But yes, I AM BACK. Alive. And awake.
It's a pity the sun – which was all glorious and tempting when I had to be holed up in the studio working – has just about disappeared. But I insist it is barbecue weather anyway. There is nothing as exciting as friends all done with assessment, a pack of 100 skewers from the pound shop and a bag of chicken thighs and wings from the farmer's market. (I have no patience for expensive lean chicken breasts.) The wings were smothered in rempah (pounded spice paste which is the base of almost anything Peranakan) and then grilled a la ayam panggang, and the thighs, chopped into pieces and smothered into another sort of rempah for chicken satay. And because I hate wasting any part of anything edible at all, I thought to skewer the chicken skins too and make yakitori out of them.
In its raw, cold, flabby form, chicken skin seems hardly appetising, but think back to your grilled chicken wings and roast chicken – the skin really is the best part. I don't subscribe to the anti-fat school of thought; in fact I believe it's all good for our body, and surely, there's a ton of skin-benefitting collagen in the skin, so I wasn't the slightest bit guilty eating these. And come on, there's asparagus involved, fresh in season and so healthy it probably negates all that sinfully delicious chicken fat.
ASPARAGUS AND CHICKEN SKIN YAKITORI
Credits to shizuoka gourmet for his wonderful help on this chicken skin business.
makes 4 skewers
100g skin from a happy chicken
4 stalks asparagus*
Tare (teriyaki sauce for grilling)
50ml soy sauce
1 tbsp unrefined cane sugar
*I suggest using thicker stalks as they stand up to the longer grilling and high heat better than the spindly tender young asparagus which I used – they sort of shrivelled up a little by the time the chicken skin was cooked.
1. To prepare the chicken skin, first lay it flat and hold one end firmly before using your knife to scrape off most of the fat from the inside of the skin. Too much fat will bury the taste of the skin and also end up causing too much smoke when you grill later. But leave some on please (yum). Cut the skin into 1/2 inch wide strips.
2. Chop the asparagus into 1 1/2 inch long pieces. I left the more delicate tops for something else.
3. Thread the skins onto the skewers, alternating them with the asparagus.
4. Simmer the ingredients for the tare to get your basting sauce.
5. Fire up your barbecue or grill and begin grilling on both sides without the sauce. When the skin starts changing colour, brush the sauce on and continue grilling, keep turning to make sure everything is cooked and charred evenly. This is possible in the oven too, on the grill setting at the highest heat possible, but you do miss the aroma of burning charcoal.
6. Eat immediately, while hot and before you can have second thoughts.
The chicken skin is wonderfully smoky and sticky with the sweet salty tare, and each bite yields a delightful burst of chicken juices and fat, perfect against the clean bitter-sweetness of asparagus. These skewers were, as my friend called it, one bite naughty one bite nice. I would like to add, one bite extravagance one bite cheap. I have never understood the British fuss over asparagus season, I do love it but I'm a fair person and I love, say, cabbage just as equally. I must say, a lick of the hot grill does wonders though, and I might just find myself shelving out another £4 (£4?!!) for a bunch of asparagus. Especially if what accompanies it costs basically nothing at all.
Other recipes for the barbie:
Barbecue Coffee Pork Ribs
Singapore Chicken Satay with Proper Satay Peanut Sauce
Grilled Sambal Stingray