Crispy-crunchy on the outside, our fried chicken gets its moist, tender insides from a buttermilk brine with hints of paprika, hot sauce and cayenne.
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 4 to 5 dashes hot sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/4 pounds chicken tenders
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing the waffle iron
- 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, melted
- 2 large eggs
- Soft unsalted butter, honey and hot sauce, for serving
- Special equipment: waffle iron
For the fried chicken: Whisk together the buttermilk, hot sauce, garlic, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl or resealable plastic bag. Add the chicken, making sure that all the pieces are fully submerged. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or seal the bag and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in another large resealable plastic bag. Set aside.
For the waffles: Preheat a waffle iron to medium-high. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F (to keep cooked waffles warm). Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together the milk, butter, shortening and eggs in another bowl. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and gently stir until just incorporated (it's okay if there are some lumps).
Lightly brush the top and bottom of the waffle iron with butter. Fill the waffle iron about three-quarters of the way full (there should still be some waffle iron showing). Close the lid gently and cook until the waffles are golden brown and crisp, 6 to 7 minutes. Keep the cooked waffles warm in the oven or covered with foil on a plate while you make the remaining waffles.
For frying the chicken: Fill a wide, deep pot with 2 1/2 to 3 inches of oil and heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F. As the oil heats, remove half the chicken from the buttermilk brine, letting any excess brine drip back into the bowl. Place into the bag of seasoned flour and seal. Shake the bag to thoroughly coat the chicken pieces. Remove the chicken, shaking off any excess flour, and transfer to a wire rack.
Working in batches, carefully add the coated chicken to the hot oil. The oil temperature will drop to between 300 and 325 degrees F; adjust the heat to maintain this temperature (it's important not to let the oil get too hot or the crust will brown before the meat is cooked through). Fry the chicken, undisturbed, for about 1 minute to allow the crust to set; then begin to check the chicken pieces to make sure they are browning evenly and carefully turn as needed so that the pieces are evenly golden brown and cooked through and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a clean rack to drain; season with salt. Flour and fry the remaining chicken.
Spread each waffle with softened butter and top with 1 to 2 pieces of chicken. Drizzle generously with honey and a few dashes of hot sauce and serve.
Cook's Note: The waffles can be frozen in resealable plastic bags for up to 1 month. Reheat in a toaster oven or 300 degrees F oven until warmed through and crisp.
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