Chicken thigh stewed in soy sauce, mirin and black vinegar 鶏腿肉の黒酢煮

japanese cake

I have found the simmering liquid made of equal parts soy sauce, mirin and black vinegar (the Japanese not Chinese kind) to be a very good universal stewing medium. I first used it to steam/poach chicken breast. I then used the same concoction to simmer chicken wings which is now one of our most favorite drinking snacks. I think I have now perfected it.

Here is my secret; I keep reusing the simmering liquid. I realized, especially after cooking the chicken wings, it became slightly viscous with a nice unctuous mouth feel because of the collagen dissolved into the liquid. It jelled in the refrigerator and, later, after cooking a few more batches of wings, it congealed even at room temperature. It makes a nice “gelee” when eaten alone. I often make it into small cubes and use it as a part of dressing/seasoning.

I decided to keep this liquid going much as some Yakitori joints do (making a sauce started when great grand dad started the place and spanning many generations) by adding new “tare’ sauce to the pot. After stewing and consuming all the wings (I usually keep the cooked wings we did not eat in the jelled liquid reheating the leftovers), I strained the hot liquid to removed any debris and spent ginger slices and kept it in the sealed container in the refrigerator. Every time I cook a new batch of wings, I remove the congeal chicken fat from the surface of the jelled simmering liquid, heat it up, and add the appropriate amount (for whatever you are stewing) of soy sauce, black vinegar and mirin (1:1:1). I taste it and add water since water evaporates which makes the simmering liquid too strong. I also add new slices of ginger every time to renew a fresh ginger taste. This way, the simmering liquid can be perpetuated. The simmering liquid is getting better and better every time I cook a new batch of chicken. 

My wife suggested I cook chicken thighs in this simmering liquid. I said “Why not?” I just cleaned the excess fat and skin from the thighs but left the bone and most of the skin. I simmered it with an otoshi-buta for 40-60 minutes. We often let the cooked chicken cool in the liquid and then place it in the refrigerator rather than eating it immediately. This is much meatier dish than the wings. The texture is also very different from that of the wings but we really like this. The night I made this dish, I blanched broccoli florets and sauteed them in butter with chopped garlic and seasoned it with salt and pepper as an accompaniment.

This is sort of the dish without a particular citizenship. It can be served as a main dish with a starch in the Western-style or it can be a wonderful Izakaya style drinking snack. The chicken meat is so tender, you can remove the bones by hand (my wife) or using chopsticks (me), or before serving (guests). Although we considered having sake, we had this with Ridgeline Vineyards Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. This is a very decent California Cab without any harsh edges and went very well with this dish. The black vinegar became very mild and and did not compete with the wine at all. After eating two thighs each, we did not need any more food.

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