This is a sponsored post brought to you by Foster Farms, with a delicious recipe brought to you by Alyssa & Carla!
Comfort food is such a deeply personal thing. It’s food that brings back happy memories, touches your soul, and cheers you up when you’ve had a bad day. For many of us, it’s food from our childhood and historically it has been heavy, rich dishes.
This is changing, however, as we care more about the quality of food we consume, strive to live healthier lifestyles, and expand our culinary horizons. Foster Farms recently hosted a luncheon with the concept of new comfort food as the main talking point. Carla and I went to the gorgeous Feastly event loft in the Mission for a delicious meal of reimagined, healthier comfort food.
One topic that struck a chord with me was the idea that comfort food is expanding beyond traditional cultural borders. We discussed how a bowl of Vietnamese pho, or an Indian curry can be just as comforting as chicken noodle soup to someone who doesn’t necessarily have these dishes in their ethnic background.
It made me realize that there are certain dishes that I learned to love as comfort food while living in Japan. When we were there, our comfort food was pasta, fried chicken, shrimp & grits, and barbecue. But now that we’re back in the US, I increasingly turn to Japanese flavors to bring back the memories of our time in Tokyo. It makes me happy to think about the people we met, our travels, and just how lucky we were to be able to experience daily life in another country.
Yakitori, or grilled chicken skewers, are one of the most popular types of restaurants in Japan. You can find them in any iteration, from ambient Michelin star-rated restaurants to casual, smoke-filled dives. Yakitori are served in alleyways from open-air stalls in Shinjuku and from folding tables set up at any local festival, no matter how small.
But somehow, the concept hasn’t really made it back to the US in all of its glory. I wonder if this is because good yakitori relies on using really high quality, flavorful chicken, as it’s definitely the focus of the meal. Foster Farms Simply Raised Chicken fits the bill perfectly, so I had to try my hand at some of my favorite yakitori dishes. Their Simply Raised Chicken comes from California, is fed a 100% vegetarian diet, is American Humane Certified, and contains absolutely no antibiotics or steroids. Foster Farms recognizes that people care about where their food comes from, and they want to help customers feel good about what they serve their families.
I’m sharing my favorite recipe for skewered chicken with scallions (negima). You would most likely find leeks (negi) in the version in Japan, but the leeks there are more of a hybrid of leek and scallion. I found that the leeks in my supermarket were too big to use without peeling away half of the vegetables, which seemed like such a waste! I also made grilled chicken wings, grilled chicken skin, grilled shishito peppers, and scallions grilled without chicken. Yakitori restaurants have a huge range of options – some for the more daring diner, like various organs (heart, liver). For the less adventurous, there’s always breast or thigh meat, skewered vegetables, and sometimes even pork and beef. Some of my favorite non-chicken dishes to order from a yakitori restaurant are grilled gingko nuts, quail eggs, cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon, and shiitake mushroom caps. For the yakitori beginner, try the negima recipe below and add a few skewers of your favorite vegetables. The yakitori experience is made complete with a light beer, a warm summer evening, and a few close friends.
- 1 package Foster Farms Simply Raised Chicken Breasts or Thigh Fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup of tare sauce (recipe below)
- 1 bunch of scallions, root ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch long pieces
- about 15-20 wooden skewers
- optional: toasted sesame seeds for garnish
- Combine the chicken pieces and ¼ cup of tare sauce in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. Soak the skewers in hot water while the chicken marinates.
- Preheat a grill to high heat. Create skewers, alternating chicken and scallions. Use about 3 pieces of chicken per skewer.
- Grill the skewers over high heat, turning often. Baste with the remaining ¼ cup of tare sauce several times during cooking. Grill until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
- Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve hot.
- 1 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 cup mirin
- 2/3 cup sake
- ¼ cup water
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspooons minced ginger
- Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pan to make sure the sugar doesn’t burn. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken, about 20 minutes.
- Let cool completely before using on chicken.
- Will last in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.