Chicken Oysters + French Chefs = Nirvana
The first guest chef demonstration I ever went to at school featured chefs from the French Senat. These men, some MOFs, were intense, young, and talented. Their food seemed intent on being as French as possible, with foie gras, puff pastry, and squab- I loved it. This was what I came to France for, not vegetable soup or poached chicken with supreme sauce.
Squab & Foie Gras in Crisp Puff Pastry with Sesame and Poppy Seeds
Pigeon au Foie Gras en Croute de Sesame et Pavot
The surprise ingredient of that demonstration was the bag of chicken oysters they produced. Chicken oysters are the two little nuggets of meat tucked away in the back of the chicken. They are traditionally known as cook’s treats, a morsel of dark moist goodness that few people even know exist. They are the main reason why I volunteer to carve roast chickens.
The French being French, the Senat chefs served them seared with a foie gras custard, topped with, what else, crisped bacon! I remember greedily wolfing down my tasting portion and my eyes rolling to the back of my head in awe.
Foie Gras Savory Custard with Golden Chanterelle Mushrooms,
Bacon Chips & Chicken Oysters
Royale de Foie Gras et Crème de Griolles
au Lard Grille et Sot Ley Laisse
I was impressed at how the French chefs were able to purvey a whole bag of chicken oysters, but I sadly dismissed the notion that I would ever be served them again. No more fancily prepared chicken oysters for moi.
We went to French Chef Daniel Boulud’s NYC restaurant, db Bistro Moderne, last Friday. Boulud is known for making the first fancy burger, and it is stuffed with braised short ribs and foie gras in the middle. We went there because I wanted to try Boulud’s food, plus our friend Tabitha worked garde manger there. (Thanks for taking care of us, Tabitha!)
Of course we ordered the burger, but then my eyes zeroed in on an appetizer under the chicken section: a Frog's Legs and Chicken Oyster Fricassee, served with Hazelnut Spaetzle and Button Mushrooms. How much more French could you get? Once I saw that, the excitement about the burger flew out the window and all I wanted was fricassee. (On their online menu, it swaps out the frog's legs for escargot, but I'm pretty sure ours had frog in it.)
The dish was pure genius: chicken oysters, complete with skin, seared to a crisp with a juicy center. Paired with frog’s leg meat that, yes, did taste like chicken, I was amazed at the simple yet unexpected match. The rich spaetzle added texture, and the sauce sent a waft of warm garlic aroma straight into my nose the minute the plate was set before me.
I don’t usually gush much, but gush I did. My dining companions will probably attest to the fact that I ignored them for awhile as I inhaled yet tried to savor one of the best dishes I’ve had this entire year. If I hadn’t promised H that we would split the starter, he probably wouldn’t have gotten any taste of it. When the table next to us was debating on whether or not to order it, it took all my willpower not to interrupt them and say, “Yes, you should order it! It’s amazing!”
Get thee to db Moderne Bistro for the fricassee. Just don’t tell me about it, or I’ll be jealous.
(Oh, and the burger was good too, but I’m not sure if I qualify it as a real burger. Too fancy.)
db Bistro Moderne
55 West 44th St.
New York, NY 10036