In my years in the music game, I have found DJs to be amongst the most discriminating food connoisseurs. This is no coincidence. When travelling, you're being taken to pre-gig meals, usually at a local flagship. When throwing parties in your own town, you're taking guests to dinner or hunting for late night eats. When home relaxing, you're making up for all the gut-buster airport tour food by whipping up some good home cooking. And of course, you're instagramming it all.
In this space, I'll be bringing you recipes and food stories from the globe's most cookin-est DJs, paired with carefully selected music for culinary enhancement.
Today, Australian photobombing legend Levins gets pan-Pacific and tells us how to make Down Under Chilean sopaipilla and fried chicken "burgers." Think of it as the southern hemisphere's response to that KFC sandwich that used chicken cutlets in lieu pieces of bread. We discuss his recently published cookbook and hear a quick highlight reel of his recent gastro-honeymoon across the Southern United States.
THUMP: Welcome to the world's number-one Internet cooking DJ column! Tell the folks out there what your name is and what you do.
Levins: Levins! I am from Sydney, Australia. I have been DJing since I was a kid. I run a lot of parties in Sydney and I own a diner here with my wife called The Dip. We've been serving burgers, hot dogs, wings and other good junk food for almost three years now. The Dip is inside a nightclub called Goodgod Small Club that my friend Jimmy Sing runs.
I also put a cookbook out last year called Diner. It's got some hundred recipes in it with a bunch of dumb stories. Perfect for literally every single person you know this Christmas!
THUMP: I understand that you and your wife just took a food tour of the US.
Yep. Our honeymoon was 90% eating amazing shit. We made our way from LA to Texas through Arizona, then to New Orleans and through most of the South, eating as much BBQ as possible. Which is a lot. I wrote about our BBQ belt journey for You Only Live Once. I really wasn't expecting to love North Carolina-style BBQ the most, but the meal I had at Wilber's BBQ was mind-blowing—everything I wanted BBQ to be, with a side of hush puppies.
I also loved the Southwest Tex-Mex food I ate—the green chile burro at Rito's in Phoenix was legendary. In Austin we got migas breakfast tacos at Veracruz that were better than the BBQ there. Tex-Mex always gets a bad rap so it was awesome to eat some fantastic shit.
THUMP: OK let's get to the recipe—what are we cooking right now?
We are making sopaipillas with fried chicken. Try your hardest from referring to it as a "Sopaipilla Slider" because slider is a stupid word unless you're Jerry O'Connell. You can call it a Sopaipilla Burger if you want.
THUMP: Australia is pretty far from Latin America but you're obviously really into their cuisine. What's up with sopailillas?
Every year during the week of Chilean Independence Day I put a "Completo" hot dog on the menu at The Dip. It's an awesome hot dog with sauerkraut, tomato and a huge pile of avocado and mayonnaise. This year my dessert chef Charlotte wanted to put a Chilean dessert on the menu too. She made sopaipillas, a deep fried disc of pumpkin pastry soaked in a syrup flavored with star anise, orange and cinnamon. She served them with a Chilean eggnog ice cream and it was delicious—but I kept snacking on the sopaipillas when they were straight out of the fryer and thought they'd be awesome as a savory snack too.
THUMP: What's the trick to this dish?
You need a deep fryer. You should have one anyway because deep frying things is a lot of fun. You can use oil in a pan if you don't have a deep fryer but that shit is dangerous so please be careful.
THUMP: Last piece of important prep work, what should we be listening to while we cook this?
There's actually a song called Sopaipillas con Mostaza by Sinergia, a Chilean funk rock band. Chilean funk rock isn't everyone's cup of tea though so let's listen to Devin The Dude's new album.
THUMP: Sounds good. Bon apetit.
Sopaipillas with Fried Chicken by Levins
Makes 8 Sopaipilla Burgers. Start this recipe two hours before you want to eat it.
2 large boneless chicken thigh fillets with skin on
1 cup of buttermilk
3 cups of plain flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of salt
1 cup pureed pumpkin
3 tablespoons of melted butter
1 avocado, peeled and seeded
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon of chopped flat parsley
¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon of cumin
¼ teaspoon of paprika
1 tomato, sliced
½ cup whole egg mayonnaise
Chilean mustard (if you can't find Chilean mustard, American mustard is fine)
However much oil your deep fryer needs to be full
1. Cut each piece of chicken thigh into four pieces and place the chicken in a bowl. Cover with the buttermilk and make sure each piece is evenly covered. Put aside for half an hour.
2. Make the sopaipillas! Put 2 cups of the flour in a food processor with the baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt and mix through for a few seconds. Add the melted butter and pumpkin and process until the dough is smooth.
3. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and set aside for 20 minutes.
4. Mash the avocado into a bowl until smooth and add the lemon juice, parsley and a sprinkle of salt. Set aside in the fridge until you need it later.
5. Heat the deep fryer to 140°C / 280°F.
6. Put one cup of flour in a bowl and add the cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika and one teaspoon of salt. Remove the pieces of chicken from the buttermilk bath and coat them in the flour mixture. When each piece is evenly coated, drop the pieces into the deep fryer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the batter is a deep yellow in color. Remove the chicken from the oil and set aside.
7. Turn the deep fryer up to 180°C / 250°F.
8. Roll out the sopaipilla dough onto a floured board with a rolling pin, until it is about one centimeter or a third of an inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut circles out of the dough. Place them in a tray lined with baking paper and prick them with a fork. Repeat this until there is no dough left. It should make about 20 circles.
9. Fry the sopaipillas in batches for two to three minutes on one side, then use tongs to flip them over and fry them for another two to rhee minutes. They will begin to go golden brown and bubbles will develop. Place the fried sopaipillas on a tray lined with paper towel and keep them warm.
10. Fry the chicken pieces for a further two minutes, until the batter is golden brown and crispy. Place the chicken on paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
11. Assemble your Sopaipilla Burgers—place one sopaipilla on a plate and spread it with a spoon of the avocado mixture. Place a slice of tomato on top of the avocado and a piece of chicken on top of the tomato. Spread some mayonnaise and mustard on another sopaipilla and stack it on top of the chicken. Use a bamboo skewer to hold it in place. Repeat for the rest of the sopaipillas.
12. Eat those lil' burgers and eat the leftover sopaipillas with mustard—or boil a cup of water with half a cup of brown sugar, a quill of cinnamon, a piece of orange rind, star anise and a few cloves until if forms a thick, dark syrup. Soak the sopaipillas in the syrup and eat them for dessert!
Michael Fichman is a producer, DJ and writer who is a little put off by overwhelming mushroom flavors. Follow him on twitter at @djaptone.