I know. It sounds really weird. But the way I see it, it wouldn’t be a thing if it weren’t secretly delicious, right? Whenever I mention this combination, the reactions fall into one of two general categories. Those who have experienced the magic before enthusiastically agree — chicken and waffles is the best unlikely pairing since Katniss and Peeta. Those who haven’t tried it usually have their doubts, but are almost always swayed by their first small sample. Even if you are part of the latter group for now, I very much encourage you to make a full recipe of it. I promise you’ll be glad you did.
The dish itself is an important part of the cuisine known as soul food, which originated in the American South. Though this style is not technically the same as Cajun or Creole, chicken and waffles is often found on the menu at Louisiana-themed restaurants, which is how I became acquainted with it. After hearing about it from friends for some time, I felt obligated to order some the first time I saw it, and the rest is delicious history.
To further convince doubters that this odd-sounding duo actually tastes quite nice, there are actually a few restaurant chains dedicated specifically to chicken and waffles and scattered across different regions of the country. My scientific five-minute Google search came up with such names as LoLo’s, Lucky J’s and Roscoe’s, the latter of which has been named a favorite by Snoop Dogg himself. I don’t know about you, but I live under a personal mantra that what’s good enough for Snoop is more than good enough for me.
Traditionally, the dish pairs fried chicken with a fairly dense, heavy-duty waffle (the ones at Café Mac breakfast are delicious but I’m not sure how well they’d hold up a pile of chicken). This particular recipe is a little bit different, subbing pan-seared coconut chicken for fried. It’s a little easier, much healthier and every bit as delicious as the original. Plus the added coconut will have you thinking you’re somewhere lovely between New Orleans and the Caribbean. Maybe in the Florida Keys! I’ve never been there but I hear it’s beautiful.
In terms of syrup, you can use whatever you have on hand. Nothing can beat the premium maple stuff that comes in glass bottles of course, but on a student budget that’s quite a luxury item. You can also balance out (or even replace) the sweet syrup with a few splashes of Louisiana hot sauce! The toppings are up to you — as long as you start with a delicious base of chicken and waffles, I don’t think you can go wrong! Have a lovely Spring Break, and as always, bon appetit.
Coconut Chicken and Waffles
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders
- ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 tbsp coconut or canola oil
- 1 large banana, preferably overripe
- 1 egg plus 1 egg white
- ¾ cup milk
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup flour, whole wheat if possible
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- Syrup and/or hot sauce to serve
- Season chicken with salt, pepper and other spices as desired. Place shredded coconut in a dish, and roll chicken through it until well-coated. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mash banana with a fork or clean hands, until no chunks remain. Whisk in egg, egg white, milk, ¼ cup canola oil and vanilla until well-combined.
- In separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Stir dry ingredients into wet until just combined (leave batter a little lumpy).
- Lightly grease waffle iron, heat it and cook waffles until golden. Cooking time will vary based on the waffle iron you have.
- Meanwhile, cook the chicken. Heat coconut or canola oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, cook the chicken tenders until golden and crispy, about 3-4 minutes per side.
- To serve, place a waffle on plate and cover liberally with coconut chicken. Serve with syrup and/or Louisiana hot sauce, if desired.