If you are looking for a perfect drink to close out your (hot, hot!) summer, then I think we have something very special for you. From the Tenzan Sake Brewery in Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island, comes this Shichida Natsujun Sake. At the head of the company is Kensuke Shichida, sixth generation owner. The brewery itself is located near the Tenzan mountains, which are famous for their hiking trails and hot springs (onsen). The natural spring water flowing from these mountains is pure and full of minerals and is a key ingredient in the sake the Shichida family produce.
Most sake producers will pasteurize their sake in a two-step process called Hiire (say: hee-EE-ray). Pasteurization in sake production kills bacterias, tones down the flavor (but not the quality) of the sake and helps to increase shelf life in both storage and transit. This sake is not pasteurized, so keep that in mind in case you have sensitivities. Also, make sure you keep this bottle on ice as you enjoy it to avoid early spoilage.
The aromas and tasting notes are basically summer in a glass. It is fragrant and has beautiful lines of cantaloupe melon, green apple skin, stone fruits, especially peaches and green apricots, dry toast (a tasty result of no pasteurization), blackcurrant, yellow pear, sweet mochi, vanilla bud, fresh basil, anise (fennel seed) and sweet orange peel. It is a velvet smooth brew and has a long pleasant finish.
When I was trying to find the best food pairing, I discovered just how incredibly versatile this sake is: grilled salmon, vegetable and smoked Gouda quesadilla (oh, yum!), Chinese food, potato chips. You get the idea. It works well with so many dishes, but I am going to give you a healthy sticky chicken on-a-stick recipe that you can make as an appetizer for a few friends (safely) or you could even turn it into a whole meal by adding steamed rice and green salad on the side.
I hope you give this delicious sake a try and I hope that you have something delicious to enjoy with it. Cheers!
Soy Maple Chicken Skewers
Take it from me, this dish is fun for kids of all ages! I have made it for cocktail parties and we eat it at home with the kids. This recipe calls for chicken, but you can just as easily prepare it with haloumi (that delicious Greek cheese that is perfect for grilling), mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant for a meatless version. Marinade the chicken for at least 30 minutes before cooking. You may use a BBQ grill, a toaster oven, or a grill pan to cook the skewers.
⅓ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. maple syrup
¼ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. dried tarragon
¼ tsp. ginger powder
¼ tsp. ground thyme
1 tbs. canola oil
1 tsp. each of salt and ground black pepper
Whisk all the above ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks, about ½ inch
2-3 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces (you won’t use all of it on the skewers, so save them for the garnish at the end)
Bamboo or metal skewers
On a skewer, thread 3 pieces of chicken then 1 piece of scallion then 3 more pieces of chicken. Repeat this process until all the chicken pieces are on a stick. Make sure to leave some space at the bottom of the stick so you can hold it. Place the prepared skewers in the marinade bowl, then cover it and let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. If you are using a BBQ grill or grill pan, make sure it is well heated before cooking. Turn the skewers often so they cook evenly. It will burn quickly, so watch it closely. If you are using an oven or toaster oven, preheat it to 375 F, then place the skewers on an oven safe pan on tinfoil and cook for 20-25 minutes or until cooked thoroughly. Keep an eye on it, as you may need more or less time for cooking.
Place your cooked skewers on a plate, once they are cooked. Sprinkle them with a little salt and chop up any leftover scallions to garnish. Enjoy!