Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Chicken Yakitori with Shiitakes and Scallions

I love the Japanese skewer-grilling method of using bricks. No, not to flatten a chicken—to elevate the food! Resting skewers of meat and vegetables on two bricks placed 9 to 10 inches apart allows them to grill at just the right height to get great char flavor without burning or sticking to the grate. It’s especially good when the meat has been marinating in a rich, salty, sweet, and sour mixture, common in yakitori and teriyaki.

The marinades and sauces in both these dishes include mirin, a sweet rice wine with a slightly nutty flavor, similar to sherry. If you don’t have mirin (I didn’t), use dry sherry and increase the amount of sugar already included. For this recipe, I used 1/3 cup of sherry and 1/4 cup of white sugar. If you do have mirin, omit the sherry and decrease the amount of sugar to 2 tablespoons.

Tip: You’ll need at least 12-inch skewers in order to have enough room for the food in the middle and space on each end to rest the skewers on the bricks. I recommend metal or very sturdy wood skewers (soaked in water 30 minutes) so that they don’t bend toward the fire with the weight of the food in the middle.

My metal skewers have a looped handle on one end, for a total length of about 13-1/2 inches. That gave me about 10 inches of space for the meat and vegetables. To know how much room you’ll have for the food, wrap the bricks in foil and place them on a counter several inches apart. Lay your skewers across them and adjust the spacing so that at least an inch (1-1/2 inches, even better) is resting on each end. 

Take a "test" measure

Serves 4

  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sake
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
  • 20 medium shiitake mushrooms, long stems trimmed
  • 8 scallions, white and light green parts only, each cut into 3 pieces (chop some of the dark green parts and stir into the cooked rice)
  • peanut oil, for drizzling
  • sesame seeds, for garnish
  • cooked short-grain white rice, for serving
Chicken Pieces
Scallions and Shiitake Mushrooms
Sliced Scallions
  1. Combine the soy sauce, water, sake, sherry, and sugar in a large bowl, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Transfer 1 cup of the mixture to a saucepan.
  2. Add the chicken to the mixture remaining in the bowl, pressing to submerge. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
  3. Heat the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook until reduced by about half, 20 minutes. Set the sauce aside and re-warm gently before using.
Soy Sauce Mixture
Marinating Chicken
Sauce Beginning to Cook 
Reduced Sauce
  1. Place the mushrooms and scallions in a bowl and drizzle with peanut oil, tossing to coat.
  2. Light a grill for medium-high heat. Wrap 2 bricks tightly in aluminum foil. When the fire is ready, place the bricks on the grill grate, 9-10 inches apart (depending on the length of your skewers), with direct heat in between.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting excess drip off. Thread the chicken pieces, mushrooms, and scallions, alternating evenly, onto 4 long skewers (soaked in water 30 minutes, if wood), leaving at least 1 inch free on each end.
  4. Lay the skewers on the grill with the ends resting on the bricks and the meat and vegetables over the fire.  
  5. Grill, turning several times, until lightly charred and the chicken is cooked through, 15-18 minutes total, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. About 3 minutes before they’re ready, brush the skewers with some of the re-warmed sauce.
Ready to Skewer
Ready to Grill 
Beginning to Grill 
After 1st Turn
Grilled Skewers
Sprinkle the skewers with sesame seeds and serve overtop steamed rice, passing leftover sauce alongside.

Chicken Yakitori with Shiitakes and Scallions

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