It has been ages since I’ve had Chicken and Waffles? A bit old fashioned I guess, but a dish that has been enjoyed by generations of Americans. I grew up chowing down on chicken and waffles in Pennsylvania Dutch country with barely a thought of where or how this homey American dish evolved.
There are actually two distinct traditions of chicken and waffles that grew out of the early American landscape. In the north it is boiled chicken in a thickened saffron scented stock based sauce (veloute) over waffles. The idea was most likely transplanted with the arrival of the early settlers from Europe in the 1600’s.
Sure you are wondering…Saffron in Pennsylvania? Contrary to what you may think, Saffron has been grown by local farmers in Lancaster County since the 1700’s, although less as time marches on. The harvesting of the stigmas from saffron crocus (crocus sativa) is tedious work that is less appealing to the younger generations. However, saffron remains a signature seasoning in Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, imparting a sublime undertone and the slightest saffron color in broths, chicken, and corn dishes.
A century later in the deep south it was a soulful southern fried chicken atop waffles that took root and were later popularized up north at Wells Super Club in Harlem N.Y in the 1920’s during the jazz era. From there southern fried chicken and waffles popularity grew and spread to the heartlands and the west coast.
From east to west, and north to south, home cooks and local restaurants across the country have been serving up their very own versions of chicken and waffles with great regional pride. As it is nearly summer, why not seize the moment, pack up the car and hit the road. Road trips are always and adventure and it’s the food along the way that is sure to be the highlight of the journey! This kind of down home country style American comfort food could be just around the next bend in the road.
The recipe that follows sticks pretty closely to the Pennsylvania style chicken and waffles that I know best.
There are several steps in preparing this dish; boiling the chicken, making a stock, a saffron scented sauce, and of course some amazing light and crunchy raised waffles. I think it’s best to start the evening before and finish this dish the following day. Don’t be so discouraged! Just relax and enjoy the cooking. All your efforts will be well rewarded!
Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken and Waffles Serves 6
The day before preparations involve boiling the chicken, making a stock, and mixing up the waffle batter.
Boiling the Chicken:
- 1 plump free range chicken
- water to completely cover the chicken
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced + some leaves
- 1 garlic clove, skin removed and crushed
- 3 bay leaves
- 12 black peppercorns
- pinch of sea salt
Rinse the chicken well and place in a large stock pot filled with enough water to completely cover the chicken. Add the onions, celery and leaves, garlic clove, bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. Place over medium high flame. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, turning the chicken over after 30 minutes.
Turn off the heat. Run the handle of a wooden spoon through the cavity of the chicken and lift it out of the pot and onto a platter. Cool the chicken until it is easy to handle. Remove the skin and return it to the stock pot. Pull the meat away from the bones into bite size pieces and place in a bowl, returning the bones to the stock pot. Set the pulled chicken aside to cool. Once completely cool, cover with cling film and refrigerate.
With the skin and bones now added back to the stock pot containing the boiling liquid, turn the flame back on and bring the stock back to a low boil. Cook 30 to 40 minutes.
Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer, discarding the solids and bones. Transfer the stock to a container, or containers, and place on a cooling rack. When completely cool, seal with lid and refrigerate.
- ½ cup warm water
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 cups warm whole milk
- ½ cup (4oz) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 organic eggs, whisked
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
Place the warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast evenly over the surface of the water. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Add the warm milk and melted butter to the yeast mixture and stir to combine.
Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl and sift into the yeast mixture while stirring until the ingredients are combined. Whisk the mixture until all the lumps are incorporated and the batter is smooth.
Seal the bowl with cling film and cover with a kitchen towel. Set aside to rise for 8 hours (or overnight) at room temperature.
The following day, just before you are ready to make the waffles, whisk the eggs and add to the waffle batter along with the baking soda. Stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to make the waffles.
Serving day preparations include making the sauce for the chicken and cooking the waffles.
Sauce for the chicken:
- 1 cup finely diced carrots
- 1 cup finely diced onions
- ½ cup finely diced green bell pepper
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (or chicken fat)
- 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 1/2 cups chicken stock , warmed
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- pre cooked pulled chicken
- 1 cup thick yogurt (Greek)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons finely sliced green scallion leaves
- Italian parsley sprigs or celery leaves for garnish
Place a saute pan over medium heat Add 1 tablespoon butter and once bubbling add the onions, carrots, bell peppers, and a pinch of sea salt. Saute over medium low heat until the onions are soft and translucent, and the carrots have softened; about 8 minutes. Add 1 cup of stock and cook until the stock is nearly absorbed. Set the vegetables aside to add to the sauce later.
Heat the remaining 3 1/2 cups of stock in a saucepan to a simmer. Add the saffron threads. Stir in and turn off the heat.
Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan or stockpot set over medium low flame. Once the butter is bubbling begin stirring in the flour while continuously stirring. Continue to cook while continuously stirring for 3 minutes, watching the heat as you do not want the flour butter mixture (roux) to color.
Then begin adding half cups of the heated stock to the roux while continuously stirring until 3 cups of the stock have been added. The mixture will seize up at first, but just keep stirring and adding stock. Once the mixture comes back to boil the sauce will begin to thicken and smooth out. Stir in the yogurt and continue to stir vigorously until the sauce is smooth and thick. Stir in the salt and pepper and taste the sauce, adjusting seasonings to taste.
Reserve the remaining 1/2 of stock to thin the sauce later if needed.
Add the pulled chicken, sauteed carrots, onions, bell peppers, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Bring the mixture back to a low simmer, stirring frequently, as the sauce will otherwise begin to scorch in the bottom of the pot. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add the sliced scallion leaves. Stir to combine and cook 1 minute. Turn off the heat while you make the waffles.
Cooking the waffles:
Heat up the waffle iron and ladle about ¾ cups waffle batter evenly into the waffle iron. Close the lid and cook until the waffles have stopped steaming, are lightly browned, and release easily from the waffle iron. Transfer the finished waffles to a cooling rack while you make the rest of the waffles.
Reheat the waffles in a pre-heated 350F/ 180c oven for 10 minutes.
Reheat the chicken in sauce over low heat, being sure to stir now and again to avoid scorching. Add reserved additional stock to thin the sauce if needed. The sauce should nicely coat the back of a spoon.
Another option to reheat the chicken in sauce is to use a double boiler arrangement. This is especially handy if you are serving 6 or more people.
Place two warmed waffles on individual plates and top generously with the chicken in sauce. Garnish with a parsley or celery sprig and serve promptly.