Despite living for over thirteen years in the US, including four in predominantly African American Washington DC, chicken and waffles never became a part of my life until today. What gives?
I guess it was because I was always somewhat skeptical of the combination. Waffles are for breakfast, fried chicken is not. Waffles are eaten with bacon and eggs, fried chicken with dinner rolls and gravy. My rigid Filipino brain wired not to challenge convention, I couldn’t help but view the pairing as an unnatural, somewhat taboo marriage, kind of like gastronomic jungle fever I guess.
But like all things forbidden, this strange combination piqued my curiosity immensely, lingering in my thoughts after all these years as a “what if” despite the initial aversion. So when Ren decided to make her own Reneelicious version of Roscoe’s chicken and waffles, a dish she’s consistently raved about after enjoying it for so many years in L.A. (even bringing her own bottle of Jufran banana ketchup to the restaurant mind you!), I couldn’t wait to strap on my bib and get a taste of this pairing that I once so unfairly avoided.
A perfect marriage of salty and sweet, one bite from this seemingly odd pairing was literally all it took to make me bang my head against the wall and say, “where the fuck have you been all my life?!”
I wasn’t exaggerating when I called this a perfect marriage. Not only was the combination incredible, but the brined chicken was sensational on its own as well, easily one of the best I’ve ever had.
- Vegetable oil for frying
FOR THE MARINADE/BRINE
- 1 tsp celery powder
- 1 tsp dried italian seasoning
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1/2 small onion, grated
- 2 cups buttermilk (if buttermilk not available, you can add 1 Tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice/calamnsi per 1 cup whole milk. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes before using.)
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 4 chicken leg quarters
FOR THE CHICKEN COATING
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 Tbsp onion powder
- 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tsps paprika
- 1 tsp celery powder
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
FOR THE WAFFLES (makes six)
- 2 cups flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 5 Tbsps melted shortening
FOR THE CHICKEN
- Put all marinade/brine ingredients in large resealable bag, mix well, and add chicken pieces. Release all air from bag then seal and refrigerate overnight.
- Combine coating ingredients in large brown bag and mix well. Remove chicken from brine and drain. Strain brine and transfer to shallow bowl. Dry off chicken with paper towels to remove excess spices.
- Add chicken to brown bag one at a time then shake to coat. Remove chicken, shaking off excess flour, then transfer to wire rack.
- Dip chicken for a second time in brine, then put back in brown bag. When all have been coated for a second time, allow chicken to chill in refrigerator for at least one hour before frying.
- Heat oil in large, deep, heavy-bottomed pan over medium high heat until it reaches 340 F. Oil should be at least 2″ deep but should be less than half of pan to avoid overspilling. Carefully add chicken pieces and fry until golden brown and juices run clear (around 15 minutes). Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve with waffles. (recipe below)
FOR THE WAFFLES
- Sift and combine dry ingredients in bowl. In a another bowl, combine beaten egg yolks, milk, and shortening, then add to dry ingredients, beating until smooth.
- Gently fold in stiffly beaten egg whites into batter and allow to rest for ten minutes.
- Pour batter into hot waffle iron and cook until crispy and browned. Serve with whipped butter and syrup.
DID YOU KNOW?
That there are several variations on the origin of chicken and waffles? One version recounts how the pairing first began appearing in cookbooks shortly after Thomas Jefferson brought back a waffle iron from France in the 1790s. The dish was instantly embraced by African Americans in the south.
Because their cuisine was based almost entirely on scraps left behind by landowners and plantation families, poultry and waffles were considered rare delicacies, reserved only for special occasions like Sunday morning meals.
JB and Renée are the Traveleaters behind Will Fly for Food, a travel blog for the gastronomically inclined. They enjoy experiencing food from different cultures so they’ve made it their mission to try every country’s national dish. Read more about them and their National Dish Quest here.