The Chef: Doug Sohn (Hot Doug's)
The Challenger: Carlos Gaytan (Mexique)
The Ingredient: Chicken Feet
Doug Sohn has eaten chicken feet, but never cooked with them—"so as is my style, instead of really playing around with them and doing a ton of research, I'll just go find someone I know who knows about chicken feet." In this case it was a friend from culinary school, Vee Buranasiri (or Chef Vee, as Sohn calls him). "He told me they're a big pain," Sohn says. "There's a lot of bone, a lot of cartilage, a lot of little segments."
They look strange, too. "They have this sort of human element because they have little fingernails on them, so they look like shriveled-up, deformed hands," Sohn says. One of the most common uses for chicken feet is stock. He's also eaten them at Asian restaurants, both deep-fried and stir-fried.
What to do with the feet was fairly obvious to Sohn—he is, after all, Hot Doug. So onto a hot dog they would go. Exactly how to prepare them was slightly trickier. He chose to simmer the chicken feet for a few hours until they were tender, then peeled off the skin and deep-fried it—or, more accurately, Chef Vee did. Sohn unabashedly admits that he doesn't spend much time in his restaurant's kitchen. In fact, he purposely set up the restaurant so that he can't get into the kitchen from behind the front counter, where he spends most of his time. His chefs prefer it that way, according to Sohn: "They don't like it when I'm back here. I don't like it when I'm back here. I stay out of their way."
Once fried, the skin from the chicken feet tastes like "the best part of fried chicken," says Sohn. "Like the tender, sort of crispy skin with just that great chicken skin flavor." He put it on a spicy Thai chicken sausage along with sriracha mustard and sesame seaweed salad to create an Asian theme.
Sohn's creation is eminently doable for the average cook, his instructions running along the lines of "put sausage on grill; take off when done," and "for you cooks at home, getting the sausage in the bun is the key part of this process." The sriracha mustard is a simple blend of Dijon mustard, the hot sauce sriracha, garlic, and olive oil; the seaweed salad can be bought at Asian markets. Preparing the the chicken feet, though, is pretty time-consuming.
Sohn finished off the dish with a whole fried chicken foot, sticking straight up from the hot dog bun, as "garnish." "Certainly part of our style is that if it says the ingredient on the menu, either you're totally going to taste it, or you're going to see it," he says. In this case, it's both.
The chicken skin, Sohn said, "actually adds a really nice element. You get some crunch with the seaweed salad, but even more so with the chicken skin, and you get a little bit of that nice, sort of fatty, a little bit gelatinous effect with the skin." He liked it, and said he'd even put it on the menu, except that "I think my staff would quit, based on the volume that we do, the amount of chicken feet we'd have to prepare . . . there might be a small mutiny. But at some point we might put them on there."
Barry Sorkin of Smoque BBQ, working with Vienna Beef hot dogs. "I could have gotten something obscure," Sohn says, "but it was like, I want to see someone else do something with a hot dog or sausage besides what we do."Video by Michael Gebert/Sky Full of Bacon
Thai Chicken Sausage with Sriracha Mustard, Sesame-Seaweed Salad and Fried Chicken Feet
2 pounds chicken feet
Thai chicken sausage
Seaweed salad (can be purchased at an Asian grocery store)
Hot dog buns
Simmer the chicken feet in enough water to to cover plus one inch for about two hours. Strain the liquid, saving it for broth, and let the feet cool. Peel as much meat/skin as you can from the feet, saving a couple of whole feet. Deep-fry the skin and whole feet in 350° vegetable oil until golden brown; strain and set aside.
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Sriracha
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
Combine all ingredients.
Grill the chicken sausages, then place on warmed hot dog buns. Top with a little sriracha mustard and seaweed salad, then finish with the fried chicken-foot skin and garnish each with a fried chicken foot.