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Free-Associating Mashups with the Mastermind Behind "ChocoChicken"

Alex Van Buren
Food Features Editor
Yahoo Food
March 18, 2014

Free-Associating Mashups with the Mastermind Behind "ChocoChicken"

Alex Van Buren
Food Features Editor
Yahoo Food
March 18, 2014

Photo Credit: ChocoChicken.com

Chocolate-fried chicken is in the news this week. Adam Fleischman, founder of the uber-popular Umami Burger chain, is the mastermind behind a soon-to-open Frankensteinian creation called “ChocoChicken.” In what’s got to be good news for those who hate having to choose between sweet and savory cravings, the restaurant will open in Los Angeles around April 15th, Fleischman told us. That’s just in time for you to spend your tax refund on dark chocolatedoused fried chicken

This isn’t the first instance of chocolate and chicken pairing off, of course. Puebla’s mole poblano employs chocolate (along with many other ingredients), but Fleischman insisted to a Fast Company reporter that this wasn’t the inspiration behind this new hybrid, the idea for which originated with a cold call from a duo named Keith Previte and Sean Robbins. Fleischman told us the hybrid “tastes like heaven,” and uses “multiple chocolates, all dark. Some are powdered, some are liquid.”

Fleischman has zero formal training. He’s been cooking for only five years, and taught himself to cook “through reading Heston Blumenthal cookbooks and Modernist Cuisine.” What he does have is a yen to match far-flung ingredients, as he did when he launched Umami Burger several years ago, bringing umami-laden truffles and miso, soy and seaweed, porcini mushrooms and roasted tomatoes all into the burger equation. 

Clearly unusual combos are a Fleischman forte. He’s even launching an Indian-Mexican restaurant called Masty Roll (the name is itself a hybrid, of masa + namaste) this fall. Curious to inquire with the Mashup Master about other outré pairings, we gave him a call, and asked him to go wild with the possibilities. For licorice corn soup and other free-associations, read on:

SalmonFleischman is curious about chocolate here, too (go figure): “I might try a salmon mole. I’ve never seen anyone do that.” He’d combine elements of a mole poblano, which uses chocolate, with a black mole negro, which features burned chiles, for the bitter note to balance out the sweet flavor. 

Caviar“One of my favorite foods in the world,” says Fleischman. “I like to put zest in it and pair it with Japanese ingredients like yuzu.” OK, then! 

GritsFleischman has no fear about introducing other world cuisines into the Southern standby, whether treating grits like polenta and ladling ragú over them—”maybe with chicken livers!”—or topping them with saag paneer. He might even top the saag with white miso, for a last bit of umami.

Licorice: Fleischman’s brain goes straight to vegetables for licorice. We expected to hear “fennel” straightaway; instead we heard “corn.” Corn soup, caramelized in a pressure cooker, then “hit it with licorice powder and tarragon and balsamic.” 

PotatoesWhite chocolate mashed potatoes are on the menu at ChocoChicken, with a slab of the sweet stuff standing in for butter. (There’s Red Boat fish sauce in there, too.)

Eggs“I like to do a coddled egg in a water bath—you would put whole anchovies in the ramekins before you do it—and then black truffle puree.” There’s more: “I’d put umami spread on top (one of our products), almost like a dashi broth, and you bake it.” Sounds like one hell of a hangover killer. 

TunaFleischman would go visual with this one: “I’d love to do raw tuna loin with an umami ‘soil’ out of different ground things, like ground mushrooms, soy powder, those types of elements to give it a real earthiness.” 

ParmesanIce cream + cheese = some serious awesomeness. “I would do a Parmesan ice cream with some candy cap mushrooms, maple, maybe balsamic on top of that, maybe chocolate sauce.” 

VanillaWhen we said vanilla, Fleischman’s mashup brain went straight to seafood—lobster and spot prawns—a pairing so rich and decadent-sounding, we’ll be making this savory lobster bread pudding with vanilla chive sauce as soon as possible.