Miso-grilled baby chicken with lemon garlic chilli dipper
So here we have some baby chicken, or, as the French call it, poussin. Quite possibly a far better name; after all, eating the ‘baby’ of something isn’t always such an appealing idea. It does, however, help to describe it on a menu.
I use baby chicken for this because not only does the skin caramelise very quickly but the flesh cooks through before the skin starts to burn – perfect for a robata grill or your home barbecue.
2 baby chickens, aka poussins
100ml den miso (find out how to make it here)
1–2 green chillies, chopped (quantity depends on how much you can handle)
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 scorcher of a red chilli, finely chopped
2 teaspoons green Tabasco sauce
2 teaspoons fresh garlic purée
2 teaspoons yuzu juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 or 6 mint leaves
10 coriander leaves, with a bit of stem left on
10ml yuzu juice
a few drops of dark soy sauce
a few drops of extra virgin olive oil
1. Make the marinade by mixing the den miso and the chillies together. Use a sharp knife to cut each poussin clean in half and make a couple of score marks, one into the fat part of the drumstick and the other into the thigh. Marinate in the miso-chilli marinade for at least 6 hours and up to 12 hours.
2. To make the dipper, whisk all the ingredients, except the oil. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified.
3. To make the salad, thinly slice the daikon on a Japanese mandoline and layer the slices in piles of 5 or 6 and, using a knife, shred very thinly. Do the same with the carrot and cucumber and mix together. Add the mint and coriander leaves and drizzle with the yuzu, soy sauce and extra virgin olive oil.
4. Set up your barbecue and get the charcoal super-hot – the flames start to die down a little, and the embers will be glowing – then put your poussins on the grill. If you’re concerned about the poussins not being cooked through enough and burning, take off the barbecue and finish cooking in a hot oven, about 180°C, for 8–10 minutes. To test the chicken to see if it’s fully cooked, insert a thin metal skewer or the sharp end of small knife into the thickest part of the thigh, pause for a couple of seconds, pull it and hold the skewer to your lip. Feel burning? It’s cooked through.
5. Once cooked, serve it up as it is, or, if you want to get a little bit fancier, chop it up into smaller pieces. We serve this in the restaurant with the shredded daikon salad on the side, which is a nice and refreshing contrast to the miso and chilli.
This marinade is extremely versatile: use it for salmon belly, scallops, steaks, even tofu. It is also a very good sauce base: just add some mustard and vinegar and serve with sashimi or caramelised onions and it will be your lamb chop’s best mate.
This is an edited extract from Junk Food Japan by Scott Hallsworth, Bloomsbury Publishing, RRP $52.99. Photography © David Loftus.