Branston Pickle "looks like shit, but it tastes good," says Ryan Pfeiffer of Blackbird. Credit: Julia Thiel

British food is famously bad, and British potato chips (or “crisps,” as they call them) are famously weird. When Lay’s started introducing flavors like cappuccino and southern biscuits and gravy a couple years ago, the company must’ve known that the Brits don’t even blink at chip flavorings such as prawn cocktail, beef and onion, roast chicken, ketchup, oyster and vinegar, and Marmite. So it’s not particularly surprising that the UK brand Walkers once introduced a potato chip flavored like Branston Pickle, a pickled chutney first made in Branston, England, in 1922. Blackbird chef de cuisine Ryan Pfeiffer, challenged by the Betty’s Rachel Dow to create a dish with the condiment, didn’t come across the potato chips (they’ve been discontinued), but he did track down a couple jars of Branston Pickle on Amazon.

“It’s a jar of root-vegetable puke,” Pfeiffer says of the chutney, which consists of diced rutabaga, carrot, onion, cauliflower, and gherkin pickled in a sauce made from vinegar, tomato, apple, and spices. “It looks like shit, but it tastes good. People see a bunch of chunky stuff in a brown, viscous liquid, they’re going to be like, that looks fucking gross, and assume it tastes bad. I think that’s an American thing. They’re not really worried about being bright and vibrant in England as far as I know.”

Branston Pickle is traditionally served in a cheese sandwich or as part of a ploughman’s lunch (which consists of cheese, bread, and pickle—sort of a deconstructed cheese sandwich). Pfeiffer went a bit more highbrow, basing his dish on Escoffier’s sole Florentine: sole fillet with spinach, Mornay sauce, and cream. He substituted fluke for the sole and turnip greens for the spinach; the Branston Pickle he strained to separate the thick sauce from the diced vegetables, combining the former with maple syrup, sherry vinegar, and brown sugar to make a gastrique that he used to glaze roasted turnips. Pfeiffer cooked the diced vegetables a bit to soften them, then blended them with cream cheese to replace the Mornay sauce, which he cooked with the turnip greens to make creamed greens. He cured the fish briefly in salt and sugar, then poached it in beurre monte (a combination of butter and water that remains emulsified at higher temperatures than butter alone).

Blackbird’s Ryan PfeifferCredit: Julia Thiel

To plate the dish, Pfeiffer started with his poached fish, adding the Branston Pickle cream sauce and creamed greens before putting it under the salamander broiler to let the cheese brown a little. In addition to the glazed roasted turnips, he added raw turnips, pear, chestnut chips, garlic flowers, and fresh horseradish. The finishing touch was a smoked chestnut consomme that he poured over the dish. The result tasted like Branston Pickle, Pfeiffer said, but not overwhelmingly so. “You get it in the gastrique, it blends in with the consomme. You get it in the greens,” he said. “It tastes like Worstershire, vinegar, things you usually use to season things.”

Cured and poached fluke, turnip greens, Branston Pickle-glazed roasted turnips, creamed greens, and Branston Pickle cream sauce

Who’s next:

Pfeiffer has challenged Dan Snowden of Bad Hunter to create a dish with olive loaf, the olive-studded lunch meat.