When I moved to Chicago last summer, I found myself for the first time in my life with a lovely big back porch. I quickly developed an insatiable urge to grill meats, but had no grill to grill them on. I didn’t need a full-size, propane-fired monster, just something small and functional. I liked the communal aspect of the Korean Barbecue experience, and the idea of the Yakitori grills, where everything is cooked on a skewer.
A genuine Binchotan-fired Yakitori grill is around $400. Unfortunately, I only had $20 to spend. Clearly, it was time for some DIY. My solution was this:
These are hotel pans. They are used in professional kitchens for cooking, holding and storing food. They are made of steel, very sturdy, and essentially, this is all you need for a homemade Yakitori grill. The one I use is rectangular, 1/3 size and 4 inches deep. It retails at just $6.99. Put it on some bricks (it will get very hot), fill it with charcoal, load up your skewers, you are good to go. After you’re done, tip it out, give it a wash and it’s back in your kitchen cupboard. An elegant solution, but not all that elegant to look at. I still had $13.01 left, so I bought a hand-saw and some wood glue, and built a wooden surround out of a 6x1 pine board:
You don’t see a lot of wooden grills around, and the sharp-witted among you may be wondering if building a grill out of the exact same material you are burning in the grill is a well thought-out idea. This is why I lined it with some aluminium tape and some fiberglass insulation that I found in the basement. Many safety tests were conducted before this device was allowed anywhere near my dinner, or my wife. One year later, the porch is still standing, and I am still happily married.
They say you can’t have too much of a good thing, and being a man of little to no taste, I decided to blow-torch the outsides to bring out the figure, coat it in Shellac, and add some ‘classy’ brass corner fittings.
When I asked my wife what she thought of the new aesthetic, and she replied, ‘I think… I think my dad would love this.’ I knew I had gone from the tastefully functional, to the faintly ridiculous. If Ron Burgundy owned a Hibachi, this would be it. Still, many great meals were cooked on this thing, and it still works like a charm.
I love the idea of cooking on skewers. A lot of foods can be manipulated into a skewer format if you really put your mind to it, also there’s no grill to scrub, so the clean-up is so much easier. This time I’m doing chicken, lamb, Shitake and Asparagus skewers. Here are the recipes:
2 pounds or 4 chicken thighs, skin on, boneless, cut into strips
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoon cumin, coriander
1 tablespoon Ancho chili powder
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 cup yogurt, full fat
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Season the chicken with the salt and spices, marinade in all the other ingredients for several hours, thread onto metal skewers.
2 pounds ground lamb
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons cumin, coriander
1 Tablespoons Ancho chili powder
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Mix all ingredients thoroughly, pulse in a food processor if you have one, and form into sausage shapes on metal skewers. Chill to firm up before cooking.
Skewer them, brush them with softened unsalted butter, season with salt. Chill until grill.
2 ounces unsalted butter, hot and melted
1 ounce soy sauce
1 ounce Unagi/Eel sauce (or Hoisin)
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
Whisk ingredients together vigorously. Dip mushrooms or any other vegetables in this sauce before chilling and grilling.
This idea came from something I used to do in restaurants, whenever I was roasting mushrooms/any vegetables, I would douse them in the house vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic and mustard). I want of all these flavors in the food, and combining them first seems to work out, and bind everything together. This recipe makes a butter-based emulsion sauce which is stable at room temperature, also works as a dipping sauce, and I would like to try dipping meats in it Yakitori style, before they hit the grill.
I like to build up the coals at one end for hot searing, and progressively move the skewers down to the cooler end to finish.
That emulsion/glaze has just hung around without melting straight off, and gotten incredibly caramelized and delicious.
Squeeze some lemon juice over the asparagus when they’re done.
Yogurt marinade, salt, spices, garlic and hot charcoal. Tastes just like it looks. Amazing.
If you are looking to enhance your grilling skills this summer, check out one of The Chopping Block's outdoor hands-on grilling classes. Don't worry, we'll provide the grills for you! In fact, we have Big Green Eggs and Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet Grills for you to play with.