Hill Country Hibachi

I love to entertain and am always looking for a reason to fire up the grill and have a party. For me, there is nothing easier than an impromptu dinner. The golden rule is to keep it simple.

So when my friends from Marfa, Texas arrived back to their second home in Morris Ranch, it seemed like the perfect evening for an outdoor hibachi. Cooking and eating outside is the closest thing you can do to remain Covid-19 safe.

When you use the word “hibachi” it either conjures up memories of 1970s apartment living or the Japanese steak house. These small grills were known to be temperamental, prone to flare ups, and extremely good at cooking over or undercooked meat.

But with a few improvements the hibachi can become a perfect little grill for cooking the entire meal.

The decision on dinner occurred at 4 pm – which meant a quick trip to our local grocery store HEB. Shopping was simple and included stopping in produce for a sweet onion, some local spring onions, shishito peppers, parsley, and garlic followed by a visit to the seafood counter for some fresh Texas gulf shrimp and oysters. To wrap up the proteins I grabbed a small Wagyu sirloin on sale and some small lollipop lamb chops. Shopping done.

The hibachi grill doesn’t work well with normal charcoal. It is smoky, has an off flavor, and you spend the entire evening with a water bottle putting out flare ups. These little grills were designed for a special type of charcoal called binchotan which comes from a small prefecture in Japan. To be fair, mine was ordered way before our current global pandemic so it may be a bit hard to get today.

These pieces of “charcoal” actually look like petrified wood with a metallic sheen and a sharp sound like a wind chime when knocked together. It is a challenge to light so I put it in a traditional charcoal chimney and then put it over a Cajun-style banjo burner. It will laugh at you out loud if you try to light it with a newspaper and you will be committing a sin if you use lighter fluid. It really needs a clean flame.

And no joke – it will take about an hour to light over the burner!

But when it finally does catch on fire, your work for the evening has just been made so much easier. It burns extremely hot and for a long time – read: hours. And it is smokeless and is not prone to flare ups. It is the perfect hibachi charcoal – so search it out.

Once you get it completely lit you can dump it into the hibachi and let it preheat the grill. I think it goes without saying you should be careful and wear welding gloves when you move the charcoal chimney.

Prep is simple: peel the onion and slice into big rings, wash the spring onions and trim the tops and bottoms, and rinse the peppers. Give them a light coat of canola oil and you are done.

For the lamb chops, trim off the excess fat, and for the sirloin just cut it into squares so you can fit multiple smaller pieces on the grill.

For the shrimp, I grill them whole with the heads on. They retain their moisture and have more flavor this way. Plus, peeling your own shrimp goes along with the hibachi experience.

The oysters require a bit more effort but are very manageable. Open and place them on a plate lined with salt so they will stay upright and contain their liquor. Put 1/8 tsp of butter, chopped parsley, minced garlic, and Parmesan cheese on each one. This will allow you to make a hibachi-version of charbroiled oysters and they are delicious.

Done.

Now when your guests arrive just start arranging things on the grill, have a glass of wine, and eat when the each item is ready.

If you want a little “char” on the top of the charbroiled oysters you can always use your torch to add a little crust.

Such an easy “dinner party” and a nice way to enjoy a beautiful evening outdoors with the smell of smoke and a beautiful hill country sunset.

#hibachi #oysters #binchotan #shishito #wagyu

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Dan McCoy

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