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Peak LA pairings: Crème brûlée doughnuts with fried chicken




Crème brûlée doughnuts get torched
Crème brûlée doughnuts get torched
KPCC/Austin Cross
Crème brûlée doughnuts get torched
Outside of Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
KPCC/Austin Cross
Crème brûlée doughnuts get torched
Chicken fryer
KPCC/Austin Cross
Crème brûlée doughnuts get torched
Donut bun and fried chicken sandwich
KPCC/Austin Cross
Crème brûlée doughnuts get torched
Astro sign
KPCC/Austin Cross
Crème brûlée doughnuts get torched
KPCC/Austin Cross
Crème brûlée doughnuts get torched
Meyer Lemon donuts
KPCC/Austin Cross


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In the pantheon of food and eating, many pairings have become classics:

Peanut butter and jelly.
Macaroni and cheese. 
Lox and bagels.

But a new shop just a stone's throw from Pershing Square in downtown L.A. is hoping to add another duo to that list. 

It's called Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken.

 

We've already got chicken and waffles, so chicken and doughnuts aren't that much of a stretch. But it's important to note the story to how these two foods came together at Astro's.

The pairing itself was first developed in D.C. The two founders of the company were hockey players and because they were on the road a lot, they ate a LOT of doughnuts. So, they decided to open a shop.

But one of the owners pointed out, "Doughnuts are a great morning food. But how do we keep this shop open all day?" That's when the answer came to them.

Chicken. 

The rest is culinary history.

Take Two's Austin Cross and Lori Galarreta headed downtown to check it out.

The donuts come out west

Astro made a name for itself in D.C., but once Art Levitt saw the restaurant's potential, he brought it out to the West Coast. Levitt is the operating partner for Astro D.C. here in Los Angeles and he was the guide for Take Two's grand tour.

The shop in DTLA is a small one, and in the two weeks that it's been open, there's almost always a line out the door. As they wait in the queue, customers can catch a glimpse of the kitchen from the street and there – laid out for all to see– are rows and rows of their most popular treat: the crème brûlée doughnut.

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken operating partner Art Levitt points out crème brûlée donuts.
Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken operating partner Art Levitt points out crème brûlée donuts.
KPCC/Austin Cross
Just behind the doughnuts sits a deep fryer and where the co-star of the restaurant gets made: the chicken.
Astro's fried chicken breasts, cooked in a pressure cooker.
Astro's fried chicken breasts, cooked in a pressure cooker.
KPCC/Austin Cross

Lots of care and precision go into each item on the menu at Astros. The crème brûlée doughnut has to be cut from the dough ... into a square. And if you don't do it right, you can't use it. Like any skill, it has to be mastered. Levitt explains:

You wouldn't think it's as difficult or as hard as it is but we make the dough in batches 24 hours in advance. We make everything from scratch to our own specifications ... and once the dough is set then we use certain kinds of fillings with pastry cream that our chefs make here in house. 

And then it's topped with the sugary substance that then you can flame torch, to get that crust in every single bite. It gives you a mixture the soft and thick creamy filling and the crunch surface. So, there's a lot of work that goes into it.

Astro's assorted half dozen.
Astro's assorted half dozen.
KPCC/Austin Cross

The chicken is pretty special too, as is James Brice, the guy who makes it.

Our dark meat goes for 14 minutes … and then we come back and shake it and season with our special blend … I can't give you the blend … but you have to taste it when it's done. 

Astro's main chicken guy, James Brice explains his process.
Astro's main chicken guy, James Brice explains his process.
KPCC/Austin Cross

So, while the chicken was in the pressure cooker, Levitt led the Take Two team back to the kitchen to show us where all the magic happens. 

 

Levitt: "Dough is laid out here. They'll cut it and bring it here. They fry them and use chopsticks. They take them here and they get filled, then all of these glazes are applied to the top of the donut … And these are the crème brûlée."

The mythical crème brûlée doughnut. What's the most exciting part? That flamed sugar on top. It becomes this hard, smokey shell which is a VERY important factor Astro Doughnuts tries to replicate from actual crème brûlée.

You can almost feel the flames.

But first, chicken.

Now, if you've ever tried chicken breast, you know it's hard. You undercook and it's pink … you overcook and it's dry. So, they took a leaf out of the Colonel Sanders cookbook and use a pressure cooker.

Astro's fried chicken
Astro's fried chicken
KPCC/Austin Cross

Brice: "It seals juices … it's a little darker than the open fire but the inside is so moist … I don't eat breasts but I eat from here because it's tender and juicy."

The verdict

First, the crème brûlée doughnuts. Now, these creme-filled versions are not like the ones you know. An informal poll on the Take Two team revealed that most people actually don't like cream-filled donuts. But this one's different. 

Crème brûlée doughnuts
Crème brûlée doughnuts
KPCC/Austin Cross

It's crunchy, it's creamy and the best of both desserts. Pro tip: Eat while warm.

Now, the chicken. It's crispy, a little spicy, salty and MOIST. It'll make even those full of doubt white-meat believers.

Be sure to flip through the slideshow to see some of the other doughnut selections. They feature such flavors like peanut butter and jelly and Meyer lemon.

To listen to the full segment, click the blue play button above.