Chefs spend all week planning and overseeing the execution of elaborate dishes for the pleasure of the dining public. We have often wondered, what do chefs cook, eat and pour on their days off? In this series, Chefs Cook at Home, we visit the personal kitchens of some of our favorite chefs, to see—and taste—what they're up to in their downtime.
Though there is plenty to criticize about corporate fast food—especially as it steamrolls into parts of the world with their own complex and delicious foodways—anyone enjoying Ann Redding's fried chicken laab recipe can thank the nearly 500 KFC outlets in Thailand.
"I saw it on a KFC picture menu the last time we were in Thailand, and I've been obsessed with the idea ever since. I don't think it exists as a Thai dish outside of KFC, but, you know, McDonald's [in Thailand] has a papaya salad, and 7-Eleven sells mango sticky rice. Overseas, the fast food chains just adapt to the culture," says Redding, who, with her husband, Matt Danzer, shares the chef and owner titles at Uncle Boon's, a Thai bistro on the eastern edge of Manhattan's SoHo district. The couple met while cooking at Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurant Per Se, and while dining at Uncle Boon's is a decidedly more casual experience, the service is professional, the vibe in the room is fun, and the flavors on the plate are precise and explosive.
After leaving Per Se, the couple opened Reddings Market on Shelter Island, where, for a few years, they served fried chicken, ribs, sandwiches and more to a summer crowd, then spent their winters in Thailand, where Ann was born, and where many of her family members remain. Weary of seasonal retail life, they closed Reddings and opened Uncle Boon's just over a year ago.
"It's been an intense year," says Danzer, a Long Island native. "We get one day off every week, though our goal in the next few months is to work a slightly more civilized schedule, to build longevity. When the restaurant is open, at least one of us is always here."
Sometimes they decide not to cook at all on their days off. "To me, someone else's cooking always tastes better," says Redding. "I love going out on a night off. But when we do cook at home, it's super-simple."
Making fried chicken laab will take more time than your average "super-simple" dish, but Redding says you can cut a few corners. For instance, using store-bought or leftover fried chicken, making the marinade and dressing up to three days in advance, and buying the toasted rice powder—which provides a warm, nutty flavor, helps the dressing adhere to the salad, and adds complexity to the texture of the dish—at a Thai grocery store can reduce prep time significantly. Don't skip the rice powder, though: "A laab isn't a laab without the toasted rice powder," says Redding.
As for the wine, Riesling is a natural match for the spice and lime juice-driven acidity of this dish, but Redding points out that rosé pairs beautifully with fried chicken, and recommends the Turley Zinfandel Rosé specifically for its minty note, which echoes the herbs in the dish.
Recipe courtesy of chefs Ann Redding and Matt Danzer of Uncle Boon's in New York, N.Y.
Chefs' Wine Pick: Turley Zinfandel Rosé Napa Valley 2012
Wine Spectator Alternates: Château Montaud Côtes de Provence Rosé Vignobles François Ravel 2013 (87, $14)
M. Chapoutier Pays d'Oc Rosé Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2013 (88, $13)
For the marinade:
Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.
For the toasted rice powder:
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Distribute the rice evenly across a sheet tray and roast for 55 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon every 10 minutes, until dark golden brown. Allow to cool, then grind to a fine powder in a coffee grinder or blender. Will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for up to 2 months.
For the chicken:
1. Place the chicken in a non-reactive container or zip-closing plastic bag and allow to marinate, refrigerated, for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
2. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking.
3. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the ﬂour, panko, salt and chile powder.
4. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Let the excess drip off, then toss the chicken in the ﬂour mixture to coat completely. Remove and set aside.
5. Heat a few inches of oil in a heavy cast iron pan until it is shimmering. Working in batches, shallow fry the chicken pieces until crisp and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Move to a plate lined with paper towels or paper bags and let sit for 5 minutes, then cut into strips.
For the dressing:
Combine all in ingredients in blender and mix until smooth.
To assemble the dish:
Toss together the shallots, cucumber, cilantro, mint and scallions. Add dressing and rice powder to taste, and toss again. Arrange salad on plates, top with fried chicken and serve.
Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer, 2 to 4 as a main course with sticky rice.