Raw chicken thighs and legs on a cutting board

Poultry’s Possibilities

Applying a little menu creativity to chicken, duck and turkey promises big opportunity.

Chicken rules the roost in the poultry category on menus—it takes on flavour beautifully and is often a safe bet for diners seeking familiarity. Poultry's possibilities are all about leveraging that familiarity and making chicken craveable and on-trend. Duck is slowly moving beyond high-end restaurants and dining consumers are finally appreciating its flavour-rich dark meat in more applications. Turkey is making moves beyond holiday, with chefs tapping into its comforting, familiar, lean profile. All innovation in poultry puts flavour in focus, with chefs cleverly tapping into larger trends and applying them here.

Chicken

Diners expect to see chicken on the menu, and many of them, ahem, flock to it because it’s familiar and on the leaner side. Chefs have always been great at amping up flavour here, from rich stuffings to sticky glazes and velvety sauces. Today, they’re also leveraging its homespun status, with gorgeous tableside service of whole chickens for two—maybe spatchcocked for faster cooking. “Fried chicken is also a huge opportunity,” says Michael Viloria, Customer Solutions Specialist and Culinary Chef for Gordon Food Service in Delta, B.C. “In Vancouver, we’re seeing a lot of Nashville hot fried chicken, which is spicy-hot and delicious and craveable.” 

Menu examples

  • Dill Pickle Fried Chicken (whole chicken): Turkish fry bread, spiced yogurt, cucumbers—Model Milk, Calgary, Alberta
  • Chicken Hunan Kung Pao: Ginger soy sauce, wok fried vegetables and noodles, peanuts—Earls, multiple locations
  • Honey-Hot Fried Chicken—Love Chix, Toronto

Chicken Skins

“Chicken skins are the next chicharrón,” says Jason Kalinowski, Customer Solutions Manager for Gordon Food Service in Milton, Ontario. “At Husk in Charleston, North Carolina, chef Sean Brock does Buffalo chicken skins, drizzling the crisp-fried skins with Buffalo sauce. So much opportunity here, as a bar snack, salad garnish or bowl topper.”

Viloria agrees, calling out a fun use of chicken skins at AnnaLena in Vancouver: “When they drop the cheque, they serve fried chicken skins dipped in chocolate with a little spice on it. It’s so memorable and delicious.”

Menu Examples

  • Chicketta: Rossdown Farms herbed chicken, salsa verde aïoli, crispy chicken skin, arugula, chili threads—The Tucke Shoppe, Vancouver, B.C.
  • Swordfish Crudo: pickled sea asparagus, Trinidad peppers, shiso, mustard seeds and crispy chicken skin—The Commodore, Toronto

Duck

Duck confit and Peking duck are the ambassadors of this poultry, known for its rich, juicy dark meat. But it’s not often seen outside of high-end restaurants. That’s changing, with more chefs leveraging its uniqueness and flavour profile and moving it into less formal applications. “The opportunity alone in duck wings is huge,” Kalinowski says. “Especially if you get away from traditional wing sauces and differentiate with ponzu, hot honey, soy and so on.” The trend in charcuterie boards is another place to feature duck products, like a rillettes or prosciutto. “Both are delicious and signal that made-in-house sensibility that so many diners are looking for,” Viloria says. 

Menu Examples

  • Braised duck noodles: Free-range duck leg, Asian celery and bok choy with either Shanghai wide noodles or rice sheets—Fat Mao Noodles, Vancouver, B.C.
  • Roasted Duck Breast: tabbouleh, orange, mandarin, papadums—Black Trumpet, London, Ontario
  • Crispy Peking Glazed Confit Duck Wings: Fried confit duck wings coated with hoisin-soy glaze, and served with sliced cucumber, green onion, coriander and Mandarin-style pancakes—Little DaiLo, Toronto

Turkey

The biggest challenge with menuing turkey is getting your guests to break the chicken routine, Kalinowski says. “But that means it’s an opportunity because when you get it right, you’ve got a built-in signature,” he says. He suggests using turkey in bao buns, satays and barbecue. “It can pretty much go anywhere, taking on global flavour nicely.” Viloria suggests leveraging the porchetta craze and making a “turketta.” “Take turkey breast and thigh meat, sprinkle it with porchetta seasoning, roll it and roast it. Maybe serve the turketta with a salsa verde on ciabatta with a cranberry jus for dipping,” he says. 

Menu examples

  • Turkey Burger: moist dark meat, served with roasted potatoes and an apple, pine nut and mesclun salad—Mercuri Montreal Grill, Montreal
  • The Clubhouse: five-ounce turkey burger, bacon, tomato, avocado spread, lettuce and honey-garlic mayo—Wahlburger, Toronto