MEET THE SOUS CHEF
KUNIKO YAGI, EXECUTIVE CHEF, HINOKI & THE BIRD
Kuniko Yagi spoke little English when she moved to Los Angeles from Japan 10 years ago. She also had never cooked professionally. A decade later, she is now executive chef at David Myers' Los Angeles restaurant Hinoki & the Bird.
Though she plans to stay in Los Angeles indefinitely, Yagi's homesickness for Japan is reflected in the food she cooks at home on the weekends. That includes this chicken hot pot seasoned with homemade ponzu sauce, a dish that's a staple of Yagi's diet and one she makes year-round, varying the vegetables depending on the season.
TRACK THIS CHEF
DAY IN THE LIFE
The Learning Curve
"When I first started, my stomach hurt every day before I went to work," admits Yagi, who spoke little English when she began working in David Myers' now-shuttered restaurant Sona. "I didn't know the word for blender, or ladle. I was supposed to be helping the other chefs, but I was a pretty bad assistant."
TIPS & TECHNIQUES
To ensure a clear chicken broth, Yagi recommends skimming the liquid as it cooks. Yagi serves the broth with a chicken drumstick and some of the vegetables. For a simple second course, she stirs beaten eggs and cooked brown rice into the remaining broth for a simple, soothing rice porridge.
The hot pot is seasoned with a homemade ponzu sauce, a simple blend of dark soy sauce, rice vinegar and lemon juice. Says Yagi, "You can find the ingredients for ponzu in any good grocery store, but the combination adds such distinctive flavor to the hot pot."
Chicken drumsticks, 4 (about 1 pound); rinsed under cold running water)
Kosher salt, ½ teaspoon
3 cups bite-size vegetables (such as bok choy, carrots, shiitake mushrooms or snow peas; leafy vegetables such as baby bok choy tops, baby spinach and other small greens can be left whole)
Dark soy sauce, ½ cup
Fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons
Rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons
Daikon, one 1½-inch piece (peeled and grated on a Microplane-style grater, about 2 tablespoons)
Ginger, one 2-inch piece (use the edge of a teaspoon to scrape off the skin; grate the root on a Microplane-style grater)
Togarashi (Japanese chile powder), for serving
Cooked short-grain brown rice, 2 cups
Large eggs, 2
Medium Dutch oven or large saucepan
Large metal spoon
1. To a medium Dutch oven or large saucepan set over medium-high heat, add the:
- Kosher salt
Add enough water to cover the chicken and fill the pot two-thirds full. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 20 minutes, using a large metal spoon to skim off any foam that settles at the surface. Add the:
- Bite-size vegetables
Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the vegetables until they are just tender, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
2. While the vegetables cook, make the ponzu sauce: To a medium saucepan set over medium heat, add the:
- Dark soy sauce
- Fresh lemon juice
- Rice vinegar
Bring to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool before serving.
3. Use a slotted spoon to add the cooked chicken, vegetables and about 1½ cups of broth to 2 bowls. Season each with some of the ponzu sauce (save extra sauce for serving). Serve with the:
- Grated daikon
- Grated ginger
- A dash or two of Togarashi
4. Return the leftover liquid in the pot to medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add the:
- Cooked brown rice
In a small bowl, use a fork to lightly beat the:
- Large eggs
Use the fork to stir the beaten eggs into the rice-broth mixture, stirring to combine and cooking until the eggs shred into long, opaque ribbons. Serve the porridge as a second course to the chicken with broth.