Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, Philadelphia chef-owner Marc Vetri celebrated the pork rinds at Chicago’s The Publican, where chef Brian Huston helms the stoves for owner Paul Kahan. What dish do you love, Brian?
“In LA, there’s this amazing place called Canele - it’s on the east side, kind of near Atwater. They do a great brunch there - an amazing buttermilk fried chicken sandwich. It’s on toast, with a pickled green tomato and red onion. It’s pretty simple, really great. I think they’ve got the best brunch in L.A. Being not from L.A., I don’t know how strongly I can stick by that, but I think they do a pretty great job.”
Canele chef Aliza Miner explains:
“Some menu items are well thought out and are tweeked on paper many times before you even make it for the first time, and then tweek it some more. Then there are the dishes that come about in a hot second, usually out of the necessity to use up product that has no known destiny. It might be a gift or mistake from a purveyor or, as is common in our restaurant, an impulse buy at the farmers market when something new or unusual looks too good to pass up. That’s how the chicken sandwich came to be. We had been sent boned jidori chicken thighs instead of our usual bone-ins by mistake. Corina [Weibel], the chef and owner of Canele, had bought a ton of hard green tomatoes at the farmers market for no known reason at the time. We also had a bunch of extra masa harina in the dry storage as it’s one of her favorite ingredients to have in stock–she’s half Venezuelan.
It seemed obvious to me that those ingredients were destined to be a fried chicken sandwich. It’s served on a toasted brioche bun that’s slathered with Best or Hellman’s Mayo and thinly sliced red onions. Each half of the sandwich gets its own fried chicken thigh that’s soaked in Tabasco-spiked buttermilk and then dredged in a heavily seasoned masa harina coating. But the pickled green tomatoes are the star of the sandwich. They are cold, crunchy, juicy, peppery. In the end, it’s just a thoroughly satisfying sandwich. The sort of thing that regulars have told me they crave. There’s nothing too precious or peculiar about it. It’s just good.”