Oyako donburi (親子丼), which literally means "parent child bowl" is a popular chicken and egg rice bowl in Japan. It's a simple one bowl meal with flavorful chunks of chicken wrapped in a custardy blanket of eggs, all seasoned with a mild dashi broth that tickles down onto the steamy bed of rice below.
At yakitori (grilled chicken) restaurants, the chicken is often skewered and grilled first. This allows the excess fat to render out the chicken while infusing a great charcoal grilled flavor into the oyakodon. Most home preparations however have you pan fry the chicken. It's important to leave the skin-on because it keeps the chicken moist and adds flavor, but I'm not a huge fan of the fatty rubbery texture of the skin that gets left. That's why I've developed a method to keep the chicken moistening benefits of the skin while making it all but disappear in the finished donburi.
The trick is to put the chicken into a cold, dry pan, skin side down with a weight on top. By giving the skin good contact with the pan and slowly raising the temperature, the fat in and around the skin has a chance to render out, leaving a crisp, paper-thin layer of chicken skin that's brimming with flavor. Obviously, you'll lose the crispness once you add the stock and eggs, but this is fine because the skin once crisped, turns into a sponge that absorbs all the wonderful flavors in the dashi, ensuring each juicy morsel of chicken is full of flavor.
I used a Japanese-style chicken thigh, which is basically the entire chicken leg (thigh and drumstick) deboned in one piece. You can buy a leg and debone it yourself, or just use skin-on boneless chicken thighs. I don't recommend using chicken breast in this dish because it tends to dry out, but if you do decide to use it, make sure you get it skin-on and be careful not to overcook it.
In Japan, a country where eggs come with two expiration dates (an early date for eating them raw and a later one for eating them cooked), the eggs for oyakodon are served still runny on top. If that's the way you like them (and you really trust that you're eggs are salmonella-free), you can skip the step where you cover and steam the eggs. Personally, I wouldn't take the risk with eggs outside Japan, which is why I cover them and cook them until the eggs are just barely set.
- Rub 1/4 teaspoon of salt all over the chicken. Place the chicken in a cold sauté pan skin-side down, then place a smaller cast iron pan on top of the chicken to weigh it down (a pot filled with water would work too). This keeps the chicken from curling ensuring that every bit of skin makes contact with the pan.
- Put the pan on the stove over medium low heat. By gradually increasing the temperature, the chicken not only cooks more evenly, it allows as much of the fat in the skin to render out as possible. Fry until the skin is golden brown all over and crisp (about 7 minutes). If the oil is spattering too much, turn down the heat a little.
- While the chicken is frying, combine the dashi, soy sauce, honey and remaining salt in a small bowl. Break the eggs into a separate bowl and mix just enough to break up the yolks.
- Once the skin is browned, transfer the chicken to a cutting board and chop it up into bite-sized pieces. The meat may not be fully cooked, but this is fine as it will cook through later.
- Drain all the oil from the pan (its okay if there's a little still clinging to the pan) then put the pan over medium high heat. Return the chicken to the pan along with any juices.
- Add the sake and stir-fry until all the liquid has evaporated. Add the dashi mixture and bring to a boil.
- Add the scallions, then cover everything with the eggs. Cover the pan with a lid and turn down the heat to medium low.
- When the egg is cooked to your liking, portion the egg and chicken out onto steamed rice and drizzle with the remaining sauce.