In certain ways, flour saved Eli Goldberg’s life.
Years ago, while working in an apprentice-like role at a now-closed Portland restaurant, Goldberg would have to choose between paying for gas or groceries with his meager paycheck. After going days without a solid meal, he looked in his pantry and found a bag of flour. With it, he made his first loaf of bread outside of a professional kitchen. “I think that’s when I really realized... what an important thing it is,” he says. “To serve food to somebody is to serve life to somebody.”
Since then, Goldberg has developed his own identity as a chef. Working the line at eclectic SE Division restaurant Malka, he dove deep into a new world of ingredients; still, Goldberg still works with flour diligently, baking the restaurant’s breads on Saturdays. But starting Monday, he’ll be using flour in a new way: Dredging chicken for his first pop-up, Chicken Run.
Chicken Run — which premieres Monday, December 14 — will serve fried chicken three different ways, with three separate brines, dredges, and preparations. The menu starts with a fried chicken musubi, dredged in rice flour in the style of mochiko chicken. He pairs the chicken with tamagoyaki and sushi rice, wrapping the whole thing in nori with a side of reduced shoyu. He wanted to just stick to rice flour for the fried chicken dredge, to help keep the dish cohesive. “It’s a nice light dredge, so it’s not really, really intense — you’re not biting into a really hard crust,” he says. “You can bite through the whole thing.”
Goldberg will also box up his version of chicken and waffles. The dish started as a experiment conducted by him and coworker Adrian Gronendyk, while designing specials for their previous job at Prasad. “We’d meet up before our shift, go to the store, and bring in our own cooking equipment. We went, ‘What if we made falafel and put it in the waffle-maker?’” Goldberg recalls. “I went, ‘Wow, this is unlike anything else I’ve ever had.’”
For the pop-up, Goldberg designed a chicken and waffle with a falafel waffle base, topping it with zhoug, garlic tahini, pickled turnips, and orzo tabbouleh. The chicken, on the other hand, marinates for two days in a blend of coconut cream and spiced yogurt, hit with an all-purpose and rice flour blend as a dredge, which adds texture and flakiness to the skin. Goldberg lets the chicken sit in the dredge for a day, which helps it adhere to the skin when it fries.
The chef switches up the marinade for his chicken sandwich: Instead, Goldberg pairs coconut cream and buttermilk with a combination of fermented red bean curd and sweet chili paste. Chicken thighs hang out in that blend for two days, before landing in the dredge: Its all-purpose-meets-rice-flour dredge gets a little boost of sweetness from a pinch of Krusteaz pancake batter — before getting hit with a wicked breading of crushed Takis and togarashi. “The sweet chili, they have those great little flakes, which play off the super spicy seasoning, the buttery, rich chicken, these morsels of sweetness, the fermented touch of the bean paste — It’s a little different,” he says. That thigh gets a dose of tomato-caramelized onion cream sauce and a pile of pea shoots, before it lands on one of Goldberg’s simple buttermilk biscuits, a recipe he developed while working for the mutual aid project Crisis Kitchen.
Goldberg’s decision to tackle a pop-up started in his first interview with Jessie Aron at Malka, applying for a position at the new restaurant with Gronendyk. “She knew us for like five minutes and said ‘We’re closed Mondays, you should do pop-ups.’ I thought, ‘I don’t think I can get that together,’” he says. “I honestly give a lot of credit to Jess and Colin [McArthur] — the confidence they’ve instilled in me, saying, ‘You are a good cook, you can do this.’”
Chicken Run will begin at 4 p.m. December 14 at Malka, running until 9 p.m. that night or sold out. Orders are takeout only; people can call (503) 899-4245 to place an order starting at 3:30 p.m. that day. The pop-up will also be accepting donations for Portland’s Mutual Aid Alliance.