So, a month or two ago my wife (The Lovely & Talented) C. DeGroot woke and spoke but a single word. And lo, the word that she spake was "Waffles." I offered to make them but DG insisted on doing it and an hour later we were eating some of the best waffles ever. More than we could eat. So we froze the leftovers for future toasterizing.
Then, just last week while browsing some fried chicken recipes it hit me! Waffles in the freezer. I could make chicken and waffles -- a combination I had first heard of in the Joan Crawford vehicle Mildred Pierce but never tried.
When I mentioned all this to Nancy Leson she clued me that we are living in one of America's most Chicken and Waffles-Centric regions. One of Nancy's favorite spots for it is Salt & Iron. There are plenty more. Just Google Chicken and Waffle in Puget Sound and watch the hits unroll.
Now it would be only natural to assume that the dish originated in the South. But John Edge, author of Fried Chicken: An American Story says not exactly. In NPR's The Salt, the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance says "It's a Southern dish, but a Southern dish once or twice removed from the South."
The chicken I made was buttermilk brined overnight, dredged in seasoned flour and fried all the way. But Nancy insists that cracker crumbs, a quick fry and an oven finish are the way to go. Here's her go-to recipe from Lisa Dupar's Fried Chicken and Champagne cookbook.
Lisa Dupar's Southern Fried Chicken (makes 4 to 6 servings)
1 whole fryer chicken, cut into 8 or 10 pieces
Salt and pepper
1 cup buttermilk
Flour, for dredging
2 to 3 sleeves of saltine crackers, crushed by hand for coarse crumbs
Peanut oil, for frying
Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
Season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper.
In a bowl, combine the buttermilk and eggs until well incorporated.
Dust each chicken piece in flour, then dip into the buttermilk-egg mixture. Press the chicken into the saltine crumbs. Set aside before frying.
Fill a large skillet 1-inch deep with peanut oil. Heat to 350 degrees F. (use a candy
thermometer to test). The purpose of the oil is to brown the saltines; the chicken will finish cooking in the oven. Fry the chicken pieces until golden brown -- this will happen quickly. Remove the chicken from the hot oil and drain.
Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. To avoid overcooking the smaller chicken pieces while the breasts are cooking, remove the
smaller pieces first, leaving the breasts for last.
"A solid little primer on how to run a chicken and waffle joint"
– Laura Lippman on James M. Cain's Mildred Pierce