You might assume that, since I grew up in North Carolina, I’ve had my fair share of chicken n’ waffles. Apparently it’s a Southern sorta dish. I mean, duh, the fried chicken is. But the waffles? It’s something I didn’t know much about. There. I admitted it.
I saw this recipe a while back (ahem, according to the clipping, I found it over a year ago), and I knew I’d need to give it a whirl at some point, to see what all the fuss about fried chicken and waffles being a “perfect marriage of sweet and savory” was about. But for some reason I kept putting it off. I think most of us have an aversion to home-frying. It seems the grease manages to get everywhere, despite using fancy splatter screens. And Chris, well, he’d rather not see the pile o’ shortening in solid form before it melts its way to a hot liquid bed of fry-ready goodness. After all, shortening (or even lard) is truly the only real way to fry chicken, though other methods work just fine in a pinch.
Speaking of other methods, I made fried chicken a while back and posted it on here. It was a different take on your traditional Southern style dish – not brined in buttermilk and fried in shortening, rather it was coated in matzo meal (I’m not kidding) and fried in a vat of canola oil. It was amazing. It’s not a bad way to go if you don’t have time to soak chicken in buttermilk, or for this dish in particular, if frying chicken and making waffles (which also involves cooking sweet potatoes here) is a bit too much, even for a weekend.
Me? I decided to make this specific dish at the last minute before heading out to wine country for the day (it’s a tough life, but someone has to do it…), and in the midst of getting ready to leave, I hustled down to Faletti’s and grabbed a whole chicken, some buttermilk, and a couple of other necessities, threw it all down on the counter, cut the chicken into 8 pieces with the quickness I harnessed from my dad’s teachings, and tossed that sucker into buttermilk until we got home later that night. I already had some mashed sweet potatoes in the fridge, which is what inspired me to cook this in the first place (and they had goat cheese in them, which imparted a tasty flavor into the waffles!).
The recipe is definitely intended to be eaten in 8 servings (maybe less if the wing or drumstick portions aren’t enough for ya). It’s rich, it’s hefty, and it is perfect when you dip back and forth between maple syrup and Frank’s hot sauce. The sweet/savory thing? I totally get it now. Which is probably why, after Sunday afternoon, I had to figure out another dish for dinner that night, as someone in this house managed to eat each and every leftover piece of chicken straight from the fridge, with a tiny crumb trail left as evidence from the fridge to island. The advantage? Lots of leftover waffles that resulted in breakfasts and even a couple of dinners over the upcoming weeks. The disadvantage? I’m feeling another urge to make it again, fried mess and all, because I only ate one whole piece. Decisions, decisions.
Buttermilk-Fried Chicken n’ Sweet Potato Waffles
barely adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2011; serves 8
2 c buttermilk
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1 lg onion, thinly sliced
1 c assorted chopped fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, thyme)
2 t paprika
2 t cayenne pepper
4 1/2-lb fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces
3 c vegetable shortening
3 c all-purpose flour
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
2 t cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 c peeled, 1/2″ cubes red-skinned sweet potatoes
1 c whole milk
2 lg egg yolks
1/4 c (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 t freshly grated peeled ginger
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground cloves
1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg
6 lg egg whites, room temperature
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Hot pepper sauce (Franks)
Pure maple syrup
A deep-fry thermometer
Whisk first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken; cover and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Melt vegetable shortening in a large cast-iron skillet. Arrange a deep-fry thermometer in skillet so bulb is submerged. Heat over medium heat until shortening reaches 325 F. While this is getting to the correct temperature, prepare waffle mix (see below).
Meanwhile, mix flour, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne in a large brown paper bag. Drain chicken, leaving some herbs still clinging. Season generously with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches, add chicken to bag, roll top over to seal, and shake well to coat chicken. Let chicken stand in bag 1 minute; shake again.
Fry chicken in skillet until golden brown and cooked through, 10–15 minutes per side. Sprinkle with additional salt, if desired. Repeat with second batch of chicken. Make waffles simultaneously (see below).
Place sweet potatoes in a steamer basket set in a large saucepan of simmering water. Steam potatoes until tender, about 17 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and mash well. Add milk, egg yolks, brown sugar, butter, and ginger; whisk to blend.
Preheat waffle iron. Whisk flour and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Add potato mixture and whisk to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in another large bowl until peaks form. Add 1/3 of whites to potato mixture; fold just to blend. Add remaining whites in 2 batches, folding just to blend between additions.
Coat waffle iron with nonstick spray. Working in batches, add batter to waffle iron (amount needed and cooking time will vary depending on machine). Cook until waffles are lightly browned and set.
Serve 1 waffle with 1 piece of chicken and both sauces.