Chicken & Waffles: A Southern Specialty with a Twist
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I don't know if you've noticed, but lately people are turning everything into a waffle. I've seen things like waffle pizzas, waffle sandwiches and all kinds of waffle desserts, but when I came across potato waffles, I knew I had to try those right away! Down here in The South, we have a dish that's pretty common to find, especially in restaurants of the "farm to table" variety: Chicken & Waffles. This is pretty straightforward - a pile of fried chicken, served with a mess of (regular) waffles, and usually accompanied by corn. I've ordered this before, but usually wind up feeling pretty meh after I've eaten it. No one can make fried chicken dinner like my Mommy, so I don't know why I even bother to try it anyplace else. Actually, I do know why.
It's because it has pretty much been my favorite full meal, ever since I was little. It would be my birthday and my mom would ask what I wanted for dinner, and I would say fried chicken. She'd sigh and then pull out the electric skillet, the tongs, the bowls for the flour and egg and then get the potatoes boiling on the stove (because you have to eat fried chicken with mashed potatoes and corn, you know!) and pretty soon, I'd hear the happy popping of grease and know that my wish was being granted - and I'd soon be creeping to the kitchen to sneak some "crunchies" (random globs of batter that fell into the hot oil) for a pre-dinner treat. Aaahhh...my mouth is watering, just thinking about it. So it only made sense that when I came across this potato waffle idea, I needed to put my own little spin on this "chicken and waffle" thing:
Potato Waffles - What You Need
1 chopped onion
3 cloves (or a monster handful, if you're a garlic fiend, like me) minced garlic
3-pound bag of potatoes
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
What You Do
1. Get your potatoes boiling while you cook up the onion and garlic (in a bit of oil) until they're soft.
2. Mash your potatoes in a big bowl, then mix in the onion and garlic along with the flour, eggs, salt and pepper (How much salt & pepper? Depends on how much you'd like, but figure on at least 1/2 teaspoon of each).
3. Dump clumps of this mixture onto a hot waffle iron until it's fully covered (this waffle maker is made of safer materials than the old Teflon-coated models and is fairly inexpensive, as well).
4. Cook until they're as crisp as you'd like - you'll have to open the iron up to take a little peek while making your first waffle in order to figure this out.
When you do that, you'll most likely panic because the waffle will be all separated and look like a big mess, but don't worry, everything will stick back together when you close the waffle-maker again. (Does anyone else remember that "you broke my brownie" commercial from the '80s - where the Pillsbury Dough Boy was able to "magically" put it back together?)
5. Serve with corn and the world's easiest way to prepare chicken:
Not-Fried, but Still-Delicious Chicken
Even though I've been known to get pretty close to my mom's fried chicken in the past, we tend to go the healthier route around here and so I only fry up a batch of the stuff about once every decade. Plus, we all know I'm lazy, so in my mind, this is the absolute most genius way to make chicken: 1. Stick chicken pieces (or a whole chicken, but we use legs the most because they're the cheapest) in an 8x8-inch glass dish - which, hopefully, fits perfectly inside your toaster oven. You do have a toaster oven, right? We bake almost everything in ours - costs way less to heat up and works just as fast as the big one, since we invested in a convection model (they don't make ours anymore, but when I have to replace it, I might just get this one, that can rotisserie, too). 2. Drizzle some olive oil over both sides and shake some salt, pepper, and whatever other spices you're in the mood for all over the thing. Ours pretty much always has a thick dusting of garlic powder covering it (big surprise, right?), but then I'll often add basil and other herbs, too. 3. Bake the chicken for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then flip it over and bake it another 30 minutes - or until the skin looks all crispy and delicious.
This meal just screams Summer! to me. It's the perfect thing for porch picnics or family cookouts or just settling down to eat on a normal night at the dining room table.
Plus, it's a way to jump on the wild, waffle-food bandwagon without being too weird!
Do you have a favorite meal like this? And have you ever tried making something non-waffly into a waffle? I'd love to hear! Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.
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