recognized yakitori and decided that is what I would order. The only way I’ve had yakitori is with sauce. And that’s the only way I thought people eat it. So when the server asked me questions after I proudly ordered “hachi”(number eight), I began to panic. Why is she asking questions? I told her eight! That’s all she needed to know! Oh, and I only know how to say numbers, “yes,” and “no thank you” in Japanese.
“Do you want salt or sauce?” she asked in Japanese(and I only found this out later when I was telling the story to Aya and her parents).
But all I heard was a bunch of unfamiliar syllables that sounded like a question. After a long awkward pause, I looked blankly at her and said, “hai (yes).”
She looked puzzled and asked again in Japanese, “do you want salt or sauce?”
I straightened up and looked at her more confidently and said again, “hai (yes).” Only this time I added a ‘yes’ head nod so she would for sure know my answer.
“Salt?” she asked in Japanese.
“Hai (yes),” I nodded again with a proud smirk.
Little did I know I was agreeing to “salt” instead of “sauce” on my chicken and was thoroughly confused when the skewered chicken arrived with no sauce. Why is it do dry? I thought. It wasn’t until Aya and her family explained this to me while they roared with laughter at my story that I understood what was being asked. Now I know. And I also know that I like it better with sauce.
So with that in mind, I used two small chicken breasts and cubed them instead of slicing them thin. I also cooked mine under the broiler in the oven. If you use this method, I think soaking the skewers in water for at least a few hours beforehand might be a good idea. Mine caught on fire (oops).
I served this with miso soup, seaweed salad, steamed broccoli with sesame dressing, enoki mushrooms sauteed in butter and soy sauce, and rice. Not a bad meal.
I’ve made a pledge to cook Japanese at least once a week. Either for lunch or dinner. Since we are raising Ellie to be bilingual and bicultural, it’s important to us that she is familiar with, and exposed to Japanese food. I just wasn’t sure where to go to find recipes that Aya didn’t have to always translate for me.
My mom had gotten me a Japanese cookbook when Aya and I were dating in college that I had never opened. Until now. So far it’s turned out to be a great resource and Aya just fills in where I have questions. So first up from this cookbook is grilled chicken balls cooked on bamboo skewers. The Japanese name is tsukune which is a type of yakitori (skewer grilled chicken; think Japanese kebobs). Yakitori (tori means bird) is pretty much a Japanese version of shish kebobs. It’s a very common bar food but not limited to that. You can use just about any part of the chicken to make yakitori. Breasts, thighs, wings, heart, liver, gizzard, cartilage, and skin(Aya’s favorite…yup). I’ve had most of these, but I prefer the breast, thigh, and wing meat best. But tsukune are chicken meatballs. Ground chicken wasn’t on sale so I actually used ground turkey instead, shhh.
What’s great about these is that you can make the meatballs in advance and then grill later with the sauce. You could even freeze them. I made mine in one swoop.
Aya was impressed I made these (so was I) and loved them. So did Ellie. I served it with miso soup, brown rice, stir fried renkon, daicon salad (Japanese radish) and o-hitashi (spinach with toasted sesame seeds).
Tsukune (Grilled Chicken Meatballs)
Ingredients: (I made a double batch)
11 oz ground chicken (I used turkey)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp flour
2 tsp cornstarch (potato starch is more common in Japan)
6 Tbsp dried bread crumbs (panko)
1 in. piece of fresh ginger
Soak bamboo skewers in water overnight. Blend all ingredients for the chicken balls except the ginger in a food processor. With wet hands, scoop about one tablespoon mixture and form into meatball (Will be about half the size of a golf ball). Makes 30-32 meatballs. (My double batch made 34 meatballs, so I think I made mine a little too big.
Grate the ginger and add the the ginger juice to a pot of boiling water. Add the chicken balls and boil for about 7 minutes or until cooked all the way through. Remove meatballs and set aside.
In a small sauce pan, mix all the ingredients for the sauce, except for the cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes. Add the cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Remove and put in small bowl.
Thread 3-4 meatballs on each skewer. Brush with sauce and cook on a medium grill or on a barbeque (I put mine in the oven under the broiler on low). Rotate and add more sauce.
Blanche spinach in boiling water for 15 seconds. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out excess water by hand and compress spinach into a ball. Place ball of spinach in a bowl with soy sauce and water. Let soak 15 minutes or longer.
Drain spinach and squeeze out excess liquid by hand. Roll spinach into a cylinder log shape about 2 inches in diameter. Cut it into 4 pieces. You will have 4 small cylinders now. Dip one end in sesame seeds and serve on plate. (I really should have taken pictures of the process). It is supposed to be cold. If you want more flavor you can pour ponzu or soy sauce on the spinach too.
This had a lot of steps, but it didn’t seem like that much work. There are probably ways you could do it quicker and easier, but I followed the directions as written. We really liked this one, however, it doesn’t reheat the best. It was really dry on the second day. I served it cilantro lime rice, and a salad.
This was great! Aya even requested it for next week. It’s really nothing special, but it was just a nice solid meal. It was enough for a few days and it reheated well.
Just be sure to include the enchilada sauce. I totally forgot to add it with two kids fighting for my attention. I wondered why it seemed a little dry. But I added it for day two and it made all of the difference.