Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Waffles with Sweet & Spicy Peach Syrup

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


The definition of torture is testing fried chicken and waffles while your diet currently excludes just about everything on the ingredient list. But seeing as how this recipe has been in the making for nearly three years, I'm beyond excited to finally share it on the blog. I knew better than to post it up on Instagram without a link, so I hustled to get this tutorial ready well before everybody is on the hunt for recipes to celebrate Black History Month in February! The interesting thing about this new-school soul food staple is that while fried chicken is indisputably southern, chicken and waffles is not exactly southern in origin. It became a duo on the late night menus of Harlem jazz clubs in the 1930s. However, the popularity of chicken and waffles is most often attributed to the Los Angeles soul food chain, Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, founded in 1975. Nowadays you'd be hard pressed not to find chicken and waffles featured on upscale gentrified brunch menus, for better or worse. It was on the west coast where I had my first taste of a chicken and waffles plate that was good enough to make me reconsider my ambivalence towards the pop culture phenomenon. It's not that I don't care for fried chicken or waffles, separately. But served together, more often than not one or both components had fallen short. Usually, it's the waffles.

A visit to Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland a few years ago introduced me to yeasted waffles, which forever changed my expectations for what waffles should be. The waffles of my past had been no more than glorified pancake batter cooked in a waffle iron. But these waffles? They were buttery and crisp on the outside, yet airy and slightly chewy inside with an incredible depth of flavor thanks to the subtle tang of yeast. I immediately went to work testing a batch of overnight buttermilk yeasted waffles at home and never looked back. It's funny that when writing this post, I came across the Brown Sugar Kitchen recipe and realized my version ended up pretty damn close. The inclusion of cornmeal, which I also use, really adds to the texture. I dialed the amount of cornmeal back after testing versions that ended up too cornbread-like, settling in at a ratio of 3 parts flour to 1 part cornmeal as perfect for my tastes. I also swapped quick-rising yeast in for regular yeast, which means I don't have to plan a day ahead when cravings come about.



On to the chicken, which proved to be a more challenging adventure. Now, I'm not new to frying chicken, but it's admittedly not my favorite thing to do in a home kitchen. Eventually, I developed a recipe and technique that worked for me consistently, though there is simply no getting around the time commitment for best results. Split Cornish hens worked out really well as hearty portions to accompany a waffle while being small enough to fry successfully. It's perfect for four servings because everybody gets a taste of dark meat and white meat. Whole chicken wings are another great way to enjoy chicken & waffles, and you can adapt that recipe to do so. I covered the process for cooking fried chicken in my previous post, to keep this one down to a reasonable length!

The third component to chicken and waffles, which I think deserves a little more attention than some give it, is the sauce. Instead of going with straight maple syrup and butter, I love taking the opportunity to bring a third layer of flavor into the mix. Gotta have some heat involved, so I usually spike my syrup with pepper flakes or hot sauce. I kept that formula here, incorporating honey and peach preserves for a fruity element and fresh thyme for a savory herbal note. The preserves proved to be an amazing way to get the real southern peach flavor in a sauce without needing to rely on the quality or seasonal availability of fresh peaches. If you want to play around with that idea, you could also try a different flavor of preserves like mango, orange, or another stone fruit.


Here's how I recommend bringing the three recipes together to multi-task cooking steps for the fried chicken, yeasted waffles and peach glaze. If you have a second hand in the kitchen, even better - this would be a fun project for couples or friends. The timing here would get your chicken & waffles on the table by noon if serving for brunch, so feel free to shift things forward if you are serving for dinner instead.


Day 1:

  • Break down your whole chicken and brine for at least 4 hours in buttermilk.
  • Prep the seasoning flour; cover and set aside.
  • Before you go to sleep, remove the chicken from the brine so it can air chill overnight in the fridge.


Day 2:

  • 9:00 am - Mix your waffle batter and place in a draft-free area to rise.
  • 10:00 am - Dredge the chicken parts in egg wash & seasoned flour. Set aside (countertop is fine) for up to an hour.
  • 10:30 am - Heat your frying oil and begin the process of frying in batches. Set the oven to 200°F to hold the cooked chicken.
  • 11:00 am - Make the peach glaze while monitoring the chicken frying. It can be left in the pot to reheat gently just before serving.
  • 11:30 am - Add the egg and baking powder to the waffle batter. When the last batch of chicken is done, cook waffles.


Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Waffles with Sweet & Spicy Peach Glaze

Ingredients:

For Yeasted Waffles:
1/2 cup warm water
2 1/2 tsp quick-rise dry yeast (1 packet)*
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp Kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups AP flour, preferably White Lily*
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp baking powder
Additional melted butter or non-stick cooking spray, for the waffle iron

For Peach Glaze:
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup honey
1 cup peach preserves
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme (leaves from a few sprigs)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, more to taste
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp Kosher salt

For Fried Chicken
8 pieces of fried chicken
See the previous post for the recipe.


Notes:

  • You can use regular dry yeast here but will need to prepare the batter the night before to allow time to rise by the morning.
  • For lighter waffles, substitute 3/4 cup of regular all-purpose flour + 3/4 cup cake flour for White Lily. Do not use self-rising flours.


Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 24 hours (including chicken preparation)
Yield: Serves 4
Special Equipment: Belgian waffle iron, heavy duty sheet pan fitted with a metal rack, nonstick saucepan

The waffle batter comes together really easily. In a large bowl, mix the water, yeast, and sugar to dissolve. The water should be hotter than lukewarm, but not hot enough to burn your hands. Give the mixture 5 minutes or so to proof. You should see little bubbles of foam rise to the surface, indicating the yeast is active. (If this doesn't happen, check the date on your yeast as it may be dead.)


Whisk in the salt, 1/4 cup of melted butter, vanilla, buttermilk, flour, and cornmeal. Cover the bowl and set it in a draft-free area. An oven is perfect. Some newer ovens have a "proofing" feature and will heat to 100°F. If not, just heat your oven to the lowest temperature possible (most likely 200°F) but then turn it off completely. Place the bowl of waffle batter in the oven to hang out for at least two hours. It won't hurt to let it rise for another hour or two longer if you forget about it. The yeast flavor intensifies with time.


After two hours the batter should have doubled in volume. Lightly beat the eggs in a small dish, and then whisk them into the batter, along with the baking powder. The timing of this step should happen just before you're ready to cook the waffles.


Heat your waffle iron to the desired setting. I go with a couple notches below the highest heat to get a crisp, golden brown waffle. Brush the grates with melted butter or non-stick cooking spray. Pour about half a cup of batter into the iron, then cook per manufacturer's instructions. The amount of batter will vary depending on the size of your iron. Just note that it will spread some as it cooks, so don't overfill. The first waffle can be a test to figure out the amount of batter and timing.

As the waffles cook, remove them from the iron and set on a wire rack. You can keep them warm in a 200°F oven but they'll be best served immediately. To revive any leftover waffles the next day, try reheating in a toaster or toaster oven!


The sauce is easy enough to be prepared while the waffles cook and/or chicken fries. In a nonstick saucepan, warm the maple syrup and honey, stirring frequently until it starts to bubble and foam. Whisk in the lemon juice and peach preserves.


Heat until the preserves melt into the syrup; they'll be small pieces of fruit remaining. Stir in the thyme, black pepper, red pepper flakes and salt. Adjust seasonings to taste if you like things a little spicier. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter to finish.


This can be served using whole waffles or slicing them into quarters, depending on your plating style. Drizzle generous amounts of the warm peach syrup over the waffles and chicken just before serving!


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