Like many people around the country, Chicken + Waffles has become one of our favorite brunch items. It’s easy to see why this dish has gained popularity in recent years. The sweet combined with the savory and a kick of spice takes our taste buds to flavor heaven.
One of the challenges with making Chicken + Waffles at home is that not everyone has a waffle maker. One recent morning I was craving Chicken + Waffles but discovered my own waffle maker was broken (!!!). Lazy and unwilling to make the trek to the store to purchase a new one, I opted to make pancakes instead. As they say, a great chef needs to be able to improvise on their feet! And boy it did not disappoint.
If the broken waffle maker was working against me then a leftover Christmas gift was to my benefit. Texan was gifted with an oh-so Canadian bottle of Maple Whiskey. Sitting unopened in our liquor cabinet for quite some time I had a revelation on how to take this southern comfort food in a more northern direction by adding said whiskey to the buttermilk marinade for my chicken. Can I just tell you. This is now my FAVE take on Chicken and Waffles. So much flavor!
Couple things you should keep in mind with fried chicken and waffles to ensure you get the best result:
- Season Season Season! From the flour to the buttermilk, make sure you season everything. If you want to make delicious fried chicken people come back for, you will ensure that there is enough seasoning. Flavor people!
- Make sure your chicken is not cold when you begin to fry. This is because it can a.) reduce the heat the oil when cooking and creating a longer/uneven cook b.) the outside of your chicken will cook (and likely burn the crust) before the inside of the chicken is cooked.
- You don’t need to add the egg to the buttermilk marinade but I feel like it helps with the coating.
In a medium sized casserole dish or similar, add buttermilk, eggs and maple whiskey. Mix until combined. Add chicken thighs (should be coated). Let sit for at least 30 minutes ( if you want you can let sit overnight. Just wrap in saran wrap and place in fridge).
For the pancakes
Place your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cornmeal, sugar, salt) in a large bowl and mix until combined. You can sift flour if you want to ensure no lumps in batter at the end.
Add buttermilk, eggs, vegetable oil. Mix until it makes a nice batter.
To keep pancakes warm while cooking, preheat oven to 300 degrees (or your lowest setting on your oven) and place a baking sheet in the oven.
Lightly coat a large skillet with nonstick spray and place on stovetop on medium to medium high heat. Working in batches, pour about 1/4 cup of batter into skillet. Cook on one side until golden, then flip and cook for an additional minute.
Place cooked pancake in oven and repeat until batter is gone.
For the chicken
While chicken is in the buttermilk mixture, mix flour, cayenne, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and garlic powder together until well combined. Remove each thigh one at a time from the buttermilk mixture and transfer to the flour mixture. Make sure each thigh is coated well, shake off excess and place back into buttermilk mixture. Coat in buttermilk and then return back to flour. Shake off excess flour and place on a plate until ready to cook.
In a medium size Dutch oven or equivalent, heat up vegetable oil until it reaches 350 degrees F. Gently place two or three chicken thighs at a time in the Dutch oven. Be careful to not overcrowd or add too many at once as this can result in uneven cooking. Flip chicken midway to ensure each side gets a perfect golden brown. Using a digital thermometer, cook chicken until it reaches 165 degrees. Time can vary so a digital thermometer is your friend. Remove chicken and place on a wired rack over top of a baking sheet to allow the leftover oils to drip down. Continue until all chicken is cooked.
*You can keep cooked chicken in the low heated oven to keep warm with the pancakes.
For the Syrup
In a small saucepan, add maple syrup, chili powder, cayenne, thyme, and rosemary. Heat gently until flavors infuse into syrup (about 7 minutes). Make sure not to bring syrup to boil. Strain and set aside until ready to serve.
Pile pancakes and top with 1 – 2 pieces of chicken. Drizzle with syrup and enjoy!
* Great for leftovers.. if there are any*