Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chicken and Waffles. Like a Boss.

I did a bad delicious thing. (okay... maybe it was a little bad... for my waistline). I mean, it was good. Shut the front door. Shut the back door, shut the windows, and shut the garage - this was good. It was a full stimulus to the palate - sweet, salty, and just a little spicy. And it was (dare I say?) playful with textures - crisp and juicy chicken, chewy and tender waffles, and just a little creamy from the condiment accessories. That's right - chicken and waffles.

In case my previous posts are any hint at all... allow me to spell it out for you. I am a stress eater. I've tried to transition (with moderate success) to workout instead of eat. But it's hard when I have so much homework and thesis to do, when I can eat while I study. But it's hard to type much in downward dog or running uphill. And, if my lack of posts is any indication, I have been sort of extremely busy. And it's getting to the point that when people as me to do anything, I automatically say "Sure! How's June??". Work is busy, class is intense, my thesis is at a turning point, and I have 3 friends getting married. And somewhere in all of that, I still have a husband who sometimes wants attention because he kind of likes me. SO! I get through it, because that's really the only option, and I don't want to miss anything with my friends, work, or family. 

They're escaping... make sure your front door is shut!

As a distraction from the stress, and as background noise to my ever-growing thesis paper (only 16 pages...), I obsess over the Food Network. And my favorite show (partly because Guy Fieri reminds me of my uncle) is Diner, Drive-ins, and Dives. In general, I prefer the kinds of shows where the star cooks, rather than gets paid to drive around and eat. But DDD features great local restaurants all over the country, and you haven't caught DDD fever, I suggest you scope it out. A dream of mine is to plan a road trip based on some his recommendations. Also (as I push up my hipster glasses) I voted for Guy when he was on The Next Food Network Star. And I prefer DDD to his regular cooking show. One of the challenges, though, is that they don't give precise measurements when they're cooking, and only some restaurants will allow their secrets to be blasted all over Food Network. One of the newer episodes featured some southern specialties, including (wait for it) chicken and waffles. In fact, chicken and waffles have been featured on many Food Network specials. But I had never tried it. And to make it just seemed too much. 

First you have to marinate the chicken overnight (planning?!?), then you make the waffles from scratch (frozen just won't due here), AND THEN you have to fry the chicken (how many dishes can I dirty??). PLUS!!! The Kvetchin Husband does not (and will NOT) eat sweet and salty together. So making this would risk him turning his nose up and needing a second dinner (of cereal). I delayed making this until one day, the stress was too much and I needed to spend an afternoon in the kitchen. And I just neglected to post here immediately because I was unsure of the deliciousity. I mean, I thought it was awesome, but since I didn't get great reviews from KH, I wasn't convinced it was worthy to post. And then last night, I made it for some dear friends willing to slip on their fat pants and save me from a possible anxiety attack by letting me feed them.

Some notes before I unleash this... 
  • It does create a lot of dishes. But it's worth it.
  • You can make either the chicken or waffles first (I can't multi-task) and keep them warm in a low oven.
  • You can use your favorite buttermilk waffle recipe (I just provided a recipe below) and add in the syrup and seasoning. 
  • This calls for pecans in coating the chicken (I'll pause so you can wipe the drool away), and while I haven't tried it, I'm sure that nearly any nut would do here. I would probably avoid peanuts and cashews, but I imagine that walnuts or pistachios would also do quite well.
  • I used "scant" and "heaping" a few times in the recipe... I'm sorry to those who really enjoy hard-nosed recipes. The good thing about this combination is that the recipe is really quite adaptive and forgiving. The flavors are meant to be intense, but feel free to adjust to your own tastes.
  • This is... trying to find the right words here... out of control. Unfortunately, the chicken is not great the next day. So call your friends, and make them all fat.
  • I'm only sort-of sorry for the photo quality in this post - I only had shots from my phone because I ate it far too fast to get actual photos. After you make, you'll understand.

Plate ready - smothered with spicy mustard and maple syrup
Chicken and Waffles:
Inspired by watching DDD feature The Early Bird Diner in South Carolina
Waffles recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

For the chicken:
~1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 cups buttermilk (or scant 2 cups regular milk, topped with white vinegar)
3 Tbls Honey (about 3 healthy squeezes)
1.5 Tbls of your favorite blackening/jerk seasoning

For the waffles:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbls sugar
2 tsp blackening/jerk seasoning
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 1/2 c buttermilk
4 Tbls butter, melted and cooled
3 Tbls real maple syrup (or 1 tsp maple extract)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For frying:
1/3 cup chopped pecans (they have small bags prepackaged in the baking aisle - I think about 4 oz. Pause for shame in food blogger who has not properly researched her ingredients... Aanndd shame resolved.)
1 heaping cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbls blackening/jerk seasoning
1 scant Tbls white pepper
1 scant Tbls salt
Vegetable oil

(This list is quite intimidating - but nothing here is "strange" and I had everything laying around my cupboard.)
  1. In between two pieces of seran wrap, pound out the chicken to about 1/2" - 3/4" thick. You can skip this step if you are lucky enough to find your chicken pre-thinned when you buy it.
  2. In a gallon-sized plastic bag, combine the buttermilk, honey, and seasoning. Zip the top and shake around to combine. Unzip, and add the chicken. Seal the bag and turn to coat the chicken. Place in the fridge for at least 3 hours (up to 1 day).
**I'll pause here, in case you're glancing at the recipe and don't realize that there's a lengthy pause in the middle. Have a drink, if you're into that sort of thing. And pick up here in 3-24 hours.

Reminder - it does not matter if you fry the chicken or make the waffles first. I found it easier to make the waffles.
  1. Heat up your favorite waffle iron (or your least favorite, but that doesn't really seem practical).
  2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir just to combine.
  4. Brush the waffle iron lightly with oil or butter.
  5. Pour the batter into the iron - my iron uses 1/4 cup for each of 2 waffle cubbies. Close and cook until the iron tells you it's done.
  6. If making these first, slide into a warmed oven (about 200-225 degrees).
For the chicken (we're nearly there!!)
  1. In a food processor, pulse the pecans until they are very fine (pecan flour). Set aside.
  2. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add enough oil to fill about 1/2" in the pan (I used vegetable, but you can use canola or peanut, also. Please do NOT use olive oil for this use). 
  3. In a deep dish (like a pie plate), whisk the pecan flour, all-purpose flour, seasoning, pepper, and salt together.
  4. Remove the chicken from the fridge and dredge the chicken, one-piece at time, and place in the oil. My pan was big enough to cook 3-pieces at a time. You may need to adjust the heat to prevent burning, but the chicken will only take about 4 minutes per side. Once both sides are brown and crispy, place the chicken on a paper bag to drain the oil.
  5. Repeat with remaining chicken.
  6. Keep warm in the oven.
To serve, combine your feats of deliciousness. Top the waffles with butter and syrup, and decorate the chicken with spicy brown mustard. The syrup with do delicious, naughty things to the mustard. Slip into your fat pants... and enjoy together. In your mouth.

*Health warning - yea, you probably shouldn't eat this frequently. Take a run. Get your arteries checked. Enjoy it with some fruit juice. If you're smart, a Bloody Mary can offer fruits, vegetables, AND a delightful buzz. Again, if you're into that sort of thing.*