JULY 2, 2012

MEET THE SOUS CHEF

NATE MACAULAY, CHEF DE CUISINE, LUKSHON

Nate Macaulay has back-up plans.

Though happily employed as chef de cuisine at Lukshon in Los Angeles, the 31-year-old chef is a former clarinetist with a music degree from the University of Oregon, and also has his pilot's license--just in case.

After a culinary school externship that took him to Taipei, Taiwan, Macaulay returned to his native Los Angeles and took a job at The Tasting Kitchen in Venice, California. He later started working at Lukshon as a line cook, working his way up to sous chef, then chef de cuisine. Over time, he's gained an appreciation of the Southeast Asian ingredients that are used liberally in the Lukshon kitchen.

For Sous Chef Series he combines two classic dishes--chicken Cordon Bleu and chicken al mattone--into one, sandwiching Taleggio cheese and prosciutto between two skin-on chicken thighs, then cooking the meat under a weighted brick so the skin gets ultra-crisp. It's topped with a nuanced salsa verde that has sweet, salty and spicy elements--much like the best Southeast Asian dishes.

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Nate Macaulay's:
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DAY IN THE LIFE

TIPS & TECHNIQUES

Chicken Skin 101

The key to crisp chicken skin, says Macaulay, is "not to rush it. You have to slowly cook the chicken over medium heat so that the fat renders but the skin doesn't burn. One of the most beautiful things in life is crunchy chicken skin."

Getting Sauced

Like the best Southeast Asian dishes, the sauce for Macaulay's chicken balances sweet, sour, spicy and salty flavors. "It's a lesson I learned at Lukshon that I've carried over into other non-Asian recipes."

MAKE THE
Chicken al Mattone
Chicken al Mattone

YIELD

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

Salsa verde

2 Calabrian chiles (Italian pickled red chile peppers) or any jarred pickled chiles, roughly chopped

1 scallion, light green and white parts only, roughly chopped

½ garlic clove, roughly chopped

½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, tough bottom stems removed and leaves and top stems roughly chopped

½ packed cup baby arugula

⅓ cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¾ teaspoon granulated sugar

Chicken

4 boneless skin-on chicken thighs

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon fennel pollen powder (optional)

2 slices prosciutto

1 ounce Taleggio cheese sliced into two 1-inch-by-½-inch cubes and frozen on a small plate

DIRECTIONS

1. Make the salsa verde: Using a food processor, pulse the chiles, scallion, garlic, parsley and arugula together until finely chopped. While pulsing, add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and sugar and continue to pulse until the mixture is combined yet not completely puréed. Pour the salsa verde into a medium bowl, taste and adjust the salt if needed, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

2. Make the chicken: Set the chicken on a cutting board skin side up and rub each thigh with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, turn the thighs over and season the flesh side with the fennel powder (if using) and more salt and pepper. Lay one piece of prosciutto over two of the thighs and place the pieces of Taleggio in the center of each sheet of prosciutto. Fold the edges of the prosciutto over the cheese as needed to make sure it doesn’t hang over the sides of the chicken.

3. Place the remaining two chicken thighs flesh side down over the Taleggio and prosciutto-covered thighs (so you will have two chicken “sandwiches” with the skin facing out on both sides).

4. Set the two sandwiched chicken thighs in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Set an aluminum-foil-wrapped brick (or wrap the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot with a sheet of foil and then place a can or two of vegetables or beans inside it) on top of the chicken and turn the heat on to medium-high. Cook until the chicken starts to sizzle, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the chicken is golden-brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

5. Remove the brick and flip the thighs over. Continue cooking until the second side is golden-brown, 10 to 12 minutes more (the cheese will start to ooze out of the chicken and get crispy). Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to rest for 5 minutes before slicing crosswise (against the grain) and serving with the salsa verde.

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