~ Pennsylvania-Dutch-Country Chicken & Waffles ~
It is Waffle Week here on Kitchen Encounters, and, thanks to my finding the perfect recipe for waffles, given to me a few days ago by my friend Teresa, I can post my chicken and waffle recipes, made two ways: PA Dutch- and Southern Fried-style. I've hesitated to do so thusfar because I grew up in PA Dutch Country (Eastern, PA), the land of Pennsylvania Dutch chicken and waffles. My fiance's grandmother ("Nana"), from Mantzville, was PA Deutsch and hers were amazing, made with sour cream-based waffles. Besides every family having their favorite recipe for these roasted-chicken and gravy-topped waffles, they had their favorite places to go to eat them too. Chicken and waffles were served in every diner and restaurant, and, at county fairs and country clubs. A few times a year, churches, hose companies (fire houses) and organizations like Kiwanis and Lion's clubs featured chicken and waffles at their fundraisers:
Chicken and waffles isn't just a meal, it's bigger than that...
... it's a relaxing, comforting, civilized lifestyle!
Both of my recipes for chicken and waffles have always been REALLY good, but, I always felt they could be closer to perfection if I could just get my thumb on a better waffle recipe. Simmer down. This is not a criticizm of Nana (who made PA Dutch sour cream waffles) or Aunt Yula (who made Southern buttermilk waffles). They made what their foremothers made on the waffle irons they had available to them: American-style waffles on American-style waffle irons:
Waffles made with baking powder and/or baking soda are American waffles, and, they are made on a waffle iron with shallow, delicate grids. Tangy ingredients like sour cream and buttermilk are common additives to American waffles.
Waffles made with yeast are Belgian waffles, and they are made on a waffle iron with deep, bold grids. Yeast not only gives these waffles a fully-developed tangy taste, it gives them a very light, airy texture you won't get using baking powder and or baking soda.
Unfortunately, nowadays, the term "Belgian" waffle has come to refer to the type of waffle iron used rather than the recipe, which is made with yeast. What this means is: you can make any kind of waffle in either type of machine, but unless your batter is made with yeast, you are not making a Belgian waffle.
Why I believe Belgian waffles are better for chicken and waffles:
There are a three reasons: 1) Taste. The fully-developed yeast flavor is present and accounted for. It holds it's own on the fork with the seasoned roasted or fried chicken. 2) Texture. They are crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside, and, the deeper grooves hold the gravy and/or honey or syrup so much better than the shallow ones. 3) Portion size. One 4" square waffle topped with a generous portion of chicken and a vegetable to the side is a nice meal. One giant dinner-plate sized waffle with a half chicken on top of it is extreme eating (and not for me)!
You say Pennsylvania Dutch, We Say Pennsylvania Deutsch!
I am here to make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either. The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch". So: When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine. The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist". They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany to avoid religious persecution and established several communites in the Lehigh Valley. Why? Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics. Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an official "State" religion. Pennsylvania. The first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life? You betcha!
A bit about PA Dutch (PA Deutsch) chicken and waffles: In Pennsylvania Dutch country, chicken and waffles is a common Sunday supper (they call "dinner" "supper" there). The concept most likely evolved from "fried catfish and waffle" dinners served in the Philadelphia area in eateries along the Schuykill River (whose supplying creeks were full of fresh catfish). The Schuylkill Hotel (founded in 1813) was the first well-known place, along with the Catfish and Waffle House, located at the Schuylkill Falls, which from 1848 into the early 1900's did a thriving business purely by word-of-mouth recommendations. It doesn't take much imagination to rationalize a reason for the people of the surrounding Pennsylvania Dutch farming communities (close knit groups of family-oriented people who kept to themselves and never went out to eat) to adopt this inexpensive style of hearty eating by substituting roasted or stewed farm-raised chickens served on waffles (the Yankee version of biscuits and gravy). It is also not much of a leap to see why they wouldn't have substituted fried chicken for fried catfish to invent fried chicken and waffles!
Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken & Waffles a la Mel (in 3 E-Z Parts)!
No respectable foodie ever claims to have "the best" recipe for anything, but, I will stack this chicken and waffle recipe up against anyone's. If it looks looks long and complicated that's only because of all the step-by-step photos I took to help you. This is a simple and straightforward recipe with three easy components coming together to result in one extrordinary dinner:
Light, crunchy waffles piled high with a mixture of moist roasted chicken, onions and celery, drizzled with a savory, silky chicken gravy!
Part One: Making the Waffles (Yours or Mine, Your Choice)
~ Step 1. I prepare my waffles and place them on a large rack that has been placed in a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan lined with parchment. Once cooled to room temperature, I cover the pan with plastic wrap. This can be done in the morning or a day ahead of time. Before serving, uncover and place pan in a preheated 350 degree oven long enough to reheat and crisp them, about 5-6 minutes (error on the side of crispy).
Note: If you are only serving waffles 1-2 at a time, pop them in the toaster for about 1 minute to reheat and crisp (error the side of crispy).
~ Teresa's Easy-to-Make Overnight Belgian Waffles ~ recipe can be found in Categories 9, 11, 18, 20 & 21, or, by clicking on the Related Article link below. They are awesome!
Part Two: Roasting the Chicken(s)
1, 7 1/2-8 pound roasting chicken,
but, I cook wise and roast 2.
This will yield lots of gravy for your waffles, and, in the same amount of time, I have one entire "leftover" chicken for salads and sandwiches!
3 cups yellow onion
1 cup celery.
Stuff mixture in the bird cavities. Place birds on a rack in a large disposible roasting pan into which:
2, 14 1/2 cans chicken broth
have been placed. Top with:
coarsely ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.
~ Step 2. Roast, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven until a meat thermometer placed in the breast and then the leg-thigh portion has reached an internal temperature of 160-165 degrees. Ideally, I like to remove my chicken when the temperature is between 161 and 163 degrees. Both of my birds weighed about 7 3/4 pounds, and, depending upon your oven temperature they will need about 1 hour and 45 minutes to roast.
~ Step 3. Remove from oven and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, to allow the chicken to rest and steam, for 1 hour. This is going to allow the juices in the chicken to evenly distribute themselves, and, render the chicken meat extremely moist, tender and juicy.
Note: This is not the way I normally roast poultry, but it is how I do it for this particular recipe. To read my official rules, check out my post ~ Roasting Poultry & Making Gravy: My Own Techniques & Oration (the long and not so short of it) ~ in Category 15!
Using a long handled spoon, scoop the onion/celery mixture from the center of each bird and transfer to one, small common bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
Cover one chicken with plastic wrap, set it aside to cool completely, then, refrigerate it to use later.
~ Step 5. Using any method you like, remove and discard all of the skin from the chicken. Using any method you like, remove all meat from the carcass. I use a combination of a chef's knife and my fingers. This tender, flavorful chicken is at its best if it is pulled and shredded by hand, rather than sliced and chopped.
Note: The above photo illustrates the ratio of white meat and dark meat to veggies. Nice!
~ Step 6. Place the chicken and the veggie mixture in a large bowl and toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
Adding the onion/celery mixture is a secret of mine. Other recipes don't do this. Please don't omit it!
Part Three: Making the Chicken Gravy
~ Step 1. Transfer all of the pan juices to a 4-cup sized fat/lean separator and set aside. After about 30-60 seconds, you will have about 3 1/2-4 cups of juices topped with a layer of fat (depending entirely upon the size of your chickens and how fatty they were).
Add additional chicken stock or water to the top of the separator to total 4 cups of fat-free drippings. This measurement will prevent gravy from being too thick or thin.
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
~ Step 3. Whisk in all of the fat-free liquid (4 total cups) from the separator, discarding all fat. Adjust heat to medium-high and bring gravy to a gentle simmer. Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, until gravy has thickened to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.
~ Step 4. Whisk in:
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, more or less
1/4 cup cream, just enough to add a silky texture to the gravy, not enough to thin it down
Briefly stir, taste, and, add a bit more salt, to taste, if necessary.
To serve, place one waffle on each warmed serving plate, portion (place a mound of) chicken mixture evenly over the top of each and drizzle with gravy. Serve any leftover gravy to the side.
Special Equipment List: waffle iron and all equipment as specified in recipe; 20" x 12" x 6" disposable aluminum roasting pan; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" cooling rack; cutting board; chef's knife; instant-read meat thermometer; aluminum foil; long-handled spoon; 1-quart fat/lean separator; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep-sides & lid; whisk
Check out ~ My PA Dutch Favorite: Shoo-Fly Pie (Give it a try!) ~ in Categories 6, 19 or 20!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)