Crunchy, fluffy, creamy and spicy, these aren't your ordinary chicken and waffles. Chicken tenders, crusted in cheese crackers, bring a playful energy. The Alabama-inspired white BBQ sauce and hot maple syrup are a double whammy of extra pizzazz — perfect for Saturday Night Live star Bowen Yang. Cheddar cheese crackers are his favorite SNL writers-room snack, so how could they not be included in this dish?
For the white BBQ sauce: Whisk together the mayonnaise, cider vinegar, horseradish, hot sauce, mustard and cayenne in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
For the hot maple syrup: Whisk together the maple syrup and hot sauce in a medium bowl and set aside.
For the chicken tenders: Make the dredging station by preparing 3 medium bowls or pie plates. In one bowl, put the flour, salt and pepper. In the second, whisk the eggs with 2 tablespoons water. Put the Cheddar crackers in a resealable zip-top bag and lightly pound with a rolling pin until finely crushed like breadcrumbs (alternately, you can use a food processor). Put the cracker crumbs and Parmesan in the third bowl. Dip the chicken tenders in the flour, then the eggs and finally into the cracker mix. Repeat for all the chicken. Set aside on a plate or baking sheet until ready to fry.
In a large saucepan, heat about 1 inch of neutral oil over medium heat. Working in two batches, fry the chicken until golden on the outside and cooked through, turning once, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Set aside on a sheet tray lined with a wire rack.
For the waffles: Preheat the waffle iron. Put the egg whites and sugar in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and stir together. Whisk together the milk, egg yolks and 4 tablespoons neutral oil in a liquid measuring cup. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined. Fold the whipped egg whites into the waffle batter until just combined, being careful not to knock out any air.
If necessary, grease the waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray. Cook the waffles until golden and the inside is set, 4 to 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter.
To serve, place two triangles or squares of waffles on each plate and top with syrup. Toss the chicken tenders in the white BBQ sauce. Place 2 to 3 dressed tenders atop each plate of waffles, garnish with cilantro and enjoy!
Adjust the heat of the maple syrup to your liking by adding 1 tablespoon hot sauce at a time, tasting in between, to reach your desired heat.