Photo credit: Wolfgang Wesener, wowe photography
It’s caviar. Bear with us for a minute:
Tuesday night, we attended a dinner thrown in chef and molecular gastronomist Wylie Dufresne’s honor at his New York restaurant wd~50. The people behind the meal: the Gelinaz, a collection of avant-garde chefs from around the world (Inaki Aizpitarte from Paris and René Redzepi from Copenhagen, to name just two), who flew to New York 48 hours before the event, giving themselves two days to plan their courses, all deconstructed re-imaginations of Dufresne’s most emblematic dishes. One of those is his cold fried chicken with buttermilk-ricotta sauce, Tabasco, and caviar.
“It starts with Wylie; he came up with it,” says Empellon chef Alex Stupak, who was one of five on his course team. (The others were Momofuku’s David Chang, Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi, Eleven Madison Park’s Daniel Humm, and Noma’s Rosio Sanchez.) “Rather than serve something cerebral or deconstructed—everything at that dinner was an interpretation on an interpretation—we just made the dish [straightforward].” True, this course, the second of eleven, involved buckets of fried chicken, biscuits, chive-topped crème fraîche, and lots and lots of caviar. Yes, it was decadent, no it’s not something you can do every day—or even every year—but here’s why it’s awesome enough to make your fried chicken fest THE party of the summer:
Left: chicken. Right: caviar.
“You need some sort of delivery system to properly deploy caviar,” says Stupak. “I mean, I’ll eat it off a spoon out of a tin—I don’t care—but usually it’s served with a blini or a cracker, something that doesn’t interfere with the caviar. The flesh of the chicken is pretty neutral. Plus fried chicken loves salt. You’re seasoning it with something super salty, in a different way.”
And then there’s the textural interest: crispy skin, popping caviar, juicy meat. Diners attacked the dish in a variety of ways: some mushed the caviar onto the chicken as they ate, some wrapped the caviar in the chicken skin like a little cigarillo. “The chicken skin caviar taco is definitely a move,” says Stupak. “My approach is to eat the flavorful dark meat on its own and then take the white meat, tear it apart, and use that as a vehicle for the caviar. But there’s no right or wrong way.”
And, of course, there’s the high-low aspect. “I like it when things are sophisticated but not stuffy,” says Stupak. “Serving things family-style and serving things that they have to eat with their hands—you’re forcing everyone to eat communally.”
It should be mentioned that Kraft Singles were also on the table during this course. “American cheese is one of Wylie’s favorite foods of all time,” says Stupak. “I worked at wd~50 for five years and have seen that guy take down a lot of American cheese, unadorned. Just whole stacks.”
Whether or not you want to try that with caviar is up to you.