Photo: Kelly Rossiter
I have always loved to entertain, so many years ago my mother gave me a subscription to Gourmet Magazine, which I would pore over looking for recipes to make for dinner parties. I started making this Chicken Negimaki as an hors d'oeuvre the month it made its appearance in the magazine (September 1997). It quickly became a party staple because it was always so popular with both guests and my family. Of course, Gourmet no longer publishes a hard copy magazine, but I have hundreds of them in my basement. When I want a recipe, I look it up online and then head down to my shelves and find the appropriate edition and bring it up to the kitchen to use. I look at hundreds of recipes online, but nothing has ever come close to the excitement of having Gourmet drop through the mail slot.
It makes me laugh when I think that in 1997, I couldn't find black sesame seeds anywhere in Toronto. I went to Chinatown with no luck and ended up in Kensington Market, which is a funky little neighborhood with tiny shops with unusual wares. There was a very small spice store which had absolutely no signage or labels on the spices. I bought something that resembled sesame seeds, although I knew they weren't. The shop clerk either didn't speak English, or chose not to speak it to me, so I went home with this bag of seeds that, quite frankly, looked enough like mouse droppings to be alarming. Anyway, I rolled the negamaki in these seeds rather than sesame seeds and it was fantastic. It wasn't until years later that I discovered that I had been using nigella seeds. When I made the recipe last week for a potluck dinner party, I mixed regular white sesame seeds with some nigella seeds my son had left for me. They were in my cupboard in a jar labled "Nigella! Not Mouse Poop!"
The original recipe has a spicy red pepper dipping sauce, which I made the first time I used the recipe, but never bothered making again. We loved the chicken, but thought the sauce was entirely superfluous. This isn't difficult to make, but tying the chicken up and then cutting the twine can be a bit fussy. I suggest you count the number of ties you use to avoid having a guest chomp down on a piece of string you missed, as they can be hard to see once the seeds are cooked on the chicken. You can serve this hot if you like, but I have always served it at room temperature. When I made this last week, I used three rather large chicken breasts, rather than the eight small as the recipe calls for and ended up with about 30 pieces of chicken which was the perfect amount the the party. The guests ate every piece and went back to scoop up the seeds that had fallen on the platter.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
Yield: About 60 appetizers
- 8 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
- 2 bunches scallions
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
- 1/3 cup black or white sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Remove "tenders" from chicken if necessary, reserving them for another use. Pound breast halves‚ inch thick between two sheets of plastic wrap. On a work surface arrange one breast half, smooth side down, with a long side facing you and put one scallion lengthwise on chicken. Roll chicken around scallion and tie with kitchen string at 1-inch intervals. Trim scallion flush with chicken. Make seven more rolls in same manner.
- Mince garlic and in a shallow baking dish just large enough to hold rolls in one layer stir together garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Add rolls, turning them to coat. Marinate negimaki, covered and chilled, at least four hours and up to one day.
- Spread sesame seeds on a sheet of wax paper. Remove negimaki from marinade, letting excess drip off, and roll in sesame seeds to coat. In a large skillet heat two tablespoons vegetable oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and cook negimaki in two batches, turning them occasionally, until cooked through, about ten to twenty minutes, depending on their size, adding remaining tablespoon vegetable oil to skillet as necessary. Transfer negimaki as cooked to a cutting board and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices, discarding string.