There are lot of chicken dishes out there and I have only ten slots on this list. So I picked out my faves using my own unscientific criteria of what constitutes a chicken dish, ruling out others because chicken wasn't the star. What remains are dishes where I felt America's favorite poultry got top billing. I did mix in different kinds of prep. There are a few pan-seared birds, a few rotisserie ones, and a whole mess of deep-fried chickens, because, let's face it, some of the best chickens are deep-fried.
But I'd like to hear yours. What's your favorite way to consume the original white meat? Comment boards are open for more finger lickin' discussions.
10. At Last Cafe's Brick Chicken
The Brick Chicken is the apotheosis of what At Last Café is all about: Take a simple dish, charge a fair value, do it better than anyone else. For his poultry masterpiece, Chef John McLaughlin meticulously debones a half-chicken, cooks it under the weight of a brick, and serves it with smashed potatoes, veggies and pan gravy made from the drippings. The result? A chicken dinner that is one of the best I've ever had: crispy, mahogany skin reminiscent of the best Armenian rotisserie hen and meat so juicy it bursts.
9. Quan Hy's Xoi Ga
Xoi ga is sticky rice with chicken, a Vietnamese street dish that, if I wanted to oversimplify, closely mirrors Hainan chicken--boiled or steamed hen presented usually shredded or cut-up into pieces over steamed sticky sweet rice.
But what Quan Hy serves as xoi ga is not this. The chicken isn't so much "shredded" as it is compressed and fried. Fried to be one of the most delectable, succulent pieces of poultry I've had.
In its uniform flatness is a shape as sleek as an iPhone where an entire, intact chicken thigh is squeezed into a compact frame. The flavor is seeped through and through from an aromatic marinade that tastes similar to what's used on traditional Vietnamese fried chicken called ga chien.
The meat is well-cooked, crisped to dark brown on the edges exposed to oil, and moist everywhere else. The rendered skin crackles, slit like gills at strategic locations on the patty so that it stays attached during cooking.
Then there's the sweet rice, a reinterpretation that has the sticky starch formed into rectangular spears and deep-fried. The eyes expect either a tater tot or a French toast stick; but the mouth experiences something even better: an oily, Rice Krispy-like crunch leading to a soft, rice-pudding-like center. You dip it in the accompanying sweetened soy dipping sauce, which it absorbs like a sponge.
8. Pizza and Chicken Love Letter's Crispy Fried Chicken
Pizza & Chicken Lover Letter's "Crispy Fried Chicken" wears a crust more akin to batter than breading. But even here, the bird exhibits the common link to all Korean-style fried chicken: a skin thoroughly rendered of fat to become wisps, and often thoroughly absorbed and fused into the batter. The flavor is concentrated with a light touch of soy sauce, but the meat tastes of pure poultry-ness.
Like its competitor BBQ Chicken across the parking lot at Irvine's Diamond Jamboree, Love Letter does not seem to brine their birds, letting the meat become the platform on which the flavored crust and pickles build upon. The chickens are cooked well and juicy, even the white meat. The breast pieces are cut up into smaller segments so that no one person hogs it all...which is not to say it won't still happen.