Sumotori Chicken

A Great but Strange Recipe

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I will cheerfully admit to having some strange friends and tastes, but when Sherman Warner told me about “Beer Butt Chicken”, I knew it was something I had to try.

In more detail, the dry seasoning of choice is first put over the inside and outside of a 4-5 lb. fryer. We use Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning but there’s no reason why Old Bay or McCormick’s Cajun seasoning wouldn’t work just as well. Links found by using the search engines at the bottom of the page give a variety of choices for more seasonings and preparations. A can of beer is then ~ 1/2 emptied into an appropriate container (i.e. the cook) and a teaspoon of the same seasoning mix put into the can. The can is then inserted into the nether portions of the bird (with or without some sort of can holder to prevent the bird from possibly toppling over in muted frenzy). The bird and beer are then put into a cooking tray with ~ 1/2 inch of water to catch fat drippings and stop the whole thing from bursting into flames. We tried using a 350 degree oven for one and a half hours instead of a gas or charcoal grill , and have been persistently happy with the results. Let the bird “rest” for 20-30 minutes before serving. The bird’s skin is wonderfully crispy but the entire meat section is deliciously moist and tender.

Some folks like to brine a chicken before cooking. This does make the meat that much more tender and juicy. So here’s a brining recipe that adds a little oriental touch to the flavor of the finished bird.

A 4-5 lb fryer can comfortably lounge around in a 1/2 gallon of brine. So you need to find a bowl that the fryer can rest in and be about 1/2 inch below the bowl edge. I’m looking for a plastic container with a lid that will do the job but at the moment a ceramic bowl does the trick. Soy sauce is pretty salty. My calculations suggest that there are nearly 2 cups of salt in a gallon of soy sauce! Since many brine recipes use only 1 cup of salt per gallon of water the first thing we do is cut the soy sauce in half. I like ginger, garlic, some sweetness and a little fire so here’s what my wife Helen and I came up with for a brining solution.

Garlic — 5-6 cloves

Fresh Ginger — two thumb size pieces

Chili Peppers — three small red ones

Take all the above and put it in a small food processor and blend until smooth. Then add the blended spices to 1 quart soy sauce. Next add 6 Tablespoons of sugar and 1 quart of water. Stir everything together until the sugar has dissolved.

The chicken should be well washed and the giblets removed. Place the liquid in the bowl and the chicken in the liquid. If the chicken seems to float a little, a plate can be place on it to weigh it down. The brining must be done in a refrigerator or ice-filled cooler. No fooling around with Salmonella or some other bacteria that would make another opportunity for great unpleasantness for the intended diners. Overnight seems about right (8-12 hours). When the chicken is removed from the brine, a portion of the solids (ginger, garlic & pepper) can be put on the chicken skin and the rest should go into the beer.

Next I share my version of the can holder. It’s made of what I had in the basement in my scrap drawer. I began with a sheet of 3/16 inch thick aluminum, 5 inches wide and 9 inches long with the corners and edges rounded. I then drilled and tapped (1/4-20) six holes in the form of a hexagon. Adjacent holes are approximately 1 1/2 inches apart; holes on opposite sides of the hexagon are approximately 2 7/8 inches apart. Six stainless steel, 1/4 inch bolts nominally 3 1/2 to 4 inches long then have their heads removed and the ends rounded. Each bolt is then screwed into a hole until the end is flush with the other side of the plate; a 1/4 inch nut locks the bolt in place. Note that in the second picture, the can has NOT yet been opened nor the spices put into the beer. A closed can in either the oven or grill is an invitation to disaster and will surely explode, ruining everyone’s day.

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So where did the “Sumotori” come from? Some Japanese friends, Toshimi and Hitoshi, had joined us for this type of dinner and I noted that this might make for a fabulous restaurant chain in Japan if only there was a proper name for the dish in Japanese. With astounding quickness they cried out “Sumotori!”. This is a wonderful play on words. First of all, it’s necessary to understand that “sumo” and “sumotori” are the names for the large and highly skilled Japanese wrestlers who compete four times a year for honor and ranking. And also you must know that the Japanese word for chicken is “tori”. So when our friends saw the position that the bird takes before entering it’s trial by fire, it immediately reminded them of the initial squatting position of the sumo wrestlers before they begin combat. I should also note that neither of them had actually ever seen a whole chicken in their entire lives…