December 21, 2010

Chicken on a plate

For the next course, Achatz came back with the rest of that hen. The legs were deboned — and stuffed with mushroom duxelle and covered with a veal glace — but still had their claws attached, which were pointing at my face, threateningly, in a way that let me know this was from another time, when, apparently, people didn’t mind having chicken claws pointing at their face. The plate also featured some roasted oyster mushrooms and pommes puree. Those mashed potatoes, as per Escoffier, had more butter (1.5 lbs.) than potatoes (1 lb.). Technically, I was eating mashed butter.

I spend a lot of time lately, thinking about stuff like this.


  1. Sheila Ryan on December 21st, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Not precisely at the opposite end of a spectrum, but something this calls to mind is a decades-old menu offering at an old-fashioned coffee shop in the basement of Chicago’s Pittsfield Building. A friend and I used to lunch there on days when the special was what we titled “Wieners on a Plate.” We did this not because “Wieners on a Plate” was anything even remotely worth eating but because there was a weird and pure kind of austerity to its constituent parts and to their presentation.

    Wieners on a Plate

    Arrange on a plain white restaurant plate:

    Two naked, boiled hot dogs
    Two slices white bread (of the “Wonder” variety)
    One tidy hemispherical scoop sweet cole slaw (made with “Miracle Whip” or similar mayonnaise substitute)

  2. Joel Bernstein on December 21st, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    You’re just lucky it wasn’t on a raft.

  3. Sheila Ryan on December 21st, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    It’s not well-known, but Grant Achatz began his career in the kitchen of the Pittsfield Building coffee shop.

  4. Mike Dresser on December 21st, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    When I started a previous job, my coworker Ian explained to me that we food runners were responsible for slicing fruit for brunch amuses bouches. “Make them nice,” he instructed, “I like to do a sort of a pinwheel with the apples and oranges. Maybe a grape in the center. Be creative!” He would then wander off to smoke pot on the back patio, or clean up the empty beer bottles that mysteriously appeared in the liquor room from time to time. (“Dude, someones drinking the beer!” I once breathlessly informed him, “Warm!” “Man,” he deadpanned, “who would do a thing like that?”)

    A couple weeks later, the chef wandered by me and saw my delicately arranged mosaic of apples and orange slices, with a single kiwi wedge off to the side. “Mike, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. Quit fucking with the fruit, put it on the plate.” I would have blamed Ian, but he was off somewhere doing something else.

  5. Sheila Ryan on December 21st, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Quit fucking with the fruit.

  6. Deron Bauman on December 21st, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    That makes me really happy.

  7. Rick Neece on December 21st, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    We were at a French restaurant tonight. Danny spoke a moment about chicken feet in reference to making stock. I talked about the smell of the stock cooking in the kitchen all day, how it smelled like winter. This in front of friends I’d just met.

    Danny promised to make stock tomorrow. I can’t wait to smell the smell.

  8. Rick Neece on December 21st, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    For the record, I’ve never seen chicken feet simmering in Danny’s stock. He normally simmers wings.