That chick can waffle on

February 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

Putting aside the slightly misogynist title of this dish (which before I get complaints, I will point out was actually suggested by my wife) this is a story about one mans search for soul food and the ridiculous lengths I will go to when it comes to eating fried chicken.

I first heard about this dish while watching the 1997 Quentin Tarantino movie Jackie Brown. In the scene where Samuel L Jackson’s character, Ordell, is trying to convince his soon to be dead associate, Beaumont, to get into the trunk, he coaxes him with the following promise…

“When we get through fucking with these Koreans… me and you go to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles on me…Think about it now…That ‘Scoe’s Special, smothered in gravy and onions…side of red beans and rice, some greens…That’s some good eatin’…”

Good eatin’ indeed.

Now while Beaumont never gets to take Ordell up on his offer as he is shot to death moments later, the idea of Chicken and Waffles was one that haunted me.

For years I would go to sleep at night and dream of this dish; crispy Fried Chicken on a bed of piping hot waffles, butter melting and oozing, the syrup pooling on the bottom of the plate. They start calling me, taunting me … and then I wake up with a start, drenched in a cold sweat like a war vet, clutching an imaginary knife and fork and screaming an order of Chicken and Waffles to an imaginary waitress.

I needed to know more, I needed to taste it. But first I needed to know, what the hell it was.

Do you have Chicken and Waffles for Breakfast or Dinner? Waffles do lend themselves to a morning meal, but then again it could be a dessert. I realised I could eat fried chicken for breakfast, no problem. In fact, thinking about it, why wasn’t I eating fried chicken for breakfast? But this was only getting me more sidetracked and confused so I decided to research it further.

The origins of the dish are unclear and shrouded in finger lickin’ mystery. Some claim it was introduced when Thomas Jefferson bought a Waffle Iron to the States in 1790, others say it came from the Pennsylvania Dutch dish of Steamed Chicken with Waffles and Gravy. Others yet say it was born at the end of the Jazz era in 1938 at Wells Supper Club in Harlem where late night diners could not decide between breakfast and dinner. But like most Soul Food recipes it was probably handed down from generation to generation verbally and born from necessity…. which lets face it is the mother of all invention.

Continuing my search I found the most famous purveyors of the dish, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles established in 1975 in Long Beach California. Looking at the website and scanning through their menu it became clear to me that there was a whole world of food I was missing out on, and it seemed like everybody but me already knew about it. The more I looked into the dish, I found celebrities throughout the States were talking about it; Snoop Dog took David Beckham to eat it on his show Fatherhood, Gladys Knight owns her own Chicken and Waffles restaurant in Atlanta, Notorious B.I.G mentions it in his version of ‘Goin Back to Cali’, it’s in the film ‘Swingers’, hell even 30 Rock has a scene at M&G Soul Food Café in New York where they eat it.

And here I am, stuck in Australia, alone and Chicken and Waffle-less…

Dejected I knew that I would have to cross the great Pacific Ocean to sink my teeth into this, the Holy Grail of all Fried Chicken dishes.

But then, when all hope was lost and I had resigned myself to a world of healthy eating, a couple of friends asked me to join them for lunch at Sydney restaurant ‘Jazz City Diner’.

As I opened the menu my hands began to quiver. There, on the first page it sat… “Southern Fried Chicken with Waffles and Maple Syrup”.

I looked up toward the Chef, my eyes blinded by tears and said “I’ll have the Chicken and Waffles please”.

In honor of that day I give you my humble attempt at Soul Food….

Southern Fried Chicken with Buttermilk Waffles and Maple Syrup

Ingredients
For the Waffles

500g Flour
2 Tsp Bicarbonate Soda
4 Tsp Baking Powder
2 Tsp Salt
40g Caster Sugar
150g Melted Butter
5 Eggs Beaten
750 ml Buttermilk
Waffle Iron

For the Southern Fried Chicken
Assorted Chicken Pieces (this one is up to you, Legs, Thighs, Wings, Breasts… they all taste good to me)
Enough Buttermilk to cover the chicken
500g Flour for dredging
Salt
Pepper
Peanut Oil amount depends on how you are cooking the chicken… we will get into that a little later.
Celery Stick (optional)
Butter
Maple Syrup

Method

  1. First thing you need to do is prick the chicken pieces all over with a fork to ensure the buttermilk is penetrating the bird… if you have a large piece you can make an incision with a knife to the bone to make sure it cooks through. Once done place all the chicken in a dish and cover it in Buttermilk. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
  2. In a large bowl place flour with a good whack of salt and pepper. You can add other spices if you like. Personally I like the simplicity of the buttermilk batter… but I will leave that up to you. Dredge the chicken pieces well in the flour to ensure an even coating and leave out on a rack for 15 min or so to dry.
  3. Now this is where the variants for frying chicken come into play, there are so many different ways to do this. I personally use a deep fryer at 180 degrees Celsius until golden brown but if you don’t have one you can shallow fry in a large pan… Cast Iron if you want to go old school. Anyhow if you are cooking this in a pan add enough oil for a shallow fry and heat to a medium temp. Now the temperature is the key, make sure pan does not get too hot or you will burn the outside and have raw chicken in the centre. You can even add some celery to the pan for extra flavour if you want… Anyway add the chicken to the pan and cook until golden brown, turn with a pair of tongs and repeat until cooked through. Just make sure that there in no pink in the chicken. Pierce a piece to make sure and ensure the juices run clear.
  4. Once finished place chicken on wax paper or a rack to drain… don’t cover as they will loose their crispy goodness!
  5. Now it’s time for the waffles. In a medium bowl mix flour, bicarbonate soda, baking powder, salt and caster sugar.
  6. Add the eggs, butter and buttermilk and mix into a batter… if it has a couple of lumps don’t worry… it will still taste good.
  7. Heat your waffle iron, brush with oil lightly and add mixture evenly over the iron.
  8. Cook for 5-6 minutes so the waffles are crisp and golden.
  9. Place the waffles on a plate with some butter; add the chicken and coat the whole dish with some Maple Syrup… heaven is only a mouthful away!
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