When we came back from Cincinnati after my internship with the company I now work with, people asked how we’d liked Ohio. We told them, “It was great! We loved it!” When they asked what we loved about it, we had one answer: Chicken and waffles.
Ok, so maybe we had more than one answer, but chicken and waffles was definitely always on our top 5 list. Our friend Becky (my foodie-partner-in-crime) had taken us to Taste of Belgium, this great restaurant in a hip, up-and-coming revitalized part of downtown called Over-the-Rhine. Their specialty? Chicken and waffles.
Wait…chicken and…waffles?! It sounded odd enough we just had to try it.
Oh. My. Goodness.
The taste combination was insane. In a really, really good way. I couldn’t help but fall hopelessly in love with this food that made absolutely no culinary sense to my simple brain. It’s a sweet, dense Belgian liege waffle partnered oh-so-perfectly with a seasoned, fried chicken breast. It seems an unlikely pair until you add in the secret punch – a side of maple syrup, and a side of hot sauce. Yes, good old fashioned Tabasco-style hot sauce.
Trust me. Try one bite, and your taste buds will be confused, delighted, and converted all within 10 seconds.
Whenever we make these for people, the #1 question they ask is, “So…how are you supposed to eat this?” Our answer: however the heck you want. Some people keep the waffle/maple and chicken/hot sauce separate and eat side by side. Some dump both sauces all over all the food and just dig in. I tend to put a bite of both chicken and waffle on my fork, then use my knife to put both maple and hot sauce on it. It’s pretty epic. It’s really a choose-your-own-adventure dish.
And one of the best parts about the recipe? If you have leftover waffles, you can serve them for dessert (if you have room!) or for breakfast the next morning with strawberries and freshly whipped cream, or nutella and bananas…yum…
When we moved back to Utah following my internship that summer, we missed it SO much that we spent the entire next year perfecting our copy-cat recipe of the taste-bud-tango. It’s a bit time-intensive, but not difficult, and well-worth the effort. You can even make the waffles (my basic Belgian waffle recipe) ahead of time and simplify the preparation process. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Chicken recipe adapted from Alton Brown
- Prepare & cook waffles according to recipe instructions. Set aside (best to eat them at room temperature for this recipe).
- Combine salt, paprika, garlic powder, and up to 1 tsp cayenne (I usually do ½ tsp, but I'm a pansy, so throw in the hole teaspoon if you like spice). Stir. Add 1 cup flour, and stir to combine well. Pour into a shallow, wide dish or large plate.
- Pound chicken breasts until thin (Tip: if the breasts are very thick and/or large, you can just use 2-3 and slice them horizontally (parallel to cutting board) so they're ½ as thick).
- Beat eggs; pour into a shallow, wide dish.
- Heat oil in a frypan over medium heat.
- Dip chicken breasts in egg mixture until covered. Next, press into flour mixture, ensuring entire surface is well-coated. Flip and repeat on the other side, pressing mixture into the chicken well.
- Place coated chicken breasts in oil and cook for about 5 minutes, until golden brown on bottom side. Flip and repeat, until golden brown and cooked through (about 5 more minutes).
- Remove from oil, place on paper towel to drain excess oil.
- Place 1 - 2 waffles (depending on size) and 1 chicken breast on each plate. Serve with hot sauce and maple syrup.
If you’re interested in seeing how to prep this all at once step-by-step, read on!
Step 1: Sprinkle the yeast and white sugar over warm milk in a small bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes. The yeast will get all bubbly and form a creamy foam.
Step 2: While the yeast is bubblifying, I usually go ahead and make my seasoning mix for the chicken. Mix together the 2 T salt, 2 T paprika, 2 t garlic powder, and up to 1 t cayenne pepper (we usually cut back on cayenne because some people don’t like it to be so spicy).
Step 3: In a wide bowl, mix the seasonings with 1/2 – 1 cup of flour. Nick likes it with 1/2 cup, but I think it’s too strong, so I usually add more. Set aside. Go back to your bubbling waffle concoction.
Step 4: Melt your butter. Oh, glorious butter. True Belgian Liege waffles do not skimp on the butter. Be grateful.
Step 5: Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl; add the melted butter and the vanilla to the eggs.
Whisk the egg mixture into the yeast mixture until evenly blended; set aside.
Step 6: Stir together the flour and salt in a separate large bowl, and make a well in the center. Pour the egg mixture into the well, then stir in the flour mixture until a soft dough forms.
Cover with a light cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes. (Confession: we’ve made this several times without letting it rise, and it turns out just fine.)
Step 7: While the dough is rising, prep your chicken. The fact of the matter is: If your chicken is too thick, you’ll burn the outside before the middle is cooked-through. So you can do one of two things: 1) If the chicken breasts are very thick, I usually slice them in half so they’re only half as thick; or 2) If they aren’t too thick, use a meat tenderizer, cover with waxed paper (so you don’t spray chicken juice all over your kitchen) and pound them until they are flat-ish (about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick).
Step 8: Whisk your 2 eggs in a bowl or dish. Set up your chicken frying station with your chicken, the 2 whisked eggs, and the flour/spice mixture. Add .5 – 1 cm of oil to a fry pan and put it over medium heat.
Step 9: Now to finish your waffley goodness. Preheat your waffle iron to medium-high/high heat. (The secret to the goodness of these waffles is that there’s so much sugar (and butter) in them that the heat from the iron crystallizes the sugar on the outside and almost forms a crust. So you need high heat here.) Take your rising waffle dough and gently mix in the 3/4 cup of sugar. Dough should be thick and glossy. It will look sticky, but it has so much butter, it won’t really stick to anything. (Reading that sentence should bring happiness to your buttery soul.)
Using a measuring cup, place a 1/4 to 1/3 cup ball of dough on the heated waffle iron. Cook until a deep golden brown color. Remove from iron and let cool at least 3-5 minutes (if waffles are served warm, they’ll be too soft for this dish).
Step 10: While your waffles are cooking, head over to your chicken frying station. Take each breast and dip into the egg mixture until coated. Let the egg drain off the breast, then press the breast into the flour/spice mixture until all surfaces are thickly coated. Gently place the breast in the heated oil. Cook on each side for several minutes until cooked through.
Step 11: Put it all together! Place one chicken breast and one waffle on each plate; serve with maple syrup (the real stuff is the best!) and hot sauce. Invite your taste buds to enter a whole new world of reality.