If I had a slice of bacon for every cute cheffy deconstruction of a classic dish that had gone wrong, I’d be bigger than Niman Ranch. Even if the deconstruction goes right, the gourmet-ing up of mac and cheese or PBJ has been done so much that it’s getting boring. Still, one chef whose deconstructions I never get sick of is Graham Elliot Bowles of Graham Elliot.
The cool thing about Bowles is he knows when to deconstruct and when to just leave classics alone. If he wants to use Pop Rocks, he doesn’t have some kitchen intern researching how to re-create Pop Rocks for a week, he just goes to the corner store and buys them. Sometimes you just can’t top an original, or, even if you can, it’s not worth alienating a kitchen crew trying.
Maybe my favorite deconstruction of the moment from Bowles is the Kung Pao chicken on his spring menu. Featuring a sweet, tongue-coating soy caramel glaze, spicy roulades of juicy real (read: not processed) chicken parts girded with crisp tempura-fried broccoli florets and crunchy peanut brittle, this is the kung pao of my dreams. For weeks since I’ve eaten it, I’ve actually refrained from ordering Chinese take-out (usually a regular once-a-week or more occurrence) because I know it will be a disappointment.