Photo: Art Meripol
Fried chicken and biscuits have always been great partners. But when chef Jeff McInnis stacks 'em up into Mama's Chicken Biscuits, they become a barnburner of a sandwich, the star of the menu at Yardbird, his South Beach showcase for genuine Southern cooking. A native Floridian who grew up in a shrimping village near the Alabama border, Jeff spent summers on his Grandma Bryce's farm. "Her forte was yardbirds, those domesticated birds raised right on the farm that make the best eating," the chef says. True to her influence, Jeff uses ingredients right from the farm for his restaurant (runchickenrun.com). Within a rehabbed vintage grocery store (original Florida pine ceiling, old-timey chalkboard art), Yardbird feels timeless and hand-done, all without looking hokey: "It's not a farm-to-table cliché," Jeff says. "It's my life."
5 Reasons We Love this Dish
1. Super-Fresh Biscuits... Quality depends on immediacy. So every day from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., a staffer is tasked with rolling and punching out biscuits and baking them at least every half hour.
2. ...Just Like Mama Made: "Growing up, I can't remember a day without biscuits," says Jeff. Trying his hand at improving the classic, he baked more than 60 recipes, even employing molecular gastronomy. But he came full circle to the biscuits he remembers from childhood. "Flour, fat, and leavening—the sort you can find in recipe boxes around the South," he says.
3. The Chicken: To get the delicious contrast of crispy and tender, the chicken must be completely coated with seasoned flour to form a protective crust immediately on contact with the hot oil.
4. House-Made Pickles: Jeff uses the dagger of tangy acidity provided by pickled vegetables (usually okra, onions, and cucumbers) to balance the rich sandwich.
5. Pepper Jelly: The house-made smoked jalapeño jelly adds what Jeff terms "sweet heat." He blisters, peels, and purees smoked jalapeños with a mix of bell peppers and a touch of sugar and apple pectin.