Back Yard Skewers

A few star ingredients, a jazzy glaze, and a hot grill -- there’s a blessed simplicity to back yard skewers, even when the city’s leading chefs put their signature spins on 10 of them.

A few star ingredients, a jazzy glaze, and a hot grill — there’s a blessed simplicity to back yard skewers, even when the city’s leading chefs put their signature spins on 10 of them.

Asparagus & Bacon with Black Pepper Teriyaki

By Tomoki Yamasaki, Hapa IzakayaIn a saucepan, mix 100 ml each of sake, mirin, and soy sauce with 1 tbsp honey and 1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper, bring to a boil, reduce by a third, and leave to cool to room temperature.Meanwhile, blanch nine trimmed and peeled asparagus spears in boiling water for a minute, then plunge into ice water. Lay three pieces of thinly sliced double-smoked bacon side by side on a cutting board and stack three asparagus spears across one end. Roll the asparagus up in the bacon and cut into three pieces between the bacon slices. Repeat twice to create nine bundles. Put three pieces of bacon-wrapped asparagus on each skewer.Grill on medium heat until the bacon starts to crisp (two minutes per side). Baste with black pepper glaze at least four times, removing skewers when glaze begins to shine. Serve with lemon wedges and extra fresh ground pepper to taste. 

Chicken with Horseradish & Tomato

By Jimmy Stewart, Blacktail FloristRemove leaves from six large rosemary branches. Set aside branches and chop leaves. Mix chopped leaves with 3 tbsp grapeseed oil, two cloves of thinly sliced garlic, salt, and pepper; add a pint of cherry tomatoes and marinate for two hours.Marinate one kilo of cubed, boneless, skinless chicken thighs in horseradish for two hours minimum, or overnight. If using fresh horseradish, peel the outer skin from one head and grate with a microplane; alternatively, use 4 tbsp prepared horseradish.Using rosemary branches as skewers, alternate chicken and cherry tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and place over a medium-heat grill. Cook for two minutes on each side and serve immediately. 

Wild Pacific Salmon

By Robert Clark, The Fish CounterCube 500 grams wild Fraser River sockeye salmon and chop one hot smoked white onion.Mix 15 ml togarashi pepper (or any ground hot pepper) with the zest and juice of an orange, 30 ml orange marmalade, and 30 ml soy sauce. Add the salmon and leave for four hours.Starting and ending with salmon, alternate fish and onion on your skewer.Cook on a hot, clean grill for a couple of minutes, turning up to three times. Don’t overcook. Can be eaten hot or cold; delicious in a hot dog bun with wasabi mayo and pickled ginger. 

Cucumber-Wrapped Ginger-Braised Tempeh

By Karen McAthy, GrazeCut a block of tempeh or firm tofu into two-centimetre cubes. Quarter four black radishes, and cut half a cucumber into long, thin slices on the bias. Take three sunchokes, cut into half-centimetre rounds, and blanch in boiling water. Toss cucumber, one cup cherry tomatoes, and sunchokes in olive oil, salt, and pepper.Boil one cup ginger beer with 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger and three cloves minced garlic, add tempeh or tofu, and cook three minutes. Add 2 tsp red chili flakes, salt and pepper, a quarter-cup tamari, 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp grapeseed oil, and a half-cup evaporated cane juice, bring back to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove tempeh and reserve sauce.Wrap the cucumber slices around the tempeh and skewer, alternating with tomato, radish, and sunchoke (two each per skewer). Glaze with reserved sauce. Cook on a very hot grill for three minutes, or until tomatoes look set to burst. 

Marinated and Grilled Chicken Wingettes

By Robert Belcham, CampagnoloCombine 150 ml white wine, 100 ml olive oil, one minced garlic clove, and the roughly torn leaves of four rosemary sprigs in a large Ziploc bag. Make eight brochettes using 24 deboned wingettes  *, dividing the chicken evenly and using two bamboo skewers per brochette. Place them in the Ziploc bag and marinate in the fridge for at least eight hours, preferably overnight.Take skewers out of the fridge at least one hour before cooking. Remove from the bag, reserving the marinade, place on a tray, and season with salt and pepper. Place the skewers on a hot grill and cook for about four minutes per side, until they are nicely charred but not burned. Move them over to a cool side of the grill and spoon over some of the marinade. Watch for flare-ups. Move back to the hot grill for 30 seconds, then remove. Serve with fresh bread, a small green salad, and lemon wedges.* To debone a wingette (the meatier half of the wing): chop off the knuckles at both ends, then place the wingette vertically on the cutting board and, using both hands, push the flesh down around the bones and pull them out. 

Lemongrass Prawns

By Achanat Keattivanichvily, Bob Likes Thai FoodCut the tips off three or four sticks of lemongrass and gently peel off layers until you have 10. Rinse clean and set aside to dry. Chop the tender inside of the lemongrass into half-centimetre pieces. Pound 20 black tiger prawns in a stone mortar with three or four kaffir lime leaves, a half-cup of the cut lemongrass, and 2 tsp fish sauce until a paste is formed. (If you don’t have a mortar, you can use a food processor or blender.)Stuff the prawn paste into the lemongrass leaves. Use toothpicks to seal both ends. Grill on medium heat for 12 to 14 minutes, or until cooked.Serve with a dip made from  mixing together 2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp roasted rice (roast raw rice in a frying pan with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, then crush), 2 tbsp lime juice, a sliced shallot, and a finely chopped fresh chili pepper. Garnish with fresh cilantro and more fresh chili to taste. 

Lap Cheong Stuffed Squid

By Makoto Ono, PidginClean 12 (eight to 10 cm) squid, reserving the tentacles and fin. Turn tube inside out, clean under running water, and flip back. Set aside. In a food processor, pulse a large roughly chopped onion, one large garlic clove, 4 lap cheong (Chinese pork sausage, cut into one-centimetre pieces), and a half-kilo fresh shiitake mushrooms until finely chopped.In a skillet, heat 2 tbsp oil and gently fry sausage mix. Add 2 tbsp chili flakes and 2 tsp salt; cook five minutes. Add tentacles and fins, and cook for five more minutes. Mix in 3 cups soaked, drained panko and remove from heat.Using a small teaspoon, fill tubes with mixture. (Don’t overstuff.) Season with salt. Pinch the open end of tube and secure by weaving skewer through. Preheat grill to medium high and grill for one minute each side.For the vinaigrette, dissolve a half-cup sugar in one cup warm water and combine with a half-cup fish sauce, a quarter-cup white vinegar, the juice of half a lime, two minced garlic cloves, and 2 minced Thai chilies. 

Grilled Pineapple Skewers

By Curtis Luk, The ParkerCut a pineapple into eight pieces lengthwise and remove the core. Place on skewers — if you want a variety of fruits, barely ripe mango, green papaya, peaches, persimmons, and plums all work well. Season with a little salt to draw out the flavour.Baste a few times with simple syrup or honey. (You could also infuse the syrup with vanilla, cinnamon, or star anise.) Grill on medium to low heat until smoky and tender — be patient, you want to prevent the sugars burning — with nice grill marks. Garnish with chopped mint or perilla. 

Pork Belly, Spring Onions & Salsa Verde

By Wesley Young, WildebeestCube 900 grams confit pork belly * and skewer, alternating with roughly chopped spring onions. Preheat your grill, and place skewers on a well-oiled grate for five to 10 minutes, or until browned and crispy.Finely chop two or three bunches of fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, lovage, parsley, or oregano, including stems. Mix with 500 ml extra-virgin olive oil, one diced shallot, and 60 ml lime or lemon juice. Dip freshly grilled skewers in this salsa verde and enjoy.* To make confit, rub rindless pork belly with 180 grams white sugar and 100 grams kosher salt, and set it on a baking tray in the fridge for 24 hours. Preheat oven to 275° F. Take pork belly out of the fridge, give it a quick rinse, and pat dry. Fill a large pot with just enough canola oil to cover the pork belly and place it in preheated oven for four hours (or until meat is fork-tender). Remove and allow oil to cool, then lift out the pork and lay it between two large trays (or dinner plates) and compress with a weight for eight hours or overnight. The meat will compact itself to a uniform height. 

Chicken, Chorizo  & Shrimp with  Moorish Spices

By Andrey Durbach, The Sardine CanCube 500 grams boneless, skin-on chicken breast, slice two links of semi-dry, wine-cured chorizo into rings, and peel and de-vein 20 large white shrimp. Put chicken, shrimp, and chorizo on your skewer (two pieces each per stick).Grind up 1 tsp each coriander seed, cumin seed, fennel seed, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and turmeric with two cardamom pods and three cloves. Mix with 100 ml olive oil, two garlic cloves, the zest and juice of one lemon, and 1 tbsp plain yogurt.Marinate skewers in the  mixture overnight, then  grill over medium heat  for four to five minutes.Season lightly with sea  salt and a squeeze of  fresh lemon.