His latest episode is about a Lithuanian restaurant in Chicago that closed after 71 years. But that's selling the video a bit short. It's also a story about ethnic communities, immigration and family. It's my favorite episode of Sky Full of Bacon so far. If you live in Chicago, you'll appreciate learning about the city, its past and present. If you don't, you're in for a good story and a glimpse of the city I call home.
Below, Mike shares a story about a waffle iron, and then gives a new take on the soul food classic fried chicken and waffles.
Now, Mike drops the F-bomb 218 words into things, so you'll want to look away from the screen briefly if that sort of thing bothers you. Also, there's a waffle recipe below, despite the fact that this blog is most emphatically not about waffles. If that offends your notion of this blog's conceptual purity, you'll have to look away briefly as well. If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, we're good.
If this were a video podcast, there would be a cool fade or a slick cut as we transition into the part where Mike writes, but since it's not, there's going to just be a colon:
My waffle story
When I got a job in 1999 at a little dot com agency called Four Points Digital, I decided to go get a waffle iron. Being in River North, and less thrifty with my newfound new media bucks than I would be today, I think I went to Williams-Sonoma and paid full retail for some name brand, like Cuisinart. On the way home, I thought... okay, sixty bucks for a waffle iron, how many waffles am I really likely to make? That's going to be like $3 a waffle for the first 5 years.
So I resolved at that moment to find a way to amortize my waffle iron over a greater quantity of waffles.
The Christmas party rolled around. We went to Vivo, many people were young and single, alcohol was consumed, etc. The next morning, people staggered into the office, badly hungover. I arrived with a couple of shopping bags, and proceeded to quietly connect my waffle iron to the power strip my computer was plugged into, and to lay out plates and plastic forks and napkins. Once it was warm, I took out a gallon pitcher full of premixed batter and started pouring waffle mix into the iron at my cubicle desk. The people working around me just said things like "I can't fuckin' believe you're making waffles," and gave me looks that suggested they expected to figure in the death toll for a waffle iron-related fire later that day, but one bite of fresh-made waffles turned those attitudes around.
Meanwhile, the smell began to permeate the office, and people started wandering back and saying "Damn, it smells like waffles back here!" little suspecting that they were, in fact, quite correct — it did smell like waffles in here!
I made about 40 waffles that morning, and through the magic of hangovers and carbs, brought us all a little closer as a company, I think. After that, every once in a while, when we seemed to need a boost in our esprit de corps, I would surprise everyone with Waffle Day. Eventually, we were bought out by some company whose business plan seemed to involve taking on ever-greater debt without actually having revenues, and they brought in new people who fired the people who actually got stuff done and brought in their pretentious poser friends, and I didn't feel like making any of them waffles, and finally we closed and all got screwed, but for one brief shining moment there was ... a cubicle from which waffles came. With real Vermont maple syrup.
Waffle-fried chicken and waffles
The idea here is that I was disappointed the first time I tried that iconic dish, chicken and waffles, at the legendary Roscoe's in Los Angeles. I was disappointed because it wasn't a dish like chicken and dumplings or chicken pot pie ... it was just chicken, comma, and a waffle, period. You got a waffle with your chicken like you'd get a side of spaghetti in an Italian restaurant, or a toaster with your checking account.
I felt like chicken and waffles was missing a fabulous opportunity to create a unified dish — hot juicy chicken, savory waffle, rib-sticking gravy. So I conjured up chicken and waffles that matched my idea of what chicken and waffles should be.
- boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- salt and pepper
- spices (such as onion powder, garlic powder, rubbed sage)
1. Cut the chicken breasts into slices about 1/8-inch thick [3mm] and small enough to fit within one waffle square in your waffle maker, place in bowl and coat with buttermilk.
2. Make whatever you like for fried chicken coating in a big Ziploc bag — flour, salt and pepper, a little onion and garlic powder, some Tony Chachere's, some rubbed sage, a little cayenne, whatever you like.
3. Toss the wet slices around till coated, then lay them on a rack to dry for about 20-30 minutes.
Makes about four 4x5" waffle squares; multiply as needed.
- 1/2 cup corn meal [70 grams]
- 1/2 cup flour [60 grams]
- 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/3 cup buttermilk [80 ml]
- 1/3 cup milk [80 ml]
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 to 1 tsp rubbed sage
- a couple of shakes of cayenne pepper
1. Combine the dry ingredients first. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients.
2. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients, taking care not to stir too long. A few lumps are okay.
Bringing it all together
1. Make a small pan of cream gravy. If you don't know how, open a cookbook that tells you how, like Fannie Farmer or something.
2. When iron is good and hot, spray with aerosol canola oil, generously. Place a piece of chicken in each square and close waffle iron tightly.
3. In a few minutes, open it and see if chicken looks browned and feels stiff enough that it's cooked through. Set on paper towel. (You may also keep the chicken warm in a low oven.)
4. Pour batter into each square and cook per usual practice.
5. Remove waffles, place waffled chicken on each square, cover with cream gravy. You can also add syrup if you want, especially if you're eight years old.