I love the fried chicken I grew up on, but this version takes the beauty of the comfort-food classic to another level, and adds a spicy sauce with a twist, for excitement. The technique here uses basically the same principle as twice-fried French fries: you fry the chicken pieces once at medium heat to just cook them through, and then fry them a second time at a higher heat to brown and crisp the skin. The key to achieving this chicken’s extra-crispy skin on the outside and juiciness on the inside is to pat the raw chicken pieces dry and refriger¬ate uncovered for several hours, or preferably overnight, to let the skin dry out. Moisture is the enemy of crispness.
With the rice flour and tapioca starch, these waffles have a chewier texture than wheat flour waffles. If you don’t have a waffle iron, the same batter can be used for cooking up 4 large pancakes or 8 smaller ones in a lightly buttered skillet; top them with melted butter and cane syrup as directed for the waffles.
From Treme, by Lolis Eric Elie
For the chicken
- White rice flour for dredging (available in Asian markets)
- 1/2 Cup cornstarch, plus more if needed
- 1/2 Pound cool water, plus more if needed
- 1 Tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 8 bone-in chicken wings, legs, or thighs, or any combination (2½ to 3 pounds total weight)
- 1 1/2 Teaspoon pure cane syrup or honey
- 5 cloves garlic, minced (about 1½ tablespoons)
- 1/2 Cup Korean red pepper paste (also labeled “Korean fermented hot pepper paste”; available in Asian markets)
- 1 1/2 Teaspoon soy sauce
For the waffles
- 2 Cups white rice flour (available in Asian markets)
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or bacon fat
- 4 Teaspoons sesame seeds
- 1/4 Cup well-shaken buttermilk
- 1 Teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 Cup cornstarch or tapioca starch (available in Asian markets)
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 Teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 Cups whole milk
- Melted butter for serving
- Pure cane syrup or honey for serving
- 4 Teaspoons sesame seeds for garnish
For the chicken
Preferably 1 to 2 days ahead, or at least 2 hours in advance, make the glaze: In a small bowl, combine the red pepper paste, soy sauce, cane syrup, and garlic and stir to blend well. Set the glaze aside at cool room temperature if you make it on the same day you are using it. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
The day before frying the chicken, rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. On a baking sheet lined with several thicknesses of paper towels, arrange the pieces in a single layer without touching. Refrigerate, uncov¬ered, for at least a few hours or preferably overnight.
When ready to fry the chicken, pour oil into a deep fryer or pot with tall sides to a depth of 2 to 4 inches. Place over medium-high heat and heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put about 1 cup of the rice flour in a large pan or shallow bowl and dredge each chicken piece in the flour, turning over to coat all the surfaces well, then shaking off the excess flour and brushing off as much of the flour as possible still holding the chicken with your fingertips, so there remains only an extremely light, transparent dusting of flour on each piece. As you work, place the finished pieces in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, combine the ½ cup cornstarch and ½ cup cool water and whisk until completely blended and smooth. When the oil reaches 350°F, whisk the cornstarch mixture again (it separates readily). One at a time, dip the chicken pieces in the corn-starch mixture, let excess drip off, then ease into the hot oil. Make another batch of the cornstarch mixture if needed. Fry for 10 minutes, working in small batches to avoid crowding the pan. Adjust the heat to maintain a constant 350°F temperature as much as possible. Using tongs, transfer the pieces to paper towels to drain.
When all of the chicken has been fried at 350°F and drained for at least 2 minutes, raise the oil’s temperature to between 360°F and 375°F. Again working in small batches as needed to avoid crowding, return the chicken to the hot oil and fry until golden brown all over, about 12 minutes, maintain¬ing the hotter temperature range as closely as possible. Drain the chicken on a wire rack placed over a baking sheet to catch the drippings. While the chicken is still hot, use a pastry brush to brush the pieces all over with a thin layer of the red pepper glaze, then sprinkle with the minced cilantro. Set the chicken aside or keep warm in a 200°F oven while you make the waffles.
For the waffles
Preheat a waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well blended. In a small bowl, combine the milk, buttermilk, and eggs and mix well. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk or stir to mix well. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour some of the batter into the hot waffle iron, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds over the batter and cook until golden according to the manufacturer’s instructions, stirring the batter again just before measuring out each portion.
When all the waffles are done, divide them among four individual plates and top each portion with a tablespoon of melted butter and 1 teaspoon or 2 of cane syrup. Arrange 2 pieces of the chicken on each plate, garnish with the sesame seeds, and serve at once.