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sweet TnT post: calypso fried chicken and spiced waffles

Brunching hard has become a thing.

A glorious, boozy, thing.

Caribbean people have been ‘brunching’ for years, though. In American culture, what is traditionally known as 'breakfast' is usually relegated to a quick bite – an egg sandwich on the go, a parfait, donuts, cup of coffee, dash and eat, in order to satisfy that first morning hunger pang. Brunch has gone from notable obscurity to everywhere at once, in part because of how societal's culture has shifted. (I digress.)

In most Caribbean houses, however, it has always been the case that every meal time is a time to sit down in the early afternoon or late morning, discuss world events, things happening up the road, getting a little gossipy, you know the drill. It is a time to enjoy food and the general company of family, along with whoever may pop up during the meal every now and again. The meal in and of itself is pretty much a full meal: freshly baked or fried breads, fruit, meats and accompanying chutneys and chokas (more on these in another post), maybe some fresh veggies out the garden…in short, the essence of what Americans call brunch.

I fell in love with making this spiced waffle and calypso fried chicken after first going to a brunch with a friend and having chicken and waffles for the first time. I’m big on the combination of sweet and savory, so it was perfect for me, the light and crispy waffle, the crunch of the chicken – I devoured it. When I stopped eating meat for a while, I found a way to make the dish vegetarian with a chicken substitute and it was great, but I wasn’t happy with the waffle itself, it needed more. Throughout the years, no matter my diet, I’ve always played around with this dish.

Normally, even though I enjoy fusing different styles of cuisine, I normally wouldn’t do anything as cheesy sounding (at least, to me) as a ‘calypso’ fried chicken. After all, calypso music is the foundation of some of my most favorite memories as a child. The music, originating from the West African people brought against their will to the Caribbean islands (in this case, Trinidad), came from the slaves’ canboulay celebrations, where the elder told stories to song. This is a super basic explanation for a long and beautiful history of music, which I will probably elaborate better on in a different post (so Trinis and historians alike don’t come fuh meh), but the music itself is vibrant, with layers of soul, passion, and spice.

Sort of like this chicken.

The waffle itself is pretty diverse, too. It can be thick and soft if that’s your thing, or light and crispy. But the sweet spice combined with the chicken is the perfect combination of American brunch stuff and Caribbean love. Try them separate or try them together (I did a rum glaze, but syrup is perfectly fine) and let me know what you think in the comments.


Kimi The CaribDiva

Calypso Fried Chicken

1 ½ pounds chicken, cut into 8-12 pieces

¼ c green seasoning *

¾ Tablespoon adobo seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 c buttermilk

2 Tablespoons kuchela **

2 limes cut in half

2 cups flour

1 cup panko bread crumbs, lightly crushed

½ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon salt

6 cups canola oil blend

Rinse chicken in a bowl with cool water and the juice of two limes. Let sit in the lime water for about 30 minutes, then drain thoroughly. In a non-reactive bowl, combine the spices, green seasoning, kuchela, and the buttermilk. Pat dry the rinsed chicken and then add the chicken to the marinade. Cover and let sit for at least two hours or overnight in the fridge.

In a deep cast iron skillet (or, if you have one, a deep fryer), heat your oil up to 375 degrees. Drain off the excess marinade and set aside. Combine the flour, seasonings, and panko bread crumbs in a shallow pan. Bread the chicken well, shaking off the excess flour and bread crumbs, and place in your hot oil. Resist the urge to crowd the pan, as the more you do, it generates moisture in the oil and will turn your chicken into soggy unappetizing things. You don’t want that. Cook for at least 10 minutes each side. (Another thing that you can do if you want to make sure that your chicken is cooked on the inside is turn your oven on to 300 degrees and place a rack resting on a sheet pan inside the oven. Once your chicken is browned on both sides, place on the rack in the oven until the juices run clear. By the time you are done frying your chicken, everything should be done.)

In the meantime, make your waffles!

Spiced Waffles

2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ cup brown sugar

2 eggs, separated

½ cup melted butter

1 ½ cups milk

½ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon mixed essence***

Oil your waffle maker. Sift the dry ingredients and spices together. Mix together the egg yolks, mixed essence, milks, and butter. Fold ingredients together (do not overmix!). In another bowl, whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold into the batter. If your waffle maker has a measuring cup, use it, it is to your advantage.

* Green seasoning is a fresh seasoning indicative of most Caribbean islands. If you don't have a Caribbean friend who's mom or "tanty" makes it and would give you a little, feel free to head to your local supermarket with an ethnic aisle and you are sure to find it there.

** Kuchela is a pickled mango garnish with traditionally Trinidad and East Indian spices. Though many large, local supermarkets in heavily populated ethnic areas do sell it, it may be harder to find. Feel free to omit it if you can't put your hands to it.

*** Mixed essence is a Caribbean essence with various types of essence not limited to vanilla, almond, strawberry, etc. Feel free to use your favorite essence or extract if your ethnic food aisle doesn't carry it.