Friday, September 28, 2018

Grilled Huli Huli Chicken

In Hawaiian, "huli" means "turn."  And, as the story goes, cooks would place chicken between two screens with a handle.  They would then place the screens over charcoal to grill the chicken.  When one side of the chicken was done, workers around the cook would shout "huli" or "turn."  After two turns, you have "huli huli chicken."  Actually, I should probably say "huli" chicken, because the name "huli huli" was patented by Ernie Morgado. 

Ernie patented "huli huli" is a sauce based upon a family recipe. That recipe incorporates two major ingredients: ginger and soy sauce.  That's about all one knows about the original recipe, because Ernie never revealed it to anyone. Of course, I could buy a bottle of Ernie's patented Huli Huli Sauce, but that defeats the purpose of having cooking as a hobby.  It also runs counter to my endeavor to learn as much as I can about not just cooking generally, but about the specifics of cooking.  This includes learning about rubs, sauces and marinades used around the world.  

So, the $12.00 that I could have spent on two bottles of the iconic sauce would be spent on the ingredients for a recipe that I found on the Internet.  Any such recipe is at best an "approximation" of the original huli huli chicken recipe. This particular recipe is unique in its use of pineapple juice, which contains bromelain, an enzyme that acts as a natural meat tenderizer.  The bromelain is found only in fresh pineapple juice. The canning process removes the enzyme from the juice.  So, if possible, you should use fresh pineapples for the juice, because that will lead to the best results.  But, if you only have access to canned pineapple juice, that will work too.  The rest of the ingredients are things that you can probably find in your pantry, such as soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar and chicken broth.  That makes this a relatively easy dish to prepare ahead of time and enjoy the next day during a busy workweek.

One other note about the recipe: the use of chicken thighs.  Although I can't say for sure, I would assume the original was done using whole chickens or half chickens.  One could also prepare this dish using chicken breasts; however, in my humble opinion, the chicken thigh works best for this recipe because it has a lot more flavor than the chicken breast.  If you are on a diet or looking to reduce calories, don't bother with this dish.  Embrace the chicken thighs because, on the grill, they are far better than chicken breasts.

In the end, this particular approximation produces a very delicious dish.  It does not look like the pictures from the recipe I used; however, that could be remedied by setting aside some of the marinade (before putting the chicken in it) for use to baste the chicken as it grills  Still, I ate the chicken, I began to wonder how amazing the original dish could be.  Perhaps I may buy those two bottles of Ernie's sauce for a comparison.  But, until that time, I will keep making this recipe. 

Recipe from the Recipe Critic
Serves 6-8

4 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup of unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 cup of soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
Green onions, sliced for garnish

1.  Prepare the chicken.  In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, chicken broth, ginger, and garlic.  Reserve 1 cup of sauce for basting.  Add the chicken thighs and sauce to a Ziploc bag and marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight.  

2.  Grill the chicken.  Heat a grill over medium heat for 6-8 minutes on each side or until no longer pink.  Baste occasionally with reserved marinade during the last 5 minutes.   Garnish with green onions if desired. 


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