Chef Matt Abergel’s new cookbook Chicken and charcoal puts the spotlight on yakitori – the time-honored Japanese cooking in which chicken skewers are grilled over binchotan charcoal and enjoyed together with a glass of beer or a shot of sake.
Yakitori first appeared in the middle of the 17th century, despite the fact that chickens were fairly scarce in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1867). Pheasant, quail, and pigeon were often used instead of chicken as Buddhism essentially prohibited the consumption of chicken and beef during this time.
During the Meiji Era (1868-1912), chickens were bred in larger numbers and yakitori stalls started to pop up. Today, Yakitoriya’s are fixtures in Japan frequented by business professionals as an after work spot for a quick snack and drink.
The main dish, Yakitori skewers, are made with bite-size pieces of meat that come from all parts of the chicken including the liver, thigh, neck, skin, heart, cartilage and tail.
Once assembled they are grilled over Binchotan charcoal, considered the best fuel in Japan for grilling because it burns slowly and clean, giving the chicken a smoky flavor without emitting high volumes of smoke.
Binchotan is used for cooking, cleaning and for purifying water. Made from a variety of oak, specifically ubame oak, the charcoal is activated through an extremely high burning temperature and rapid cooling process.
The new Chicken and Charcoal cookbook, released through Phaidon, provides descriptions, recipes and detailed information into the different types of Yakitori skewers. But Chicken and Charcoal is more than a recipe book, it is a mouth-watering food porn cookbook with beer and cocktail recommendations to enjoy with their delicious skewers.
The book was developed in a unique style with strong visual references by artist Evan Hecox, revealing the story of Yardbird Restaurant including how it grew and where it is today.
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