This is the noblest of paths for fried chicken to take. Only the most laudable of fried poultry ascend to the level of being chicken-and-waffles-worthy. A dish both simultaneously depraved and dignified. A dish you only eat when you are either really loving or really hating your life (no in-between). If reading the title alone didn’t sell you, there’s nothing more I can do to convince you that fried chicken and waffles are a life choice you should embrace. It’s an endpoint that one must stumble upon of their own volition.
I want to keep the preamble at a minimum for this post (um, because this recipe speaks for itself, definitely not because I’m SO TIRED and also it’s summer and I want to be outside getting drunk on rosé like a respectable person), but I do need to allow a moment of praise for these waffles. Even if you don’t make the fried chicken, I implore you to make these waffles. They are legitimately the best waffles that I know how to make. Fluffy and custardy in the centre while still retaining a crackling, golden-brown exterior. Plus they’re dead simple. Trust me, I’ve made these while hungover enough times to vouch for their simplicity. If you’ve read this far you’ve at least thought of trying the waffle recipe, and from there it’s a slippery slope to thinking about incorporating fried chicken into the equation. So just keep going…it’s not going to hurt to drool over all the pictures…
Fried Chicken & Waffles
Fried Chicken adapted from David Robertson (The Dirty Apron Cookbook)
Waffles taken directly from Food Network (Waffle of Insane Greatness)
Serves 6 (assuming 2 waffles + 1 piece of chicken per serving)
6 boneless, skin-ON chicken thighs (they are never sold this way – get your butcher to debone the thighs for you or check out this link to do it yourself)
3 tbsp kosher salt, divided
1 whole star anise
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 strips of lemon zest
5 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 jalapeno pepper, coarsely chopped
3 cups buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp mustard powder (or dry mustard)
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet; I used sweet)
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil, for frying (at least 1 L)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, measured correctly
½ cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
2/3 cup vegetable oil (I always use canola; for the love of god, don’t be stupid and use olive oil)
3 tsp white sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Butter and maple syrup, for serving
Brine the chicken overnight by bringing 4 cups of water to a boil. Turn off the heat, stir in 2 tbsp kosher salt, star anise, garlic, lemon zest, peppercorns, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, and jalapeno. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Submerge the chicken in the brine, cover, and refrigerate overnight. You can do a quick brine by reducing the time to 6 hours instead of overnight and it really won’t make THAT much of a difference.
The next day (or 6 hours later…) discard the brine and gently give the chicken thighs a rinse under cold running water. Transfer the chicken to a clean bowl and pour the buttermilk over the thighs to submerge. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours (I know this is a lot of waiting, but why don’t you go work up an appetite or do some other productive thing instead of griping about it).
When the chicken has about 45 minutes left to soak, start making the waffle batter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the buttermilk, oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk just until the batter is smooth and lump-free. Let the batter sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Pour the canola oil into a large skillet or deep, wide-mouth pot. You should have at least an inch of oil in the pan/pot. Heat the oil to 375 degrees F (yes, you need a thermometer – look here’s one you can buy NOW). While the oil heats (which should easily take 10 minutes if not longer), combine the flour, remaining 1 tbsp kosher salt, chili powder, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and black pepper in a large bowl. Working one at a time, remove the thighs from the buttermilk, letting the excess drip off, and dredge in the flour mixture until you have achieved a lovely, thick, even coating. Place the dredged chicken on a plate until ready to fry.
You can now decide if you’d rather make the waffles first or the chicken first. Either way, something will be left to keep warm in a low oven. Personally, I prefer to do the chicken first and let it keep warm in a low oven as the waffles are at their absolute best when fresh off the iron. If you do decide to do the waffles first, set them on a rack-lined baking sheet in the oven once finished – not on a plate or directly onto a tray as this makes the bottoms flat and soggy. Whatever option you choose, go ahead and turn the oven to 200 degrees F.
Place a wire cooling rack inside a large baking sheet and set a layer of paper towel on top of the rack. Drop the chicken into the hot oil, monitoring the temperature as you go to ensure that it never drops below 300 degrees F. I usually put 3-4 pieces of chicken into the oil at one time. Use tongs to turn the chicken every 1-2 minutes to avoid dark spots or over-cooking. Cook for a total of 6-7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the thighs. Your finished product should be golden-brown with a craggy, crunchy coating. Transfer the cooked thighs to the prepared baking sheet and immediately hit with a sprinkle of salt. Place the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm while you finish cooking the remaining thighs and make the waffles.
Heat your waffle iron to medium-high heat. There is no need to grease the iron as the batter contains enough oil to help the waffles release their death grip from the metal. Pour and cook the waffles according to the guidelines of your waffle iron. These waffles tend to take about 4-5 minutes on my iron. You will know the waffles are ready when they turn golden-brown, have a slight crunch on the outside, and release easily from the iron. Continue until you have used up all of the batter, placing the cooked waffles on a cooling rack-lined baking sheet so that the bottoms don’t get soggy. Tent the waffles very loosely with foil.
To serve, place 2 waffles on a plate and top with a piece of fried chicken. Provide plenty of butter and maple syrup. Be the best person your friends have ever known.