If you’ve spent any time in the American south, you’ve undoubtedly tasted fried chicken and waffles. The dish can be bland and boring when done badly: if all you’ve ever had is motel restaurant chicken and waffles, you may be wondering what the fuss is all about. But when it’s right, it’s superb. The crispy crunch of deep-fried, buttermilk-battered chicken, coupled with fluffy, light waffles is a wonderful combination. (The Metro Diner is one chain that really knows how to do it well.)
It’s a mix of breakfast food and supper food, so it makes sense to top it off with two flavours that are also thought of as breakfast and supper: maple syrup and hot sauce.
The simplest way to make a hot and sweet sauce is to just whisk some liquid sauce like Tabasco or Sriracha into the maple syrup. But most sauces have a lot of vinegar, which doesn’t always blend well with the maple syrup.
The next step up is to use powdered cayenne pepper, which gives you that great spicy kick without the vinegar. But you can wind up with a bit of powdery texture in the sauce, particularly if you’re using a good, thick maple syrup.
No, the best option is to blend your seasonings into hot maple syrup, let steep, then strain. This recipe, which we’ve adapted from Amanda Freitag, gives you a great, complex sweet sauce that is perfect with chicken and waffles… or with a great many other savoury dishes. Try using it as a glaze for barbecued meats. Or replace some of the maple syrup with honey, add some Chinese Five Spice and ginger to the mix and you’ve got a fantastic Asian-inspired glaze for chicken or pork.
Heat two cups maple syrup until it starts to shimmer with heat.
Remove from heat, and stir in one tsp each of: chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and black pepper; and ½ tsp each of cayenne pepper and salt.
Steep for 20 minutes, then strain.
Prepare your favourite waffle recipe, cook waffles and keep warm in an oven while you prepare the chicken.
Combine 2 cups flour, and 1 tsp each of: onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper and salt.
Place eight boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a bowl. Add a cup of buttermilk, and stir.
Pour five inches of oil in a heavy pot and heat to 360 degrees. (Use a frying thermometer to get the temperature right)
Transfer chicken pieces, one a time, into seasoning bowl. Stir to coat, shake off excess flour, then place gently in hot oil. (This is much less messy if you use one hand to move the wet chicken into the flour, and the other hand for tossing the flour on the chicken and placing it in the oil).
Fry until golden, seven or eight minutes, then remove to paper towel to drain for a few moments.
Place a couple of waffles on each plate, top with a couple of pieces of chicken, and then pour maple hot sauce on top.