Minced Chicken Patties つくね
This is from the recipe in Mark’s book (p130). Although “tsukune” is a regular item in any yakitori place, this one is a bit unique and we really liked it. There are many variations to these recipes but the constant is ground or minced chicken. Usually, this is cooked with a “tare” sauce. Many yakotori places mix in chopped up cartilage but we do not like it. The texture of the cartilage reminds us of store-bought ground beef patties with bone fragments in it–which my wife hates. I used the thigh meat here and did not remove the fat as meticulously as I would otherwise do before mincing it by hand (a la Iron Chef Morimoto style) into the desired consistency. Of course, I could have bought ground chicken or used a food processor. Since I did not have “yuzu” (and even limes for some reason), I used lemon zest (using micro-grater) with finely minced onion and some salt following the recipe. For different texture, you could mix in chopped “renkon” or lotus root which gives much gentler crunch than adding cartilage. I think the secret to forming patties without any binders is, as stated in Mark’s book, to knead it by hand until it becomes sticky enough. Then, take a ball of the mixture, and “throw” it on to a cutting board surface forcefully like a pro baseball pitcher (use your discretion, though) several times and shape it to a flat rectangular shape (this removes entrapped air). Put two skewers through as seen here (In this upper picture, I probably browned the surface too much but it tasted just fine) and refrigerate several hours. This step makes the patties firmer (Mark’s book mentions this. Do not skip this step. This is very important especially if you do not use any binders and want to use skewers. I refrigerated the skewered patties rather than the meat mixture.) After refrigeration, the patties will not come apart too easily. The lemon flavor is very nice but if we could use a real “yuzu”, it probably would have been better. (Sometimes we see yuzu in our Japanese grocery store several days before New Year’s day. Unfortunately, they usually look dried up and shriveled–not really good and awfully expensive). Here is the image of “tsukune” and “skin” being grilled side-by-side. Next time, I may mix in “yuzu kosho” (the recipe is included in Mark’s book p145 but this can be purchased in small bottle or tube in a Japanese grocery store) to see how it works.