A few weeks ago there were ten raw half chickens “dry-aging” at the Kedzie Inn in Irving Park, their skins exposed to the ambient cold of the cooler. Those scare quotes are a tell that this isn’t quite the same lengthy process as the one used to concentrate beefy flavor in fine steaks, but it’s similar. In a short period of time—just a couple days—it produces a very fetching, glassy, crispy skin on a roasted bird.
These days that’s an unconventional, time-consuming method—but it’s an ancient one. The young chef responsible for it was Oskar Singer of Rye Humor Baking, who served the yardbirds at the Reader’s weekly Monday Night Foodball pop-up. Singer learned it from Amanda Barnes, the veteran Chicago chef behind a fascinating, handcrafted, farm-focused menu at a very unlikely place: Pippin’s Tavern, the 48-year-old erstwhile Viagra Triangle Irish dive, now in shiny new digs on the Gold Coast, a neighborhood not known for the kind of slow, crafty, and creative food Barnes built her career on.
Singer moonlights in the basement at Pippin’s, where Barnes and her cooks have about a dozen food preservation projects in the works—fermenting gooseberries, kumquat miso, and tuna “ham.” It’s a riot down there. For food-focused folk, that kind of work would be exciting no matter what neighborhood it’s in, but at the intersection of Chicago and Wabash, it’s downright rebellious. Weirdly, there’s been minimal chatter on the subject. Maybe this week’s cover story will change that.