On Twitter, Chicago chef Phillip Foss has fashioned himself as a “comic book writer posing as the chef/owner of Michelin-starred EL Ideas.” And while there’s certainly a lot of cheek in this tongue-in-cheek bio, it seems appropriate for this offbeat, award-winning chef.
Foss’s Michelin-starred EL Ideas is no stranger to accolades for its unique, and often divisive, approach to fine dining: Eater journalist Ryan Sutton in 2015 memorably described Foss’s culinary riff on high-end drugs, with a dehydrated coconut and lime powder served on a mirror and inhaled with a straw. But Foss’s food isn’t meant merely to shock: After a peripatetic journey that brought him from his native Wisconsin to New York’s Le Cirque, passing through France, Brazil, Maui, and more, Foss first burst onto Chicago’s culinary scene with Meatyballs, one of the city’s first food trucks, in 2010.
At EL Ideas, he marries his Michelin-starred experience and taste for eccentricity with an appealing, comfort food flair. “Familiar flavor memories are a collective vocabulary and an easy way to connect to a guest’s sense of culinary nostalgia,” says Foss, who also notes that comfort food is “what I most enjoy eating.”
These upscale buffalo wings, inspired by a recipe first developed by Graham Elliot, are a prime example of nostalgic flavors turned on their head. To make them, Foss first extracts the bone from a chicken wing, in order to better fill it with a blue cheese mousse. After cooking it sous vide, the wing is deep fried and coated in buttery buffalo sauce before being sprinkled with blue cheese crumbles and speared with the cleaned chicken bone, encouraging diners to eat it like a lollipop.
The attention to detail in this dish may make it seem too finnicky to attempt at home, but you’d be surprised at how simple it is, with a bit of patience and planning. And Foss isn’t afraid of a shortcut, provided it doesn’t detract from the quality of the finished dish. Case in point: good ol’ Frank’s Red Hot sauce forms the base for the glaze.
“I tried making our own,” Foss says, “but the hassle never really paid off.”
Foss’s innovative approach to fine dining is evoked, too, in his memoir, the comic book nodded to in his Twitter bio and written in collaboration with his cousin, comic artist Timothy Foss.
“He convinced me a comic could be a funny and fascinating way to tell the awkward story of unwinding my out-of-control ego,” said Foss in an email. “By the time it was all said and done, three years later, I felt my cousin and I managed to create a work of art that will stand the test of time. Unfortunately, however, I still struggle with my ego everyday ;)”
When you taste these wings, maybe you’ll understand where he’s coming from.
Phillip Foss’s Chicken Wing Lollipop with Blue Cheese Mousse (serves 6)
6 chicken wings, drumette and wing tip removed
2 quarts chicken stock
2 ounces (7 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
1 stalk celery, shaved thin and stored in ice water
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) Frank’s Original Red Hot Sauce
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter
3 ounces (about ½ cup, crumbled) Great Hill’s blue cheese (or Roquefort)
Celery leaves, to garnish
Canola oil, for frying
Blue cheese mousse
12 ounces boneless, skinless, trimmed chicken breast
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) heavy cream
6 ounces (about 1 cup, crumbled) Great Hill’s blue cheese (or Roquefort)
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
The day before serving, prepare the blue cheese mousse and fill the chicken wings.
First, refrigerate the bowl and blade of the food processor for 1 hour. When chilled, process the chicken breast in the food processor until coarsely chopped. Add the egg and process to incorporate. With the processor running, slowly add half the cream. Remove the lid, scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula, and slowly incorporate the remainder of the cream while processing. (For a finer-textured mousse, pass through a drum sieve into a mixing bowl set over a bowlful of ice.)
Fold in the cheese and season with salt and cayenne pepper. Season to taste by dropping a small amount of the mousse into a pot of simmering water and tasting. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
Transfer to a piping bag and keep refrigerated until ready to fill wings.
Next, prepare the wings to be filled. Using a heavy duty French knife or cleaver, cut off both ends of the chicken wings, removing the joints. Using a paper towel, push down on the wing to remove both bones. Reserve the thin bone and discard the thick. Keep refrigerated and repeat process until all wings are cleaned.
Fill each wing with a generous quantity of the Roquefort mousse.
Place the filled wings end to end on a sheet of plastic wrap. Form into a roll, crimping the plastic as you go, to keep the wings in a cylindrical shape. Tie both ends with twine or a small strip of plastic wrap so that the cylinder is air-tight. If doubling or tripling the recipe, prepare rolls of six in this way until all of the wings have been rolled.
Bring the chicken stock to 140˚ F in a heavy-gauged sauce pot and season with salt. Add the rolls to the chicken stock and cook for about 1 hour, maintaining the temperature and making sure the stock never gets too hot, until the wings are cooked through. Remove and cool to room temperature.
Place the reserved wing bones in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Strain and run under cold water. Scrape each bone with a small paring knife to clean thoroughly. Chill until ready to serve.
On the day of, heat canola oil in a deep fryer or large, heavy-bottomed pot to 350˚ F. Remove the chicken wings from the plastic wrap, trim the ends, and cut into six (gelatin from the chicken likely to have bound them together). Toss in the flour, shake off the excess, and place in the deep fryer. Cook until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper toweling to remove excess oil.
Warm the Frank’s Original Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce in a sauce pan over low heat until warm. Emulsify in the butter, whisking constantly. Add the chicken wings to the sauce and toss to coat.
Plate by placing first a small amount of the shaved celery on the plate. Top with the chicken wing. Insert a reserved bone into each chicken wing. Scatter with blue cheese and celery leaves, and drizzle with sauce.
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