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“Yakitori” Pork with Japanese Gremolata

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Yakitori houses are so common in Japan that there’s one section of Tokyo that has street after street full of these tiny restaurants, and each one might have 16 seats. Yakitori is basically anything cooked on a stick. The typical sauce used with it works extremely well with a whole pork tenderloin, which quite frankly is easier than all that skewering. Gremolata is an Italian garnish made of parsley, lemon zest, and garlic that is traditionally sprinkled over ossobuco. Here I have an Asian “gremolata” with peanuts, cilantro, and ginger. Don’t skip this step. It adds volumes to the flavor of this dish.

NotesIn the Kitchen:

When you see the phrase “coats the back of the spoon,” here’s how to determine the sauce’s thickness. Dip the spoon into the sauce, let most of it drip off, and then run your index finger across the back of the spoon. (Be careful-it may be hot!) If the trail your finger leaves holds, then the sauce is done.

Serves4 to 6

Cooking Methodgrilling

CostModerate

Easy

Total Timeunder 4 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, tree nut free

Equipmentgrill

Mealdinner

Taste and Textureherby, meaty, salty, sweet

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry sherry, such as oloroso
  • 1 cup tamari
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 2½ to 3 pounds pork tenderloins, silverskin removed
  • 1 cup plum preserves, preferably red plum
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the sherry, tamari, both sugars, 2 tablespoons of the ginger, the garlic, and scallions. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes. You want this sauce to reduce slightly, just barely coating the back of a spoon. Pour the sauce through a strainer and let cool. Divide the yakitori sauce in half.

  2. Put the pork tenderloins in a large zip-top bag, then pour half the yakitori sauce over the pork. Close the bag and squish the marinade around to coat the pork. Put in the refrigerator and marinate for 1 to 2 hours.

  3. Pour the remaining yakitori sauce into a small saucepan. Whisk in the plum preserves. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking until the preserves dissolve. Reduce the heat so it is very low and cook the sauce slowly for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should readily coat the back of a spoon, or have the viscosity of honey.

  4. Oil the grill racks. Preheat your grill using all burners set on high and with the lid closed for 10 to 12 minutes.

  5. Remove the pork tenderloins from the bag and discard the marinade. Place the pork on the grill and adjust the temperature to medium-high. Close the lid and cook, turning the tenderloins every 4 minutes. After 16 minutes, brush the tenderloins on all sides with some of the yakitori-plum sauce so that they are completely coated. Reserve the remaining yakitori-plum sauce for dipping. The tenderloin is done when it gives slightly to the touch or registers 145°F to 150°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the grill to a cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

  6. While the pork is resting, mix the lemon zest, peanuts, cilantro, and the remaining 2 tablespoons ginger in a small bowl. Slice the pork on the diagonal, transfer to a platter, and sprinkle with the gremolata. Serve with the reserved yakitori-plum sauce on the side.

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