Chicken and waffles is about the greatest comfort food ever created. It is argued whether the dish originated in the South, the East, from former slaves, or perhaps within the jazz clubs of Harlem. A dish this delicious must come from many places and many inventors.

I've never understood why cooks don't just add the fried chicken directly to the waffle batter. A few experiments with this technique and I quickly understood that the thicker the chicken, the less likely a waffle iron is to come to a complete close. To compensate, I chopped fried cubes into smaller bites and added them to the batter just before closing the waffle iron. The resulting waffles have the flavor and texture of fried chicken within the soft pillow of waffle.

Chick-IN Waffles
Makes about 6 servings
For the waffles*:
1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (about half a packet)
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg, separated and white beaten stiff
Pinch baking soda

For the chicken:
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breast
Vegetable oil for frying

Optional addition: 6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water; set aside until foamy, 8 to 10 minutes. Add milk, butter, flour, salt, sugar, and vanilla; whisk until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in draft-free area 2 to 8 hours (or overnight).

Combine flour and pie spice in shallow bowl. Whisk together egg and buttermilk in second bowl. Place Panko in third bowl.

Cut chicken into 3/4 inch cubes. Dip pieces in flour, then egg-buttermilk, and finally in Panko. Set on plate. Fry in batches in vegetable oil heated to about 375 degrees, until each piece is golden brown. Drain on paper towels and salt lightly.

Chop half of the chicken bites into smaller pieces. Combine in bowl with bacon crumbles, if desired.

Whisk egg yolk and baking soda into batter. Gently fold in beaten egg white. Set aside for 5 minutes and heat a nonstick waffle iron. Spray iron with non-stick cooking spray or brush with melted butter.

Pour batter onto iron (use batter amount that manufacturer's instructions call for) and sprinkle a few tablespoons of chicken and bacon bits evenly over the batter. Lower lid; cook until golden and crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with whole chicken bites, maple syrup, and butter.
*Waffle recipe adapted from Marion Cunningham's Yeast-Raised Waffles.


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