I’m very excited to post this recipe, especially as we put lots of effort into creating this comfort classic. We did a lot of research, spent an entire evening making way too many waffles, and worked out the kinks to our plan. But really, we were facing quite a challenge. How do you make fried chicken and waffles healthy?
I’ll tell you! You cut the fat as much as possible, you bake the chicken with a crispy crust (rather than frying it), and you skip the real syrup and opt for the sugar free stuff.
I realize that sounds like quite a sacrifice, but if the recipe is done right, it won’t taste like you’re missing out. And I think we nailed it (okay, except for the syrup thing…so if you want to splurge a little bit and use real maple syrup, I won’t judge. Obviously, we splurged with the good stuff):
Whipping up Test Kitchen recipes has really been a challenge in the last year or so. Shawn’s work usually takes him all over the country for long periods of time, so Thomas and I were always the anchor. With our uprooting and moving to Chicagoland, it’s been even worse. But this Valentine’s Day weekend, we converged on my in-laws and took over the kitchen.
And that’s not an exaggeration.
My in-laws knew our plan, but I don’t think they really realized what they were getting into. We didn’t realize how filling this recipe would be, and for some reason, we thought making 5 batches of batter was the key. Holy cow that was ridiculous. My brother-in-law likes to make the joke that when Shawn and I try to test something new out, we’re lucky if we eat before 11pm.
I wish that were an exaggeration.
Because of Ginny and Jack, we knew we had to do better. We tried to delegate as much as possible. My mother-in-law kept Ginny fairly preoccupied with books, Veggie Tales, and a Duplo set. Apparently, armless vegetable people don’t keep her attention quite as well as Disney princesses. Ginny made a phone out of duplo blocks and walked around the house talking to it.
Jack mostly tried to poke his cousin, who is about six weeks younger than him. She didn’t like that very much, even when he simply wanted to grab her hand and eat it. I don’t know why…after all, the rest of us thought it was adorable. 🙂
Then we put Jack in his cousin’s horse bouncy-thing (not sure if there’s an official name for this awesome baby bouncer). I was a little skeptical because Ginny hated bouncers. In fact, I was with my sister-in-law when she found the horse bouncy-thing at a garage sale and personally wasn’t very impressed. I thought it would be a giant waste of space. I didn’t tell her that, because I know babies and their picky tastes can be very different. Plus, my sister-in-law adores all things to do with horses, so I knew to keep my mouth shut. And am I ever so glad I did! Jack absolutely loved it. He jumped in that thing for hours with a huge, toothless grin on his face. That horse bouncy-thing really helped make all the work in the kitchen possible.
Since we were making so much food, and waffles take quite a bit of time when you’re making so many of them, we decided to serve everyone individually as soon as a waffle was finished. My poor father-in-law…he was forced to eat first as we all watched him intently for his reaction. After all, this born-and-raised country man thought chicken and waffles a pretty silly idea.
But it’s a southern comfort dish, you might say. Don’t people in the country love that sort of thing?
Actually, Shawn and I did some research and it seems Fried Chicken and Waffles isn’t really a southern thing at all. The idea of putting the two together started with the Dutch in Pennsylvania, when they combined chicken, waffles, and gravy. Fried chicken and waffles really developed in big urban cities as “soul food”. For more, visit Discover the History of Chicken and Waffles.
I can see where the reputation came from. This is definitely a comfort food. And from the colonial period through the 1800’s, chicken fricassee (what became modern fried chicken) was a popular dish in the South, especially during the civil war.
Mind you, central Illinois isn’t the South, but there is a lot of country, and often the two get confused. Either way, I expected my father-in-law to have at least heard about chicken and waffles, but he thought we were nuts.
Shawn and I did want to try and make a southern comfort dish into a healthy meal (that’s what we originally set out to accomplish), and we wanted to go with something a little ridiculous. But I tell you what…once you try crispy chicken and waffles together, the pairing won’t seem so strange.
And my father-in-law agreed. At first, his reaction was more of confusion than anything. “It’s definitely different,” he said cheerily. But I noticed he began to eat it faster and faster. He didn’t take long asking for another helping. Not a bad sign, considering he’s a pretty picky guy.
By about 9pm, Ginny ate her waffle and a bit of the chicken with a disapproving, grouchy face that said, “Jeesh Mom and Dad…this took forever.” I think she liked the food, at least. We put her to bed soon after, knowing that while we really tried to be responsible about the test kitchen event, we weren’t entirely successful. Just goes to show…when you have kids, it’s almost impossible to do what you did before kids were in the picture. And when you try, routine gets thrown off and that takes its toll. But I think things could have ended up way worse (like eating at 11pm, for example), so we didn’t do too bad.
I had to continuously skip out of the cooking to take care of Jack, so Shawn took the brunt of the work. And even after everyone ate, we had about half the batter left to make into waffles (we made way too many batches). I think that took Shawn, his girlfriend, my brother-in-law, and Thomas until about midnight to finish. At least they were delicious, and we had an awesome breakfast the next day before church.
Speaking of the batter, we tried to make the chicken dredge very comparable to the waffle batter, cutting down on required ingredients. That also helped with the pairing.
The real trick to skipping out on the fat was replacing it with another flavor enhancer. I do have to credit Shawn with this recipe’s magical secret . One day he decided to figure out what spice paired well with maple syrup. I’m not exactly sure why, but he just kept trying different things and was shocked to find out that the real winner was rosemary. Ever since, he and I have been throwing rosemary and maple flavors together whenever we get the chance. See Maple Pecan Crusted Mahi Mahi with Roasted Root Vegetables. Apparently, Shawn won some major points with his “Shawncakes,”-so titled by his girlfriend’s son. Shawncakes are his signature pancakes made with just enough rosemary to enhance the maple syrup and make you reach for many, many more.
Danger, Will Robinson!
One serving of this meal is half a waffle and one piece of chicken, but I tell you what…if you eat a whole waffle and two pieces of chicken (like we did), you’ll probably end up stuffed. I couldn’t believe how much two servings filled me up! It’s up to you, but even with the two servings, this is a low fat meal, logging in at only 7½ grams of fat (but 565 calories).
If you’re interested in making the chicken by itself (excellent dipped in barbecue sauce, by the way), I’ve included the nutrition information for a serving of two chicken pieces at the end of this blog post. I’ve also added the nutrition information for a single waffle, but truth be told, either of these could make a blog recipe of their own, so don’t be surprised if you see them again.
Yields: 8 servings of ½ a waffle and 1 piece of chicken each
Cook Time: about 35 minutes
8 pieces (about 1¾ lb) chicken tenderloin
4 cups corn flakes
2 egg whites
½ cup low fat buttermilk
½ cup flour
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
For Waffles- makes 5, but the first is always a loss
4 egg whites
2 cups low fat buttermilk
¼ cup light butter made with canola oil (such as Land of Lakes), melted
1¾ cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup maple syrup (sugar free)
4 tsp light butter made with canola oil (optional, not included in calorie count)
Begin with the chicken.
Preheat oven to 400°. Pour corn flakes into a large zip lock bag and crush into small bits with a rolling pin. Pour into a shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl, whip together egg whites and buttermilk. In a third shallow bowl, combine flour, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Prepare a baking sheet by placing a sheet of aluminum foil on it and spraying foil with nonstick spray. Dredge and coat each piece of chicken by dipping it first in the egg mixture, then the seasoned flour, then the egg mixture again, then the corn flakes. Be sure to coat the chicken evenly for even cooking. Place chicken on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 3o minutes. Remove from oven and cover with foil until waffles are ready for serving.
While chicken is cooking, prepare waffles.
Heat single serving waffle maker. Beat egg whites in a medium bowl, then whip in buttermilk and melted light butter. In a separate large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and rosemary. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then pour in the wet ingredients all at once. Only stir until moistened, resulting in a slightly lumpy batter. Spray waffle maker with nonstick spray. Pour ¾ cup waffle batter into waffle maker and bake according to manufacturer’s directions (about 5 minutes). Repeat with remaining batter.
Place waffle on plate and top with two pieces of chicken, ¼ cup of syrup, and 1 optional tsp of light butter.
Nutrition Disclaimer: I am not a certified nutritionist…these are just the calculations I’m pretty sure are close to correct. I use BodyMedia to generate my information.
For 1 serving (½ waffle / 2 Tbsp sugar free syrup / 1 chicken tenderloin):
Saturated Fat: 1.6g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1g
Nutritional Breakdown: 2 ½ Starch, 3 Meat servings
Jenny Craig: This makes an awesome dinner!
Weight Watchers:7 Points (using calculatorcat.com).
For chicken only (2 pieces of chicken):
Saturated Fat: 0.1g
Dietary Fiber: 0.8g
Nutritional Breakdown: 2 Starch, 5 Meat servings
Jenny Craig: This is a little high on the protein side, but very, very low fat so personally, I think it makes a great dinner, especially if the rest of your day is lacking protein.
Weight Watchers: 7 Points (using calculatorcat.com).
For waffle only (1 waffle and ¼ cup sugar free syrup):
Saturated Fat: 3g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3g
Nutritional Breakdown: 3 Starch, 1 Meat
Jenny Craig: This is a perfect snack serving!
Weight Watchers: 4 Points (using calculatorcat.com).