I think we've all heard the saying, "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach." My mom has been keeping my Dad's heart and stomach full for many years, and this Father's Day was no exception. She decided to enlist my help in making something extra special for him - fried chicken and waffles!
My mom is one of the best cooks I know, and she can usually whip up a recipe on the fly with no help from any cookbook, website or magazine (she's just that talented!; but when it came to fried chicken and waffles we decided to rely on the help of a well known southern chef, Emeril Lagasse, to guide us through this frying excursion.
Emeril's recipe called for marinating the chicken in a buttermilk, garlic and hot sauce solution overnight to ensure that the chicken is moist and flavorful before getting that bath in sizzling oil. Once the chicken has been soaked overnight, you drain the excess liquid off the chicken and coat it in all purpose flour. We decided to kick up the flavor an extra notch (bam!) by adding "Emeril's essence" to the all purpose flour. The "essence" is a mixture of spices and herbs, including cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme, oregano, onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper. We threw in some rosemary and Italian seasoning to the mix as well, and this layer of extra flavor in the crunchy coating really comes through once that chicken is fried.
We relied on his recipe found here: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/recipe/emerils-fried-chicken-buttermilk-waffles-black-pepper-maple-16203096
The part we were most scared about was the actual frying technique. We had very little experience in the realm of fried foods, normally we just rely on Panko bread crumbs topping baked chicken or pork chops when we are craving something extra crispy. The key to getting an even golden brown, crunchy coating and a moist, meaty interior is in the temperature of the oil. You need to get that oil heated up to 350° F. Any hotter would result in a burnt crust and under cooked chicken, while a lower temperature would take much longer to get a nice crust and the chicken might overcook and soak up too much oil, resulting in a greasy mess. We used a deep cast iron skillet and poured the oil until it was about 1 inch up the side of the pan, and once the thermometer read 350, we gently placed two chicken breasts in at a time.
The first batch didn't cook for long enough so we finished them off in the oven, but once we got the hang of frying and figured out the "golden" number of minutes, we reached the perfect crunchy consistency. We made sure to adjust the temp if the oil over time if it was getting too hot or cooling off a bit.
As we fried of the chicken, we cooked up the waffles in the waffle maker. It was a simple buttermilk batter that was just a tad tangy and sweet. We served up the chicken and waffles with warm maple syrup, fresh bing cherries on the side and mimosas. It was a wonderful celebratory brunch that hit all the right sweet and savory notes. Serve up this dish to your loved ones and there's no way you won't have a happy and content crowd!