Chicken and Waffles Meets Modern Gastronomy

posted in: Cooking, Savory, Sweet | 41

Being the West coast wild child that I am, chicken and waffles wasn’t exactly a staple of my youth. Because of that, I had no qualms about eviscerating it to its very core and recreating it Salty Seattle-style.  If you are some kind of Roscoe’s purist, or your mama makes the best chicken and waffles this side of the great divide, you may not want to read about my bastardization. (There- full disclosure)

The first time I had chicken and waffles was on a recent trip to Detroit. It was served in what I assume was a traditional fashion- fried chicken with waffles and maple syrup. It was good, don’t get me wrong. However it could have been SO much better. My ruminations and research began that day, and I’ve finally come up with a more-than-passable update on an old classic.

Did you know there are two classic variations on chicken and waffles? The first is as described above- fried chicken with waffles drenched in maple syrup. The second is the Pennsylvania Dutch version which consists of stewed, pulled chicken on waffles with gravy. Renditions of both are slowly migrating across the nation; there is even a chicken and waffles food truck in Portland, OR.  If that isn’t a brilliant encapsulation of two of the nation’s current food trends in one exhaust-laden package, I don’t know what is.

I made passable classic representations of both versions before I started experimenting with my hybrid slut-ification. It’s important to do that so you know the fundamentals of the flavor/texture profiles. I liken it to developing a good vocabulary before you go making up words.

Ok, enough with the ad nauseam rambling- this is what I came up with. I was attached to both the Pennsylvania Dutch pulled chicken and the fried chicken, so I decided to combine the two. I cooked Hungarian paprika-spiced chicken thighs en sous vide until they easily pulled apart, and made “nuggets” from the meat. Then I battered, cornflake-coated, and pan-fried them.

The result winningly captured aspects of both original chicken and waffles that I was not willing to forego. The toothsome, crisp exterior yielded to reveal the succulent interior of the croquette in just the right manner of contrast. Chicken prepared like this eliminates one of the problems I find with the fried chicken version of the dish. Fried chicken in combination with a thick waffle is too dry for me.  The only recourse is more maple syrup, which makes it too sweet. This way there is still a little crunch from the cornflake-crust, but the chicken inside is so tender and flavored, sauce is almost an afterthought.

I say almost, because after one taste of the banana foam I devised in place of more traditional sauce (gravy or maple syrup), I almost wanted to spray it directly in my mouth straight out of the whipped cream canister. The banana foam has notes of anise, lemongrass and coconut and couldn’t be more refreshing when acting as a foil against the richness of the chicken croquettes.

Another thing I discovered I didn’t totally love with traditional chicken and waffles is the gut-bomb feeling I got after eating a giant plate of waffles. I decided to streamline them by making smaller, denser pizzelles instead. Not only are pizzelles more visually-stimulating (we eat first with our eyes), they are also a better backdrop for the various textures that compose the dish.

On the note of texture, it is important to consider the friction created by tasting various foods against a saliva-lubricated interface (aka the mouth). Yes, most of us love the flavor of chocolate ice cream, but what if it had the texture of pea gravel- would it still be such a beloved dessert? In thinking about my chicken and waffles as a whole, I covered a gamut of textures with the dual-style chicken, the crunch of the pizzelle, and the creaminess of the banana foam. The only thing I lacked is effervescence. Enter mint coconut bubbles. I steeped some mint leaves in light coconut milk then mixed the infusion with powdered lecithin. Finally I frothed the mixture with an immersion blender and scooped dollops of bubbles onto the plate.

Different parts of the mouth respond to different textures. Bubbles (think carbonated beverages, etc) burst against the roof and rear of the mouth. When you consider the perfect bite, you must bear in mind the tactile sensation of food as it is being eaten. An ideal mouthful evokes responses from various oral zones. While the back of the jowl denotes crunch, the front of the tongue detects smoothness as in a sauce. Soft textures play on the middle of the tongue. Spice and sauce will linger on the soft palate after the bite has been swallowed. The perfect bite is multi-dimensional and includes a thoughtful combination of several of these textures.

At the end of the day, we eat food. Sometimes we like it and sometimes we don’t. Many find it intriguing to think about why. Because of this, modernist (some say molecular) gastronomy is not going away any time soon. You can deny its validity in favor of “slow food,” but the fact remains that the staunch supporters of both camps are really doing the same thing at the end of the day, and that is combining food in thoughtful ways in order to please the palate. This adaptation of chicken and waffles is an example of food that can be perceived in different ways. If you don’t want to think about it, just eat it- you’ll like it. If you do wish to analyze it on the molecular level, however, go ahead- there is plenty of food for thought.

Chicken Paprika Croquettes and Pizzelles with Banana Foam and Mint Coconut Bubbles

Serves 4

For the chicken:

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped medium
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika (as fresh as possible)
  • 3 bay leaves, ripped in half
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten in a shallow dish
  • 2 cups cornflakes, crushed
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp butter

For the pizzelles: (based on an old recipe from Betty Crocker, I think, but modified with lard and butter and recreated years ago so not 100% sure who to give credit to for the original)

  • 1 c flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 oz butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 oz lard, melted and cooled
  • ½ vanilla pod OR 1 tsp anise extract
  • 2 eggs ( I always use 1 chicken egg, 1 duck egg)

For the banana foam:

  • 1 sheet of leaf gelatin
  • ½ banana, chopped into ¼” dice
  • ¼ c corn syrup
  • ½ c light coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 star anise
  • ½ stalk lemongrass, chopped into 1/8” rounds
  • ½ c heavy cream
  • Small amount of yellow gel food coloring, if you wish

For the mint-coconut bubbles:

  • 1 c mint leaves
  • 200 ml light coconut milk
  • 200 ml water
  • Small amount of green gel food coloring, if you wish
  • 1-2 grams powdered soy lecithin (available from willpowder.net)

The chicken:

  1. Heat sous vide water bath to 165°F. Salt and pepper chicken thighs, then fry, skin-side down in a dry skillet (fat will render) until browned- about three minutes. Flip onto flesh-side and fry for one minute. Remove to a towel-lined plate.
  2. Add the shallots to the fat rendered in the skillet and cook until browned. Add the garlic, bay leaf and paprika and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Place the chicken and the paprika-shallot mixture in a food grade plastic bag, seal, and immerse in the water bath for 6-8 hours, or until thigh meat is so tender it pulls off the bone in your fingers.
  4. Remove the chicken from the water bath, cut open the bag and cool until you can handle it comfortably. Pull the chicken from the bones and place in a bowl along with some of the resulting paprika-shallot liquid. Form pulled chicken into balls about 1” thick.
  5. Dip chicken croquettes into the egg, then coat with cornflakes. Pan-fry in half-canola, half-butter until crisp on all sides.

The pizzelles:

  1. Sift the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the butter, lard, vanilla and eggs and stir until well-combined and no bubbles remain. Drop by the tablespoon into a pizzelle-maker and cook until sizzling stops. This recipe will make extra pizzelles, which is never a bad thing!

The banana foam:

  1. Immerse the sheet of gelatin in cold water for about five minutes or until pliable.
  2. Combine all other ingredients except the heavy cream in a small skillet. Bring to boil, then simmer for five minutes. Strain the mixture into a bowl and add the sheet of gelatin (not the water). Whisk to thoroughly combine. Add the heavy cream and food coloring if using, then whisk again.
  3. Strain the mixture once more into a whipped cream canister and charge with one NO2 cartridge. Keep canister in an ice bath and shake occasionally. Use when cooled.

The mint-coconut bubbles:

  1. Heat all ingredients except the lecithin in a saucepan until boiling. Remove from heat and steep for five minutes. Puree with an immersion blender, then strain the mint leaves out. Place liquid in the cup designed for the immersion blender and add the lecithin. Aerate with the immersion blender until lecithin is completely mixed and bubbles form.

At service:

Arrange pizzelles on plate. Top with banana foam and chicken croquettes. Spoon foam onto plate and enjoy!

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41 Responses

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  10. What? No tampon-smoked steak? Ok, I will settle for your chicken and waffles. Would love to see them on the cover of Saveur, too ;)

  11. I did not know they had Roscoe’s any place but LA. I prefer your version. GREG

  12. You seriously never cease to amaze me. The mint coconut bubbles and banana foam sound amazing.

  13. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Georgie Kubarych, oc2seattle and Linda M Nicholson, kathy gori. kathy gori said: Yow! Chicken and waffles redesigned!! Check em out. RT @saltyseattle http://ht.ly/3Nt5z [...]

  14. First, I’m in shock at how many people on here have NEVER had chicken and waffles :D Since I’m from the South, it’s a given, but when I moved to LA – Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles was every actor/writer’s late night “Yeah, I can hang in every part of town” and “Yeah, I can eat til I puke up all the alcohol and pot that made me act so brave on stage tonight” place to go. And these days, it’s hip, happening, trendy and multiplied. You’ve done a brilliant (but isn’t that your middle name?) job with making this au elegant and possible to eat without the morning after regret.

  15. I spent ten years in the south and admit; I ONCE had good chicken and waffles. Light waffles and some heat in the chicken that was amazing with maple syrup. I love maple syrup so at first was apprehensive about your banana foam but truth is…it’s what you do. How boring if you did the expected and I’ll trust you on it because I think the pizelles genius girl, absolutely genius (full disclosure, I do have a pizelle iron!).

  16. Have I told you lately that I love you? (and can you hear me sing it?) This looks fabulous. I have never had chicken and waffles in any rendition but I am intrigued by your twist on what seems to be two classic ways of dealing with it. And um- banana foam? I almost want to spray it directly in my mouth straight out of the whipped cream canister also!

    Linda Reply:

    @Andra@FrenchPressMemos, you just gave me the best visual:)

  17. Awesome rendition of a classic, that I too have never tried. Oh the woes of growing up on the Wa coast.

  18. The croquettes are such a great spin on fried chicken – but please bring back my maple syrup – banana foam is much too healthy for me ;)

  19. Yow! I love this. Chicken and waffles hold a very special place in my life. in fact a local food writer just asked me for my comments on the most erotic food I know for Valentines day….it’s exactly what you put on that plate.Beautiful!

    Linda Reply:

    @Kathy Gori, Would love to hear more about this “special place.”

  20. This is awfully ambitious- but dazzling!

  21. I so want to try this one, the banana foam and bubbles seem interesting.. I love your brain:)

  22. How fascinating! I’ve been wanting to recreate Roscoe’s chicken and waffles, though I’ve never been there, but it still looks delicious. Everything about this looks great!

  23. This is for sure the best updated gourment version of this southern menu item I have seen!

    Toques to you!

    Bon appetit!
    CCR
    =:~)

    Linda Reply:

    @Cajun Chef Ryan, Happy to hear this, since you’re a true Southerner. Thanks!

  24. Stunning, daring and exciting!

  25. I never even knew that people ate chicken with waffles! This was quite an informative post. How long would something like this take you to make?

    Do you eat this amazingly well all the time!? If so, I am moving in.

    Linda Reply:

    @Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca), dirty little secret: while most dinners are pretty elaborate, i often forget about lunch til it’s too late & my only option is to heat a pack of ramen noodles:)
    & chicken and waffles would take you 1.5 hours of active time, the inactive time is just waiting for the thighs to tenderize in the sous vide.

  26. Now that’s a dish of chicken + waffles that I would actually order! I love every twist and turn you took here.

  27. Can’t say I’ve ever tried chicken and waffles, but I have heard of it and I am sure it tastes quite good. Your take on it is so whimsical, I can’t even imagine that combo. Looks gorgeous!

  28. ‘adding bubbles’ photo – that waffle looks just like a peacock’s tail :). Exquisite food styling!

  29. This looks fantastic. We have seen these a number of times before, but not quite like yours…great job!

    We invite you to share this post and some of your favorite food posts on Food Frenzy.
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  30. How creative to use pizzelles instead. Here we have some fabulous chicken and waffles – these are some of the most artful and elegant!

  31. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by William Loznicka, William Cooks, Ethan Adeland, Basil MAGAZINE, Linda M Nicholson and others. Linda M Nicholson said: {NEW POST} Chicken & Waffles Meets Modern Gastronomy http://t.co/eykvI4E [...]

  32. Yes. Truth be told, I am a chicken and waffles slut. ;)

  33. Can I borrow your brain for a day? Never had fried chicken and waffles together before.. just the thought of it makes me so full already.

    Cute tablecloth!

  34. I tackled chicken & waffles in New York last summer and although I enjoyed it, I left wanting more, maybe it was the lack of crispyness on the chicken or the potential Eggo waffle I was served. But in looking back, it was what it was. Two waffles and a piece of fried chicken. It looked good, but it didn’t make my heart skip a beat and I thought to myself, I’m not sure how, but it could be better and now I know it can! Great re-creation of a classic and you’re right, there’s no wrong way of doing things, just different ways and we can all learn from each other.

    Linda Reply:

    @Ethan, I hope it wasn’t an eggo :)

  35. I’m a Roscoe’s whore, but I’d gladly eat your chicken and waffles! :)

    Linda Reply:

    @arnold | inuyaki, so you’re a bit of a slut in addition to a whore then? :)

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