Sensible. Intelligent discourse. No more messing around and talking all funny-book and angry. No insults. No snide remarks and cleverclever digs. This one is wise. It’s going to be heritage and wisdom. I shall deliver information in a gentle and restrained manner. I am a sensible conduit for culinary knowledge. I am not a wisecracking sarcastic buffoon. I am zen. I am Japanese sand garden. I am calm passage of time and learning.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED WHEN I STARTED WRITING THIS:
I want to be Joe Montana. When I was a kid my brother and I had a phase of half-liking American Football. We shared this book about the NFL and we played a weird Anglicized version of what we thought the rules were. This consisted of running full-pelt towards one another, crashing, falling over and either crying or getting furious. At this point we would wrestle on the sofa, (brown with a creepy undergrowth vine/bramble design. Awesome interior design choice by my Ma in the mid 1980s. It went perfectly with the maroon carpet and the ceramic lady head on the windowsill) until my brother nearly choked me or I bit him and he gave me a dead arm.
Whenever we played this dumb sport, I played as Joe Montana, hero quarterback for my team San Francisco 49ers.*
*‘Researching’ this post I just saw that the mascot for the 49ers is named Sourdough Sam.
(Have you already forgotten the previous blog posts?! You know, the bread ones? All that hilarity about Chernobyl and all that? Did you even read them? Is anyone? Mum?!) Coincidence or something more sinister? I would call in Mulder but he’s too busy being sex-addicted and awesome.
My brother played as Jim McMahon, looney tunes quarterback for his team, the Chicago Bears. McMahon was a loose cannon, a misfit, a bad egg! A clear distinction between the pair of us can be drawn by our respective player choices. Joe Montana’s nicknames included: Joe Cool or The Golden Great. Jim McMahon’s included: Darth Vader and Black Sunshine.
One of Joe Montana’s most popular nicknames was Comeback Joe. During his career Montana helped his teams to 31 victories when they had been losing entering the final quarter of a game. One of the most memorable was in the first Superbowl I ever remember watching, Superbowl XIII*.
*More ‘research’ coincidences. Superbowl XIII took place on January 22 1989. My firstborn daughter’s birthday? January 22! Seriously, Mulder is going to have to unhitch from whichever broad he is mumbling handsomely to and get in a nondescript sedan car in Vancouver and get here. I smell cigarettes! I smell conspiracy!
Comeback Joe threw a pass for a touchdown that won the game with 39 seconds to go.
I am not and will not ever be Joe Montana. My nicknames include: Lightning Sloth, David Baddiel and Miserable Old (Fat) Loser. I do however have a condiment, a sauce, a miracle addition, that can bring a little Comeback Joe to food: Taré.
Taré can rescue what appears lost. Are you losing a Superbowl? Throw some in the opposition’s eyes! Is your dinner super dull and boring? Call for Taré! Do you have no idea what to eat for dinner tonight? Eat Taré! Oh God! Granny has turned up unexpectedly and I have no idea what I’m going to feed the terrible toothless, gummy old crone! It has gots to be Taré! Has Lorenzo’s dad just dropped the only remaining vial of Lorenzo’s Oil in the film ‘Lorenzo’s Oil” and now it looks like it’s curtains for Lorenzo? You know what to do Nick Nolte; Send for more Taré.
I may be drowning the lily with buckets of molten gold and spraying diamond dust over the lily until it chokes and performing a seven part symphony to the wonders of the lily…but Taré is that good. Fuck the lily! Make some Taré and dip the stupid lily in it!
Taré is a general term for Japanese dipping sauces used in grilling. Chicken yakitori is all about the Taré.*
*HOW THE CHICKEN CAME TO JAPAN: For chicken yakitori you need a chicken. The first chicken in Japan appeared in the 8th century. In a couple of ancient chronicles Kojiki and Nihonshoki (Ancient chronicles, not a Japanese standup duo) the first chicken appeared at a party outside a cave. The chicken was called Tokoyonaga-Nakidori and the cave was called Ama-no-Iwato; ‘The Cave of the Sun God’. The chronicles say that Susanoo, the Japanese Sea God banished Amaterasu the Japanese Sun Goddess into the cave.
To get her to come out and light up the world again they threw an awesome party outside the cave where probably George Harrison played one of those late-era Beatles tunes about the sun, and the chicken was there to seduce Susanoo away from the cave entrance he was guarding. That was one good looking fowl because the Sea God backed off and the sun came back out. Sweet deal. Then a few thousand years later dudes started skewering poultry on sticks and flavouring it with awesome Taré.
It’s basically a seasoned soy sauce that any chef has their own version of. In proper old-school yakitori places the sauce is never finished. Whatever remains at the end of service is retained and refreshed with new soy, sake, mirin and whatever else the cook uses in his. I never make enough to keep a batch going that long. Mainly because I can’t afford that much mirin and sake every week but also because I’m greedy and I eat the stuff direct from the fridge off my fingers or rub it into my aching joints or cuddle up nightly next to a bowl of it…
I use a slightly butchered version from the ‘Momofuku’ cookbook. It’s their method with some minor additions.
2 or 3 chicken backs or the bones/skin of one butchered chicken (Not a cheapo battery-ass one. If you eat them, you are a scumbag.)
1 cup sake
1/2 cup mirin
1 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
half cup of 1cm diced smoked bacon
1/2 bunch of spring onions
Put the chicken bits in an oven safe frying pan. Not a wimpy non-stick pancake number. A solid skull breaking sort.
Roast all hell out of them in a hot oven (180c odd). You need to turn the bones often to ensure they brown deeply but don’t burn. If they burn and catch too much your Taré is going to taste like the crumb tray from your toaster after you tried to toast a chicken carcass.
After a while, an hour maybe, your chicken bones are going to look and smell awesome. Take them out and put the pan on a low heat.
Throw in a splash of the sake without ignoring the alcohol content as I did last time and singed my face off in the resultant booze fireball. Deglaze with the sake scraping up all the fond (the stuck/browned/lush bits on the pan).
When the fond is up and off, add everything else and simmer super slowly for an hour. The simmer should be minimal. As if miniature crocodiles are surfacing every few seconds, the odd bubble here and there. Languid like you think the Florida Everglades are like under the mangroves…you know what I mean, fat lazy bubbles not a Sodastream or a fishtank bubbler.
Strain out the bones, bacon and spring onions. Add a few twists of black pepper.
You probably have a small bowl’s worth that should taste sweet, smoky and just hands-down grand. Put it in ramen stock, on noodles, glaze chickens with it (dead ones), it’s good on rice, it’s good on a lot. Keep it in the fridge and the gelatin from the chicken bones will set it up a little. If you can keep it going just add what remains to your next batch after the sake deglazing stage.
Honestly make a batch of this. It’s simple as, makes your house smell nice and tastes awesome. Also I made a stock with the bones after straining them out of the finished Taré. The stock was awesome too so a quid spent on bones gets you a bowl of Joe Montana Juice and a pan full of stock for noodle soups or something. Thrift, American Football, Bones. I am a master of something.
I’ll try harder to be calm, measured and Japanese sand garden next time. Also Taré gets a capital letter every time because it’s important and deserves respect. I would have called it King Taré but that may have been excessive or CoatMeInYourselfSweetTaré but that would have been weird.