As chef de cuisine, Dave Cruz leads and supervises the Ad Hoc kitchen and played an instrumental role in its successful opening in 2006. At Ad Hoc, the daily-changing menu allows him to regularly exercise his creative culinary talents.
Dave is proud to be part of the Ad Hoc family, which received a 3-star nod from the San Francisco Chronicle. He recently collaborated with Thomas Keller on his latest award-winning cookbook “Ad Hoc at Home”, released in 2009. The book has been the recipient of both the IACP and James Beard cookbook awards and was featured on the New York Times bestsellers list for six weeks.
“Being a chef to me is an honor – an honor to cook for our guests, to work beside amazing people and products – to be a part of something bigger than just me.”
– Dave Cruz, Chef de Cuisine
His personal story started in the Philippines. His journey in the kitchen began in Texas and later New York. Chef Thomas Keller brought him West to Bouchon and then to Ad Hoc.
For our Foodie Chap chat, I rolled up my sleeves to help Chef make some Buttermilk Fried Chicken. In our afternoon in the Ad Hoc kitchen I discovered a guy with passion for food, respect for his mentors and gratitude for his family; all crucial ingredients behind his success.
We had a scrumptious and dare I say “finger-lickin” conversation.
5 Tasty Questions with Chef Dave Cruz
1. If it’s midnight and we go to your fridge, what’s always there?
I’m a little embarrassed to say, but Totino’s pizzas.
2. If you come around in a second life and you are not a chef, what might you be?
Maybe a beach bum or a surf instructor. Somewhere there’s a lot of sun.
3. In the soundtrack to your life what artist/song would be on it?
Chef: Maybe Peter Gabriel.
Liam: “Don’t give up?”
Chef: “Don’t give up.” That’s the one.
4. Who has been your mentor and why?
Thomas Keller. His approach to everything, finite detail, his awareness of everything his intelligence and approach is incredible.
5. Finally, at your last supper, you can have a few guests from the past or present, who would they be and what would you eat?
Definitely my father and my son would be there. We would be having a big t-bone steak I think. T-bone steaks, some rice and some soy sauce.
Liam: Tasty answers Chef. Thank you so much!
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Serves 4 to 6
Two 2 1/2- to 3-pound chickens (see Note on Chicken Size)
Chicken Brine (page 339), cold
For Dredging and Frying
Peanut or canola oil for deep-frying
1 quart buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Ground fleur de sel or fine sea salt
Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnish
Cut each chicken into 10 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, and 2 wings (see pages 18–19). Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the chicken pieces, add in the chicken, and refrigerate for 12 hours (no longer, or the chicken may become too salty).
Remove the chicken from the brine (discard the brine) and rinse under cold water, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Pat dry with paper towels, or let air-dry. Let rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature. If you have two large pots (about 6 inches deep) and a lot of oil, you can cook the dark and white meat at the same time; if not, cook the dark meat first, then turn up the heat and cook the white meat. No matter what size pot you have, the oil should not come more than one-third of the way up the sides of the pot. Fill the pot with at least 2 inches of peanut oil and heat to 320°F. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.
Meanwhile, combine all the coating ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer half the coating to a second large bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set up a dipping station: the chicken pieces, one bowl of coating, the bowl of buttermilk, the second bowl of coating, and the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Just before frying, dip the chicken thighs into the first bowl of coating, turning to coat and patting off the excess; dip them into the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl; then dip them into the second bowl of coating. Transfer to the parchment-lined pan.
Carefully lower the thighs into the hot oil. Adjust the heat as necessary to return the oil to the proper temperature. Fry for 2 minutes, then carefully move the chicken pieces around in the oil and continue to fry, monitoring the oil temperature and turning the pieces as necessary for even cooking, for 11 to 12 minutes, until the chicken is a deep golden brown, cooked through, and very crisp. Meanwhile, coat the chicken drumsticks and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Transfer the cooked thighs to the cooling rack skin-side-up and let rest while you fry the remaining chicken. (Putting the pieces skin-side-up will allow excess fat to drain, whereas leaving them skin-side-down could trap some of the fat.) Make sure that the oil is at the correct temperature, and cook the chicken drumsticks. When the drumsticks are done, lean them meat-side-up against the thighs to drain, then sprinkle the chicken with fine sea salt.
Turn up the heat and heat the oil to 340°F. Meanwhile, coat the chicken breasts and wings. Carefully lower the chicken breasts into the hot oil and fry for 7 minutes, or until golden brown, cooked through, and crisp. Transfer to the rack, sprinkle with salt, and turn skin side up. Cook the wings for 6 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the wings to the rack and turn off the heat.
Arrange the chicken on a serving platter. Add the herb sprigs to the oil (which will still be hot) and let them cook and crisp for a few seconds, then arrange them over the chicken.
*Note on Chicken Size: You may need to go to a farmers’ market to get these small chickens. Grocery store chickens often run 3 to 4 pounds. They can, of course, be used in this recipe but if chickens in the 2 1/2- to 3-pound range are available to you, they’re worth seeking out. They’re a little easier to cook properly at the temperatures we recommend here and, most important, pieces this size result in the optimal meat-to-crust proportion, which is such an important part of the pleasure of fried chicken.
*Note: We let the chicken rest for 7 to 10 minutes after it comes out of the fryer so that it has a chance to cool down. If the chicken has rested for longer than 10 minutes, put the tray of chicken in a 400°F oven for a minute or two to ensure that the crust is crisp and the chicken is hot.
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