Pair This Marinated Steak with Japanese Whisky

In Pour This, Pair That, Whisky Advocate asks professional chefs to share a recipe designed for a specific type of whisky. Learn why these food and whisky combinations work—and try them yourself at home!

Although a decade ago it barely drew attention, Japanese whisky has gone from niche drink to juggernaut. And no wonder: the elegant, balanced characteristics found in many Japanese brands not only offer enough stylistic variation to find a wide range of fans, but also make the whisky perfectly suited to enjoying alone or, better yet, at the table.

“Japanese whiskey is all about harmony, where flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel all come together as one,” explained chef Michael Schulson of Philadelphia’s Double Knot and others. As such, Japanese whisky has the ability to highlight a broad swath of flavors in whatever it’s paired with. That’s especially true with the flavorful yet easy-to-execute steak with yakitori sauce that Schulson recommends below. Schulson believes the dish embodies a similar philosophy to Japanese whisky. “Complexity is found in simplicity,” he says. “The sweet and savory notes found in this recipe effortlessly lend themselves to an array of Japanese whiskies.”

Pour This, Pair That: Japanese Whisky and Marinated Steak

Pour: Japanese whisky
Tastes like: While Japanese whisky encompasses a wide range of styles, it typically demonstrates an underlying elegance and layered complexity, as well as a sense of balance. Those qualities makes these drams both delicious on their own and excellent partners for food.
Five to try: Nikka Coffey Grain (92 points), Suntory Toki (88 points), Hibiki Japanese Harmony (90 points), Yoichi Single Malt (92 points), Mars Iwai (88 points). Chef Schulson also recommends a cocktail pairing using Nikka Coffey Grain.

Pair: Grilled New York Strip Steak with Charred Shishito and Scallions
Why it works: Used as a marinade, yakitori sauce lends layers of flavor to strip steak even before it hits the grill. Schulson’s sweet and savory yakitori sauce finds a classic partner in Japanese whisky’s vanilla, caramel, fruit, and nut notes. And the smoke, lemon zest, and saline hints in the whisky make a fine counterpoint to the deeper charred flavors of the steak.

Grilled New York Strip with Charred Shishito and Scallions

This recipe serves 4-6 as an entree or 8-10 as an appetizer.

For the yakitori sauce:

  • 1½ cup soy sauce
  • 5 tbsp. chopped shallots
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup sake
  • 1 cup mirin
  • ½ cup sugar

For the steak:

  • Two 14-oz. New York strip steaks
  • 12 shishito peppers
  • 1 bunch scallions

Make the yakitori sauce first:
1. Using a dry pan over medium-low heat, roast garlic until dark and charred, then add the shallots and continue to cook until shallots release all liquid.
2. In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients and cook for 15 minutes on very low heat.
3. Remove from heat and chill. The sauce can be made up to 7 days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.

For the steak:
1. Marinate steaks with 1 cup of yakitori sauce for at least 24 hours in a covered bowl. Reserve the remaining sauce.
2. When ready to cook, turn the grill on and heat to 350 degrees. Remove steak from the marinade and pat it down with a paper towel to remove excess marinade. Rub steak with grapeseed oil or another neutral oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.
3. When the grill is hot, drop the steaks and cook to medium rare, approximately 7 minutes on each side.
4. While the steak is cooking, clean the scallions and shishitos by removing the roots and stems. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl.
5. After turning the steaks, glaze with remainder of yakitori sauce, reserving a table-spoon or two. When the internal temperature reaches 127-135 degrees (for medium rare), remove and let the steaks rest for 9-10 minutes.
6. While the steak is resting, grill scallions and shishitos until charred, constantly turning to avoid burning.
7. After the steak has rested, slice into 1/4 inch thick pieces and transfer to a serving plate, arranging the charred scallions and shishitos throughout. Drizzle with remaining yakitori sauce.

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