Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Chicken and Waffles

Savoury and sweet sometimes it's an odd combination to get your head around, no doubt it works and works well, especially sweet and salty, bacon and maple syrup, salty licorice candy, fruit paste and cheese, to name a few easily reconciled combinations. But there are some combinations that at first thought just kind of make your brain kind of go hurrrrr, not that they should, take fried chicken and waffles, perfect crunchy on the outside chicken with nutty crisp waffles doused in syrup, no harder than sweet and sour pork to understand right? Maybe it’s the obvious mash up of dessert and mains that I have the psychological barrier with, but I don’t feel the same about bacon, pancakes and syrup, but then maybe bacon transcends course definition altogether and just is. Anyway, enough rambling, here's my version of chicken and waffles, the starch instead of flour in the dredge keeps the chicken crisp and the masa adds a wonderful flavour. Pickle juice in the brine was a revelation, it really picks the chicken up.

Brine (baker's percentages)
100% Buttermilk
50% pickle brine*
4% salt
3% chilli powder
1% smoked paprika

* If you don't want to use pickle brine, just skip it, but keep the salt at 4%. We want the salt levels at about 3–5% by weight, and the above percentages are best guess to what the pickle brine is bringing to the party.

250g potato starch
150g masa
1% salt (4g)

Fried Chicken
Chicken thighs are the best cut they are juicer and have more flavour. Use boneless thighs, if you feel confident and want to save a few bucks, buy bone-in a do the work yourself (the difference is usually $5/kg here in NZ).

The night before:
Mix the brine together and add the chicken thighs, refrigerate for at least few hours or overnight.

Ready to cook:
  • Mix the dredge together in a bowl, pass it through a sieve.
  • Remove the chicken from the fridge.
  • Get a fryer on, or a heavy base pot on the stove over a medium-high heat with a few inches of rice bran oil (or other frying oil), you want to get the oil to 190ºC before cooking.

  • Get a rack ready for the cooked chicken.
  • Pull a couple of thighs out of the brine and shake off any excess liquid.
  • Toss them in the dredge making sure they're coated all over.
  • Shake off any excess dredge and carefully place the chicken in the hot oil, make sure to lay it away from you so it won't splash back at you. My cast iron pot isn't huge so I only do 2 at a time.
  • Cook for 3–4 minutes, they should be cooked through and be golden brown, a good indicator is when the the bubbling starts to slow down.
  • Move the cooked chicken to the rack and leave to rest, they’ll stay nice and crispy thanks to the potato starch (DO NOT "drain" on paper towels, they are the enemy of all crispy fried foods).

Well it’s really up to you, fill up a bowl of chicken goodness with lashings of hot sauce, share or don't. But I do suggest you try the combo of chicken and waffles at least once, below are the steps for my version, a whole wheat waffle and crispy fried chicken doused in zesty spicy syrup, topped off with some fresh pickled daikon to cut through the richness and a bottle of Tapatío hot sauce on the side to give a little extra chilli kick.

Pickled Daikon
1 part mirin
1 part cider vinegar

Mix together the mirin and vinegar, season with the salt, the daikon is a little bitter so a little extra salt won't hurt. Cut a 6 inch length of daikon off and peel, use a mandoline or speed peeler to cut thin ribbons, stacking them as you go. Cut lengthwise into fine strands. Toss the daikon in the vinegar mix, cover and let sit for about an hour. When ready to serve, remove the daikon from the liquid and squeeze out any excess liquid.

Zesty spicy maple syrup
100 ml Maple syrup
1 Lime, juice and zest
Chilli flakes

Add the lime juice and zest along with the syrup to a pot and place on a medium-low heat. Add chilli flakes to taste. Allow to simmer and infuse for a few minutes. Taste and add salt accordingly, a small pinch, grains, should do, just enough to take the super sweet edge off.

Waffle mix
150g Whole Wheat flour (~1 cup)
250ml buttermilk
1 tsp Baking soda
1 tbsp rice bran oil
1 egg
1.5 g salt

  • Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and make a well. Whisk the wet ingredients together and pour into the bowl. Fold together, don’t over mix.
  • Lightly grease the waffle iron and cook as per your cooker. Transfer to a rack in a warm oven (~50ºC), if preparing well in advance transfer to a rack to cool, and then reheat in a warm oven later.