by Kristin L.Wolfe
In 2016, at just 12 years old, Maizy Boosin from Westport literally cartwheeled her way into the Chopped Junior Kitchen on the Food Network. And, after three intense rounds, she bounced out of there the champion. The judges on her episode included none other than Meghan Markle, who, in addition to her acting chops, was a pretty prolific foodie with her own blog, “The Tig,” named after her favorite wine, Tignanello. In the last round, all three judges showered Maizy with praise: Chef Maneet Chauhan told her, “I will now use rice cake for my crumbles from now on…”; Markle mimicked a hug while saying, Maizy’s dessert with “…the ricotta was a highlight, brightened by the lemon zest…it was amazing!” And finally, the pinnacle of compliments came from Executive Chef Andrew Gruel, who said, “You’ve shown great sophistication as a young chef.”
They were not fooling. While watching the episode, I had to keep reminding myself, she was just 12 years old, as she cleverly put ingredients together and used them with such a mature level of technique and skill. Well, there’s a reason for that.
At seven years old, Maizy was diagnosed with Celiac disease, making gluten the enemy to her health. BUT, she was determined to not let that ruin her love of food and cooking. She and her mom began to watch every cooking show imaginable, then replicating their favorite dishes with gluten-free ingredients. Soon, Maizy became such a natural at pulling ingredients together and “not making gluten-free food taste like cardboard” (as you’ll hear her say on the show), that her mom entered her as a contestant.
Now, at 18, she’s not doing cartwheels, per se, but with Chopped Champion next to her name, she has carved a niche for herself as the face of positive and possible gluten-free living. Knowing that so many young kids suffer from the disease, as well as the embarrassment that sometimes comes as the “only one” at the party with different food, or separate packaging and treatment, she began writing for Gluten Free Living magazine soon after her Chopped win.
Her cheery disposition and experience with food exploration opened the door to kids with Celiac, and not only uplifted their spirits but turned some, like her, into budding chefs. Maizy wrote and tested recipes for the kids section of the magazine until it folded in early 2020. Needless to say, Maizy has a lot of material. Which brings us to what she’s up to today.
At the time of the show, she was a serious musical theater fan and performer. Having already been in several shows herself, she could have easily followed that path professionally, however, as she tells me today, she still loves it, and yet, the food world has become more of a calling, in terms of career. So much so, that she surprised even herself when she decided not to audition for theater when applying to college. She’s headed to Tulane in New Orleans in the fall as a Communications & Marketing Major, with a Minor in Nutrition. Something tells me she’ll still be able to entertain and delight with almost anything she chooses to do.
She continues to busy herself with food blogging and testing recipes on her newest project Lychee & Lavender, kicked off last May. As we discussed the project, she reveled in the coincidence of it going live on May 1st, which kicks off Celiac Disease Awareness Month. When I asked her about keeping Lychee and Lavender going in college, we both sunk in our seats as she said “ Well, there’s no kitchen!” in her suite. A cook with no kitchen is like a writer with no pen! And yet, forever the creative, positive thinker, she reminds me, that for 1) she has stock-piled a ton of food photos and material for content; and 2) as she explores New Orleans, she’s considering doing restaurant reviews as a gluten-free, college student.
In the decade plus that Maizy has lived with Celiac, she admits to seeing the landscape change in the best ways. She does want to help de-stigmatize the world of gluten-free eating, bread in particular. Although it has taken a long time, the options are getting much better, she agrees. When discussing some of her go-to brands, she says, “Shar is my favorite. It is really, really good.”
But there’s still some work to be done in terms of pasta, she says. The options for styles and shapes are still too few, or some she can find, but have to be special ordered and can be expensive, like La Venzione. “I’m sorry but I’m tired of penne.” When we giggled about the gluten-free pasta she’s hoping to see, like fettuccine or rigatoni, she perked up and said, “Can we get Barilla plus on the phone?”
There’s no way around it, Maizy Boosin is a burst of sunshine. She’s not only become a beacon of light for a hungry crop of creative young home cooks, but she has helped take the sting out of stigma for so many kids living with celiac disease.
Check out Maizy’s Recipe for Korean Fried Chicken
Maizy’s Gluten Free Korean Fried Chicken
(makes 4 servings)
3 lbs boneless and skinless chicken thighs
Oil (for frying)
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup potato starch
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp gluten free soy sauce
2 tbsp sriracha
1 tbsp gochujang (korean chili paste)
1 tbsp sambal
2 tsp honey
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp black sesame seeds
2 scallions (chopped, for a garnish)
No deep fryer? No problem. I don’t have a deep fryer, and to make this recipe, I just heated a few cups of canola oil in a wide pot with a candy thermometer to measure the temperature.
Choosing the chicken: While trying this recipe, I used both dark and light meat in different rounds of recipe testing. While the chicken breasts did cook more quickly and were easier to cut into bite sized pieces and trim of fat, the dark meat boneless and skinless chicken thighs are the way to go. They have a higher fat content, so of course they take longer to cook, but they come out of the fryer more tender, moist, and flavorful.
Not a fan of spicy foods? While normally I would say “no issue” and give a way to adapt the recipe to fit your preferences, I’m just not sure if that’s possible for this sauce. The chicken could stand on its own with some barbeque sauce, I’m sure, but I haven’t ever tried it. Gochujang is a main ingredient that gives the sauce it’s thick viscosity and without it, the sambal, sriracha, and sweet chili sauce, there just wouldn’t be a lot of flavor.
The gluten free flours: Using 1/2 cup of superfine sweet white rice flour with 1/4 cup tapioca starch, 1/4 cup potato starch, and 2 tbsp cornstarch will ensure you get the crispiest chicken possible. If you need to find any of these ingredients, look here!
Start by heating up your oil, then move on to making the flour and spices mix.
To trim the chicken thighs, remove all of the fat you can with a paring or filet knife.
Then, slice them into evenly sized bite-sized chunks. The pieces have to be approximately the same size so they cook in around the same amount of time. Unevenly cubed chicken will unfortunately result in overcooked smaller pieces.
Be careful when adding the chicken to the flour mixture, as the flour often goes everywhere in the air. This creates SUCH an inconvenient mess, and I get around it by adding my chicken to the flour and stirring one spoonful at a time. Do your best to make sure all of the pieces are evenly coated in flour.
The next step is to fry your chicken, which can be daunting. During the first round of recipe development for this chicken, I was SUPER afraid of the fryer. I don’t use a deep fryer very often because I’m such a huge fan of my air fryer, but deep frying chicken bites isn’t bad at all.
Once your oil is heated, drop a spoonful of chicken into 350 to 375 degree oil. It’s okay if the oil is a tad bit hotter or cooler, but this is the optimal range for crispiness. Don’t add too much chicken, this can overcrowd the pot and prevent the outside from crisping up.
This chicken is fried twice. I fry all of the chicken once, and make sure it’s fully cooked after the first round (around 165 for internal temperature, slightly golden on the outside). After the second fry, they are crispier and more golden brown.
Mix together the sauce in a large bowl, then pour it over the chicken. Mix with a spatula until evenly coated.
I then like to add the chicken into a more aesthetically pleasing bowl for serving, and top the chicken with scallions. This chicken can also be served over rice, the way it is served at my favorite restaurant, Den Den Korean Fried Chicken, in Providence, Rhode Island.
I hope you all love this recipe as much as I do. It’s delicious, not that difficult to make, and the crispiest gluten free fried chicken you will ever find!
*This recipe was adapted from lycheeandlavender.com. See site for full details.