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October Menus: It’s Crunch Time

Elena North-Kelly

October 07, 2014

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Monkfish with Chicken Skin and Smoked Chile Sauce

Arguably the most compelling part about dining at James Beard’s historic townhouse in New York City’s West Village is experiencing the constantly evolving snapshot of what’s happening in restaurants around the country. Over 250 nights per year, celebrated chefs from coast to coast take the stage in our kitchen, preparing one-night-only menus that showcase their signature culinary style. We like to think of the Beard House as a real-time barometer of American cuisine, pumping out an edible readout of how chefs are approaching or rethinking ingredients, flavor profiles, techniques, and even cuisines. The farm-to-table trend came out in full force in the mid-aughts, while vegetable cookery has been picking up steam as of late. Based on recent tallies, some of us have predicted the rise of togarashi, green strawberries, labne, and benne seeds on menus everywhere.

While reviewing and editing stacks of menus for upcoming autumn events at the Beard House, our editors noticed a welcome refrain: the crunchy bits. From crispy chicken skin to tempura-fried duck livers to crispy pigs’ tails, chefs are decidedly enamored with the textural punch and richness provided by these unlikely garnishes. “This trend speaks to the fact that chefs are mining a broader spectrum of ingredients to show off a dish or a concept,” says Izabela Wojcik, JBF’s director of house programming. “Chefs are using less desirable parts, treated in a highly desirable way, to appeal to the palate. Everyone loves the flavor of something that’s crispy, salty, and fried—it’s a little sprinkle of guilt in every bite.”

Below, a few mouthwatering examples of how and when Beard House diners will be crunching this October:

What: Roasted Monkfish with Chicken Skin, Brussels Sprouts, and Smoked Chile Sauce (pictured above)
When: Monday, October 6, Philly Favorite
Who: Greg Vernick, Vernick Food & Drink, Philadelphia

What: Hudson Valley Duck Brioche with Pickled Gooseberries, Crispy Duck Skin, and Cashew Cheese
When: Friday, October 10, Eating Stories: Montreal to New Delhi
Who: Nira Kehar, Chez Nini, New Delhi, India

What: Tempura-Fried Duck Hearts and Chicken Livers
When: Wednesday, October 15, Toast of the Rockies
Who: A dynamic team of Colorado chefs

What: Buffalo-Style Crispy Pigs’ Tails
When: Friday, October 17, Along the Mighty Mississippi
Who: Josh Galliano, The Libertine, Clayton, MO

What: Barbecued Duck Salad with Lotus Root, Mace, Braised Fennel, Dark Cherry Vinaigrette, Crispy Duck Skin, and Chocolate Caviar
When: Saturday, October 18, Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey!
Who: Susan Burdian and Whiskey Sommelier Heather Greene, The Flatiron Room, NYC

Craving more? To view our full event calendar and upcoming menus, click here

Elena North-Kelly is senior editor at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.