Sure, you can draw comparisons to both Southern food and Asian flavors when you eat the chicken-fried duck confit at Santa Monica’s new Ox & Son. But the thing you should really know about chef Brad Miller’s dishes is that they are entirely his own. Where else, to give you another example, are you going to find a mussels-and-chorizo poutine with an eight-hour tomato sauce and cotija cheese?
“Everything I try to do is completely mine,” Miller says. “I try not to copy anyone or do anything similar.”
Miller thinks of Ox & Son’s dishes as “L.A. food.” (Maybe we should call it L.A.rdcore?) They’re created by a man who happily finds inspiration eating Roscoe’s fried chicken and on trips to Mitsuwa where he’ll feast on both Santouka ramen and Hannosuke tempura.
The chef, who previously cooked at Topanga’s Inn of the Seventh Ray, knew he wanted to serve duck confit at Ox & Son “even though I know a lot of people have it on the menu. Duck confit is delicious,” he says.
“I wanted to find a way to not just serve a piece of duck confit on the bone. I was thinking, ‘Who doesn’t love fried chicken?’”
He knew that pickles go well with fried chicken, but instead of using cucumbers, he made celery, carrot, and radish pickles. For coleslaw, he didn’t want anything heavy on mayo, so he made red-cabbage kimchi slaw to add some umami to the plate. Even more umami comes with the dish’s chili sauce, based on a concoction he’s used to make chili crab for years.
“I’m not going to put sriracha on it,” he says. “It’s almost a take on a hot chicken. I wanted the whole dish to be an umami bomb. The sauce has fresh chiles and fish sauce, we cook it in the classic style, toasting the chiles in oil first.”
When Miller was conceiving this dish, “L.A. basically influenced me,” he says. “It never occurred to me that [fried chicken] was Southern. I like punch-in-your-face food, with flavors constantly going on. A lot of my dishes are very bold, which is what I think people want when they go out to eat once or twice a week. They want to be shocked and amazed. I’m the same way. I’ll have a salad for lunch. When I go out, I want to go hard.”
Miller has been working with food since he was a kid growing up in Ottawa, Illinois. His dad had a butcher shop, and the young future chef would take scraps, “all the stuff you make burgers with, and I would mix combinations of slices and make disgusting things.”
Growing up in the Midwest definitely influenced his palate.
“We had no culture of cuisines besides meat,” Miller says.
When his mom served him cheese fries with gravy, “it was just cheesy fries,” he says. The word “poutine” wasn’t part of anyone’s vocabulary. Similarly, he didn’t realize until after he left home that when his mom baked white beans with meat, it was a cassoulet of sorts.
Miller has since graduated to slow-cooking a tomato sauce, in an “almost classic Italian style but without the oregano and basil,” for his poutine. The sauce includes mussel juice–the dish is served without shells–and a little clam juice too.
He wanted to add spice, so he knew chorizo was the right protein. And he also knew that cheese curds would overwhelm the dish, but cotija would be light enough to create the right balance.
Yes, these are mussels with fries, but this is nothing like moule frites.
“Mussels are a messy thing,” Miller says. “I did not want the shells. When you’re eating a poutine, you want to put your fork in and go to town.”