Monday, June 7, 2010

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Waffle?

That's right, I butter my fried chicken. What're you gonna do about it?

Most mornings my breakfast is composed of fruit- a banana on the go, some berries and yogurt, maybe the occasional bowl of oatmeal. It's all perfectly healthy and boring.
What would you say if I told you I could make up for it all in one perfectly unhealthy but exciting mid-morning meal- Fried Chicken and Waffles.
The combo is of semi-unknown origin. It's one of those dishes that everyone claims to have invented, but no one can really prove. Some claim it originates in the south. Others attribute it to a hybrid of southern fried chicken that traveled north with African-Americans and put with the waffles enjoyed by the french and dutch in the North. There a even a few restaurants out there touting its invention as their own. The issue fades from thought while you're eating it.
For me the dish revolves around the chicken. I love a good waffle as much as the next guy, but this is not a high highfalutin' dish. Despite it's hazy history, its emergence is undoubtedly that of a simple dish for simple people like myself. So I'll pass on the sous vide chicken that's then fried and delicately rested on the perfect Belgian waffle. Yes, it might be good, but that's not what this dish is about.
For the sentimental version, you need a perfectly old-school buttermilk fried chicken over a flat diner-style waffle (or in my apt. a toaster waffle since I don't have a waffle iron)
Since I'm just toasting a waffle the dish really boils down to making good fried chicken; no small feat. It requires time, effort and a fair list of ingredients. It makes a mess and you'll smell like a fry cook for a day or two. That said, it is sooo worth the trouble.
I don't do a lot of frying, but when I do, I try to do it right. There are a few key tricks wrapped into this recipe worth noting so pay attention.
The true art of it is in frying well. Here's how:
  1. The oil has to be hot. Know the temperature of your oil. I use a probe thermometer to monitor it. Hot oil basically kicks the surface moisture of whatever you're frying up to boiling point, pressuring steam out and preventing oil from getting in. If the temperature of the oil dips below 212 degrees (water's boiling point) the fried food in question may start to absorb oil. Resulting in greasy food.
  2. Keep stuff moving a little. If the items your frying sit in one place for too long the temperature of the oil around said item will drop. Especially with larger thing like a chicken thigh. Movement in the oil (known as convection) makes sure hot oil is always in contact with the surface of said fried food. Preventing greasiness.
  3. Use fresh oil. Through time and use oil breaks down. Loosing it's ability to fry well. Especially for a process like fried chicken, in which you fry for a long period, fresh oil yields a better result.

Fried Chicken and Waffles

12 Chicken parts (a full breast counts as two parts)

Buttermilk Brine
2 cups buttermilk
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp Black pepper, freshly ground
2 tbsps Hot Sauce (Tobasco, Cholula or whatever you like)
2 tbsps Honey

2 tbsps salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

All purpose flour

2 qts. Fry Oil (vegetable, canola, peanut, corn)

1. In a bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the buttermilk brine and submerge the chicken parts. They should soak for at least 6 hours and up to 30. This could be done in a ziplock bag, but I prefer bowl or container because later there's a second dip.
2. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk (leave the buttermilk) and allow to drain for a few minutes. Mix the the seasoning ingredients and season the chicken liberally. Note that this step is in lieu of seasoning the dredging flour. I find that practice to be superfluous because you never use all of your dredging flour, so the seasoning also goes to waste
3. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess.
4. Once you have dredged all of the chicken, go back and dip the chicken in the buttermilk and dredge in the flour a second time. This gets you an extra crispy crust.

5. Over medium high heat. Warm enough oil to completely (or almost completely) submerge the chicken. Once it reaches 375-400 degrees. Gently drop in the chicken. The temperature of the oil will drop a little.
6. To insure that it fries well, give it 4 minutes so to form a crust and then gently move them around the stir the oil. Keeping the temp as close to 325 as possibe, fry for 8-10 minutes on each side, always keeping in mind that the bottom side in contact with the pan will brown quicker.
7. Remove the chicken from the oil and place on a rack to drain excess oil. I like a thermometer to test for doneness (165-ish degrees). I use the same probe thermometer I use to measure the temp of the fry oil. You could also just cut right into a piece at the thickest point and look at it. Your crust should be golden brown and extra crispy.

For condiments I serve 1 cup of syrup mixed with 1 tbsp of hot sauce + plenty of butter.
Then I dial 911 so that the ambulance is there to take me to the hospital when I'm done.
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