Epic Chicken and Waffles

I love days off, I love waffles, and I love my friends. So a day that combines all three ranks pretty high in my book. Melissa and I had Martin Luther King Day off, and I had a new waffle maker that I was itching to try, so we hatched a plan to feed our friends in fine form: chicken and waffles. I grew up in LA, so this combination, though strange to many Chicagoans, is quite nostalgic to me. Many a weekend was spent waiting in line for Roscoe’s in Hollywood, waiting for that savory-sweet magic that is the waffle and its sidekick, fried chicken.

I don’t know exactly what it is about this combination that makes it work so beautifully. There’s something gluttonous and indulgent about it that is certainly attractive–especially for a day off; but also it has a curiously balanced layering of textures (crispy and soft) and flavors (mapley and meaty). Maybe that’s it: the meeting of two worlds that have no reason to be thrown together, yet once they have been, they bring out qualities in each other that wouldn’t be discovered if eaten alone. The fried drumstick and the Belgian waffle do just fine on their own, of course, but introduce them to each other and this meal becomes a whole other beast–not breakfast, not lunch, but a sleepy Sunday marriage of the two that makes you want to loll around and laugh with friends and maybe not do much all day but help yourself to another serving.

Division of labor broke down into me doing the waffles and Melissa doing the chicken. I started out with a cranberry compote, inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s cranberry syrup.

Cranberry Compote
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. cranberries (fresh or thawed frozen)
1/2 c. water
1/2 vanilla bean
zest of 1 lime
1/2 c. orange juice

Cook the sugar over medium in a dry pan until it begins to turn brown. Stir it until it caramelizes completely.

Carefully add the cranberries and water (the caramel turned instantly in to a hard, plasticky lump and then quickly melted back to liquid). Stir until the caramel dissolves. Add the scraped vanilla from 1/2 a bean, the lime zest, and orange juice. Reduce for about 7 minutes, until the liquid is desired syrup consistency and cranberries have opened and softened. Mash with fork and transfer to a serving container.

Then I made the Classic Belgian Waffle recipe that came with the machine:

(It’s quite a machine, no?)

Classic Belgian Waffles

1 1/2 cups water
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
3 c. sifted flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3 large eggs, separated + 1 egg white
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. whole milk
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat 1/2 of the water to lukewarm (105 to 110 degrees). Dissolve the yeast with a pinch of sugar. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.

Put the flour and salt into a large bowl; stir to blend and reserve.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks and one egg white, sugar, and the yeast mixture. Stir to blend. Add the remaining water, milk, butter, oil, and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Slowly add the flour and beat until the mixture is smooth.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form (the fun part!). Fold the egg whites gently into the batter. Let the batter stand for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Preheat your waffle maker and follow instructions to make delicious, fluffy crowd pleasers!

And now for the story behind the chicken and its recipe by guest blogger, the lovely and talented Melissa!

I have quite the contentious relationship with meat. Being a vegetarian during college while at the same time learning how to cook, I never learned the necessary skills concerning meat preparation and execution. Cooking vegetables is easy; you do not have to worry about accidentally sending someone into a three-day intestinal cataclysm because you didn’t get a carrot up to 165 degrees. Thus, I was hesitant when Kate asked me if I wanted to cook fried chicken for our Monday brunch.  To complicate the situation further, I am not the most self assured about deep frying. I may love to indulge in a fried meat, cheese, vegetable, starch (you get the idea), but I am not so confident when a vat of scalding hot oil is in front of me.
I slightly modified Bobby Flay’s Fried Chicken recipe for the occasion by omitting a few spices. With my trusty digital thermometer constantly by my side, I was able to adhere to the most stringent rules of frying (based on numerous fried chicken recipes and multiple YouTube video screenings)-ensure that the oil is at the correct temperate and cook the meat to a safe temperature.  If the oil is not up to temperature, the fried crust will be mushy and greasy, while too hot; you’ll be serving burnt, yet raw, chicken. At first, the oil was too hot, so not only did the test drumstick turn out inedible, but I also have a lovely oil burn/battle wound on my hand to proudly show off. Once the oil cooled down to 375 degrees, it wasn’t long before I had 14 fried drumsticks for all to enjoy. There were even compliments!

(Ed. note: Of course there were because they were awesome!)

I don’t know if I will hold weekly chicken frying sessions in the future, but I will now not fear this chapter in my meat cooking repertoire.

Fried Chicken
Adapted from Bobby Flay’s Boy Meets Grill

  • 1 quart buttermilk, plus 2 cups
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 15-20 chickens drumsticks
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2  teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • Peanut or canola oil, for deep frying


Pour 2 cups of buttermilk in a large baking dish. Add the chicken pieces, turn to coat, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (can be done overnight).

Place the remaining 2 cups of buttermilk in a bowl. Stir together the flour, garlic and onion powders, paprika, and cayenne in a large bowl. Divide flour mixture among 2 shallow platters and season generously with salt and pepper. Drain the chicken in a colander and pat it dry. Dredge the pieces a few at a time in the flour mixture and pat off excess, then dip in the buttermilk and allow excess to drain off. Dredge in the second plate of flour and pat off the excess. [NOTE: I was told after the process that dredging in zip bags filled with the flour mixture creates an even coating and less mess, so I will certainly try this out in the future]. Put the chicken pieces on a clean platter while you heat the oil.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour about 3 inches of oil into a deep cast iron skillet; the oil should not come more than halfway up the sides of the pot [WARNING: You will suffer the consequences of this!] heat on medium-high until temperature of the oil reaches 375 degrees F on a thermometer. Working in batches of three, add the chicken pieces to the hot oil, turning occasionally, until evenly golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to a rack to drain; repeat to cook the remaining pieces. Check temperature of chicken and ensure that meat is cooked to 165 degrees. If meat is under cooked, place in oven for 3-5 minute intervals. Serve hot with hot sauce.

Look at all these happy chicken and waffle eaters. Need I say more?


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About Kate Soto


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