Chicken and Waffles

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I already wrote about how spoiled Mr. Foodie and I were by our friends and family at the wedding shower last week, but I didn’t say that one of our special gifts was a waffle iron! I love pancakes and all, but they are the trickiest thing I ever make, and my mom still makes better pancakes than I. Waffles, on the other hand… I’m pretty good at those. If I were to write a culinary memoir, moving to the south from the west would feature my introduction to Chicken and Waffles as a dish. I remember the first time I saw it on a menu at Next Door, the Northeast DC restaurant next door to Ben’s Chili Bowl. I balked at the combination, but it dawned on me that the sweet bready waffle would pair perfectly with the crunchy, salty chicken. And a love affair was born. Now this is by no means a healthy dish, but I did my part to “lighten” it as much as possible.

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I used whole wheat panko bread crumbs on the chicken and oven-“fried” it instead of deep-frying it. I bought the healthiest pancake mix I could find – 1) yes I use pancake mix for waffles because I find it browns better than the beefed up waffle mix and 2) no, I did not make them from scratch because I have yet to find a recipe I like. Since I’ve never owned a waffle iron as an adult, I’m still working on finding recipes I like, and I’m open to suggestions!

The chicken is an adapted version of Cat Cora’s “Crispy ‘Fried’ Chicken” in Cooking from the Hip (a cookbook I LOVE btw). She uses buttermilk, mustard, and corn flakes to bread the chicken. I used whole wheat panko crumbs and egg/mustard for a similar effect. I am also low on spices, but she calls for adding cayenne and paprika depending on your tastes. What I love about her version is the combination of the tangy mustard, the tickle of spice, and the sweet corn flake. Her recipe uses bone-in chicken, so I adjust cooking time for chicken fingers w/out bone.

I put the chicken on top of the waffle and add a simple maple syrup and a basic homemade gravy (3T butter, 3T flour, Can of stock, salt/pepper). The combination is amazing. The rich gravy and sweet syrup play so nicely with the spicy chicken and soft waffle. Mmmmmm. It’s stick-to-your-ribs comfort food at its finest and a good way to stretch chicken. In the past, I’ve cut up the waffle and made smaller portions. Mr. Foodie and I wolfed ours down and proceeded into a mini-food coma for an hour. Good thing we ate early. Now we can take a walk before dark.

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Chicken and Waffles Recipe (serves 2 w/ some leftover chicken)

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

7 strips of chicken breast (1-2 breasts depending on size)

1 Cup All-Purpose Flour

Salt and Pepper

2 Eggs

2 Tablespoons Spicy Brown Mustard

1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 Cup Whole Wheat Panko Bread Crumbs

Waffle Mix (2 Cups dry – makes two good sized waffles in reg iron)

3 Tablespoons butter

3 Tablespoons flour

1 Can Stock

Maple Syrup

Oil a baking sheet with the olive oil and preheat oven to 425 F. Dredge the chicken strips in flour, salt, and pepper mixture, shaking off excess. Dip floured chicken into egg, mustard, cayenne pepper mixture. Finally, dip floured, egged chicken into panko bread crumbs. I recommend doing this one strip at a time and using one hand to dip the chicken into flour and one to dip into egg and panko crumbs (to reduce mess). Put breaded chickens on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 375 and bake for another 5-7 minutes (depending on your oven – look for crispy edges and clear juice when cut).

While chicken is cooking, mix pancake mix according to box instructions (or use a favorite recipe). Get waffle iron good and hot before pouring in the mix. Spray with a light coat of butter/oil spray. Pour in the mix and wait to turn for a minute or so. Don’t worry, steam will escape as the waffle cooks. Be patient and you will have nice, fluffy, but crispy waffles.

Just before serving, melt the butter and then whisk in the flour, stirring constantly over medium heat to cook the roux. After two minutes, pour in the stock while whisking. Cook, stirring often, over medium-low heat until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon.

Assemble your waffles and chicken, pour on the syrup and gravy – enjoy!

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