Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fried Chick'n and Sweet Potato Waffles

I never had chicken and waffles together growing up. I hadn't even heard of the concept until I moved to the west coast. Growing up in Missouri, the best fried chicken on the planet was my grandma's. We'd go visit on a Sunday every couple of months and she'd make a huge spread of down-home cooking: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, insanely good gravy, green beans and cinnamon rolls. If I'd asked her, "do you have any waffles?" she probably would've bopped me on the head with a wooden spoon.

Let's face it: the thing people look for in fried chicken is a crispy coating, or skin. It's gross when you really stop to think about what it is, but it's true. Chick'n seitan doesn't have a skin, so it needs some help to get the texture and feel of fried chicken. The key is to coat it twice, with a rest period in between. Keeping it in the fridge for a bit in between coatings helps it set up and bind with the surface of the seitan. It also gives the second coating something to hold onto. The "skin" on this is really satisfying, but the seitan itself is also quite juicy and flavorful.

The waffles are a little more on the savory side than the breakfast-y sweet side. If you prefer them sweeter, simply increase the brown sugar to 1/4 cup or so. Try it this way first, though. The sweet potato does plenty on its own, I think.

This is a long post and it's seems a bit complicated, but it really isn't. Just time things out correctly and you'll do fine. I've put things in an order so that everything gets done efficiently. Note that the seitan should be prepared at least 3-4 hours before you plan to fry it up.


For the seitan:

1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup garbanzo flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups chick'n or veggie broth (I use Better Than Bouillon)
2 tbsp olive oil

For the coating:
1 1/2 cups plain unsweetened soy milk
3 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp spicy brown mustartd
1/4 cup Sriracha

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp white pepper

For the waffles:
6 tbsp Earth Balance, melted
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 can of coconut milk (don't use light coconut milk)
2 tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer, whisked with 6 tbsp of warm water
1 1/4 cup sweet potato puree

NOTE: You'll need to prepare the seitan, using the steps below, at least 3 hours before you plan to make the chick'n, in order to optimize and firm up its texture. I usually make mine the day before.

Make the seitan: Whisk the broth and oil together in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, making a well in the center. Pour the liquid ingredients into the well and stir it all with a rubber spatula until it's all incorporated.

With clean hands, knead the dough in the bowl for 2-3 minutes. This is really important, so keep going, no matter how tired your hand gets. You'll be able to feel the consistency change as you knead. This is how the gluten develops and will contribute to that "meaty" texture you're looking for. After a couple of minutes, let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Then knead it again for 30 seconds.

Move the dough to a cutting board and cut into 4 equal portions. Flatten them out a bit with your hands.  It won't look like much, but you'll be able to make much more than 4 pieces of chick'n when you cook it later.

Tear off four pieces of foil and place each individual cutlet just below the center of the foil. Then fold the bottom half over it, followed by the top half and, finally, the sides. They should be little envelopes like this:

Prepare a steamer basket or colander over a pot of water and get it boiling. Place the foil packets into the steamer basket and cover. Steam them for 30 minutes, stopping halfway through to switch them around if they're on top of each other.

After they're done steaming, let them cool in the foil for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate them in the foil for at least 3 hours, preferably longer.

Make the chick'n: In a medium bowl, combine the dry coating ingredients and set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk together the soy milk and vinegar until it starts to thicken. Let stand for a few minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.

Unwrap the seitan packets and set them on a cutting board. You'll notice they're quite a bit thicker than before and a bit bigger too. Slice them into smaller pieces as you see fit. I generally did two or three pieces out of a single slab of seitan. If they seem a little wet still, wrap them in a paper towel to get the excess moisture out.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and have it nearby. Dip the pieces in the flour mixture, then the liquid mixture and then again into the flour mixture, then put them on the baking sheet. Repeat with each piece, ensuring that they're getting completely covered.

Put the pieces into the fridge and let them set up for 30 minutes or so. Do not discard the coating ingredients because you'll be using them again! Meanwhile pour 2-3 inches of oil into a heavy-bottom pot and then prepare your waffle batter.

Make the waffle batter: In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger and brown sugar. In a stand mixer or a bowl with a hand mixer, combine the Earth Balance, egg replacer, sweet potato and coconut milk. Add the flour mixture and incorporate. The batter should be pretty stiff. If it feels too stiff, loosen it up a bit with a small amount of soy milk. Be sparing, though. Batter that's thin and pourable will lead to limp waffles.


 Set it aside for when you're ready to make the waffles. First, it's time to get frying!

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees and start heating the oil to 375 degrees. Take the sheet pan out of the fridge and repeat the steps with the coating (flour dip, liquid dip, then flour dip again).

Test your oil with a bit of the coating. If it starts sizzling, the oil is ready. Working in batches, gently drop the chick'n pieces into the oil. Do 2-3 at a time, being sure not to overcrowd the pot.

Check it after 2 or 3 minutes. If it's lightly golden, carefully flip it with a pair of tongs.

Keep a baking sheet lined with paper towels handy. As the chick'n pieces are done, remove them and let them drain on the paper towels. They should be golden and crispy, like this:

Once you're done, remove the pot from the heat and put it somewhere safe and out-of-the-way to cool off. Put the finished chick'n in the oven to keep warm.

Finish the waffles: Heat up your waffle iron and spray it well with cooking spray. Place a little more than 1/3 cup of batter in the center of the waffle iron. Again, it should be thick enough that you have to spread it around a little with the spatula. Close the waffle iron and let it do its thing.

Put a couple of pieces of chick'n on the plate, along with a finished waffle and a nub of Earth Balance. Serve with some warm maple syrup.