Anatomy of La Brasa’s Fried Chicken with Escargot
When Daniel Bojorquez opened La Brasa in late April, he knew wanted to explore a fried chicken offering, just not the buttermilk-marinated, country-fried variety now fetishized by chefs and epicureans everywhere. Instead Bojorquez pictured brown butter and fresh herbs, something more akin to a grenobloise, but with the French influence ratcheted up thanks to an addition of escargot. It was going to be a play off of a dish he perfected under Frank McClelland at L’Espalier, a toothsome course that paired a seaweed-smoked chicken leg with brown butter and smoked cockle vinaigrette. The results were enjoyable, but Bojorquez was chasing after something far out of his comfort zone. He wanted to create a substantial, singular umami-bomb that his customers wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. For that, he turned to his friend and sous chef, Greg Reeves, who had joined Bojorquez from a stint at Green Street in Cambridge.
“This dish is really a collaboration between me and my friend Greg [Reeves] who has a really impressive background at restaurants like B&G Oysters and The Butcher Shop,” Bojorquez says. “When we opened the restaurant, I explained to him that I wanted to do a fried chicken dish with all these components like horseradish, snails, and brown butter. He had created the Bon Chon-style chicken wings over at Green Street Grill, and had always preferred to use soy sauce and mirin when dealing with poultry. So we sort of fused the two dishes together and the results were acidic and salty and just really, really umami.”
La Brasa roughly translates to “grilled” and Bojorquez’s original vision might be better epitomized by other star dishes such as his guajillo-rubbed grilled snapper and soy-marinated skirt steak with salmon roe. But his French-inspired twist on Korean fried chicken is becoming a clamored over mainstay that’s becoming harder and harder to justify removing from the seasonal menu. We asked Bojorquez to give us a breakdown on his popular fried chicken. Here, in his own words, are the ingredients and theories behind each component.
“When we opened the restaurant we were really worried because we didn’t know how we were going to smoke things. Eventually, we figured how to do it ourselves with a wire rack and some tin foil. First, we transfer some white oak embers from our wood-burning oven and place them on the bottom of a metal rack. Inside we place sheet trays filled with ice and heritage chicken legs from Giannone Poultry. We then wrap the whole thing in tin foil and let it cold-smoke for about three housr. Afterward we pull the trays and dredge the chicken in a combination of AP flour, rice flour, corn starch, Thai spice, and cayenne pepper, and fry them at 300 degrees. We let the chicken cool down while we’re making the sauce. When somebody orders it in the dining room, we deep-fry the chicken a second time to make sure the skin gets extra crispy.”
2. Brown Butter Vinaigrette:
“One of my favorite food combinations is veal and sardines. It’s a reversal of the roles found in typical beef and lobster surf and turf. The veal is very lean and the fish is super fatty, but the flavors mixed together are really delicious. For our fried chicken, the brown butter sauce ties somehow ties together the chicken and snails, to give it that same effect. Our snails come from Douglas Dussault at the Potironne Company. We chop those up and sauté them diced red onion, chives, and brown butter.”
3. Bon Chon Sauce:
“Next we make a version of Greg’s Bon Chon sauce that he used to make at Green Street. It’s really just a mixture of soy sauce, Korean chili flake, and mirin. We take a 50:50 ratio of soy sauce blend and brown butter vinaigrette and emulsify it together. After the chicken has been fried a second time, we immediately toss it in the soy sauce and snail mixture, so the leg really absorbs all that marinade. Then we squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the top of everything and plate it with the leftover snails and vegetables.”
“I make a very simple curtido, an El Salvadoran cabbage salad typically served on pupusas. We take Napa cabbage from Apple Street Farm, Frank’s [McClelland] farm out in Essex, and pickle it along with red onion and carrot.”
5. Italian Parsley Purée
“In a food processor I blend together fresh Italian parsley, olive oil, and confit garlic. I drizzle that all over the fried chicken to give it some fragrant herbaceousness.”
“Just before serving, I’ll take a Microplane and grate a bunch of fresh horseradish all over the plate. It just gives it an extra kick of spice and really complements the sweet smokiness of the vinaigrette.”
124 Broadway, Somerville; 617-764-1412 or labrasasomerville.com.