Hello from the winter wonderland that is Philadelphia!
Ok, so most of the pretty snow has gone away and I am left only with the memories of a beautiful blanket of frosty happiness covering the sidewalks and parks, but that is enough to get me through the next few weeks of trudging through dirty slush until the next snowstorm hits (fingers crossed).
Friends, the result of Rachel's snow day project was the greatest thing I have ever put in my mouth. Rachel is guest blogging today so she can share with you how she dazzled my taste buds and inspire you to make your own chicken magic. Take it away, Rachel:
"You should make fried chicken and waffles. This is a meal that’s got it all: crispiness, saltiness, sweetness, and softness all rolled up into a dynamic carbohydrated duo. Go ahead. Do it. It’s really not hard at all.
I always thought that making fried chicken took some sort of special talent. I grew up on Shake n’ Bake chicken. That was my idea of homemade fried chicken. And yet, somehow, I knew there was more to discover. Somewhere deep inside of me was the knowledge that I could attain new, delicious fried chicken heights if I pushed past the culinary limits of my early 80s childhood. With a massive snowstorm coming to Philadelphia, I knew this was my chance to try to summit that mountain of homemade fried chicken perfection. I did lots of internet research, I read about how to make it crispy or crunchy, ways to make it moist, ways to keep it from getting soggy post-fry. I took all that advice and made the best damn fried chicken and waffles Queer Martha ever tasted. It was surprisingly easy. Now I will share it with you.
Let's start with the things you will need to have in your kitchen:
1.) A Dutch oven. You can certainly fry the chicken in a frying pan, but Dutch ovens keep the oil hotter. Plus, you can get an all-around frying action going on the chicken without have to flip the bird.
2.)A waffle maker if you are going all the way with this recipe. If you don’t have a waffle maker, fried chicken can fly solo very well.
3.)A cooking thermometer. You need this for two things: keeping track of the temperature of the oil and testing the meat to see if it is done. We used a candy thermometer to track the oil temperature because we don't own a meat thermometer. If you have a meat thermometer, that’ll make this whole thing much easier. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you have to go with your meat cooking intuition to know when the chicken is done. I was able to do this, so I know you can, too.
4.)A drying rack. We used the grate of our wok. A cooling rack for baking will also work. You can use anything that is raised up and lets oil drip through.
Now that your kitchen is prepped, let's talk ingredients. This is the cheap meal. All you need for the chicken is:
1.) A whole chicken (4 lbs)
2.) 1 quart of butter milk
3.) 1 quart of vegetable oil
4.) Spices and herbs to flavor your chicken (salt, pepper, paprika, garlic, thyme, cinnamon - mix and match and you do you.)
5.) 3 cups flour (approximately)
6.) 1 cup cornstarch (approximately)
For the Waffles:
1.)2 cups all-purpose flour
2.) 2 tablespoons sugar
3.) 2 teaspoons baking powder
4.) 1 teaspoon baking soda
5.) 3/4 teaspoon salt
6.) 2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
7.) 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
8.) 2 large eggs
This will yield about 8 pieces of chicken and 8 Belgium waffles. It’s nice how nobody is left without a partner. If you have all the other ingredients sitting around, the chicken, buttermilk and quart of vegetable oil will set you back around $12.
Ok, first thing first: start the night before. Brining the chicken overnight is a solid decision.
Step 1. Quarter the chicken. I have no idea how to do this, and I didn’t do any research on it. I just went to hacking at the bird until I had 2 legs, 2 thighs, and 4 breast pieces (If you think the breast pieces are too large, cut them down to a size that pleases you.). You’ll be left with the ‘body’ of the chicken and a package of giblets. Keep them in the fridge or freezer. They’re great for chicken broth and gravy.
Step 2. Make a brine. Pour the quart of buttermilk into a big bowl and flavor that buttermilk up anyway you like. I put some salt, garlic salt, black pepper, paprika and a little Frank’s hot sauce in mine. You can do whatever you want with this brine. No need to go out and buy any spices, really. Go with what you got.
Step 3. Put those chicken parts in the brine and put that brine in the fridge. Do it overnight. You’ll be glad you did.
This brine needed paprika, but my one hand was already covered in buttermilk, so Lizzie came to the rescue and helped open the jar. This is what marriage is all about: teamwork and chicken.
Step 4. Pour the quart of oil into your Dutch oven or frying pan (or, you know, however much it’ll hold without overflowing) and let it heat up. You want the oil to reach 350 degrees. This is where that thermometer comes into play. Be patient. This is an important step.
Step 5. Make the waffle batter. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, and eggs in another bowl, then whisk into flour mixture until just combined. Set aside.
Step 6. Make the breading mixture. I did a 75% flour to 25% cornstarch mix. I added some more pepper, salt, garlic salt and paprika to this mixture because why the heck not. Again, you can spice this mixture up however much or however little you want.
Step 7. Dress up that chicken in its winter whites. That's a metaphor for the flour mixture.
My best suggestion: keep one hand as your wet hand and the other as your dry hand when you do this. One hand gets the chicken piece from the brine and hands it off to the dry hand that dredges it through the flour mixture. Your life will be better without clumps of flour sticking to your fingers.
My second best suggestion: after one pass through the flour, grab the chicken piece with your wet hand and dunk it back into the brine. Once it's wet , dredge it through the flour again. Two layers of the flour mixture assures that it will stick to the chicken and make it extra crunchy.
Step 8. Time to fry! Make sure your oil is at 350 degrees. Fry like pieces together and don’t crowd them in because that’ll make the oil temperature drop too much. White meat gets done quicker than dark meat. I did two at a time and found this worked just fine. The oil will drop to about 325 when you put those pieces in. That’s fine. Let it hang out in there for about 11-13 minutes. This is where a meat thermometer really helps. The meat is done when it hits 165 degrees inside (remember that it keeps cooking once it is out of the oil, so don't overdo it.). You can do this without a meat thermometer, just watch the clock and/or go with your gut.
My chicken came out golden and crispy, and I have no idea what I am doing. If I can do it, so can you.
Step 9. Put the meat on a rack to dry. Putting it on paper towels, or on a baking sheet will leave it sitting in oil and you’ll lose the crispiness.
Step 10. Tell your wife to step away from the chicken. At this point, your chicken will be so delicious that she will try to eat it all the before it is ready to be served. Chicken and waffles just isn't the same if all the chicken is gone before you start eating.
Step 11. Make the waffles. You know how to do this. Just put the batter in the iron and wait a minute.
Step 12. Put the chicken with those waffles and enjoy! You did it! I like throwing some butter on my Belgium waffle and then mixing Frank’s hot sauce with maple syrup and pouring it over them both. Honey is also excellent. You can make a chicken gravy with the giblets if you are still feeling the call of the stovetop.
Here is Lizzie eating a plate of my fried chicken and waffles. Watch her reaction:
Making fried chicken and waffles really brought us together, as you can see. It's possible fried chicken is an aphrodisiac. I highly recommend the next time you are stuck inside in a blizzard, you get yourself a quart of oil and fry up a bird for the people you love."