by Alicia Lieu
It had struck me that I hadn’t had soul food in a really long time, and by really long time, I’m estimating that it has probably been at least six years since I went for soul food in New York. Los Angeles however, is a different story. I spent a few summers teaching at a summer enrichment program in Northwest Pasadena with a team of college students in my undergraduate days. During this time I was introduced to the combination of chicken and waffles. Although at first I wasn’t sure if people were talking about waffles made with chicken, or waffles shaped like chicken. There was no such combination in my Chinese-American upbringing. Needless to say, I was very confused. I was very confused up until the point that I tried chicken and waffles. I fell in love instantly and I actually had quite a few follow up flings with Roscoe’s after the first time.
The last rendezvous I had at Roscoe’s was about three years ago. It is sad that even though Harlem is conveniently located in Manhattan and Los Angeles is 3,000 miles away, I more recently had Roscoe’s than any soul food in New York. It is the same New York story over and over again. Friends in New York are busy. By busy, I mean that time goes by before you see them again. As soon as you know it, you haven’t seen your friend in two, maybe three years, even though the two of you live in the same city. It took me three weeks to set a date with a friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I had asked my friend, Eva, if she had any interest in trying Amy Ruth’s with me. She replied, “I LOVE Amy Ruth’s!” Over dinner, we figured out that it was about three years since we had sat down to a meal together, even though we kept up with each other’s lives via Facebook status updates.
It was a rainy day when Eva and I met up at Amy Ruth’s. There was a flash flood warning in effect, but that didn’t stop us from meeting up in Harlem, even though Eva lives in Brooklyn and I live in Queens. Even though many of the top rated restaurants for chicken and waffles are actually in Brooklyn, I don’t actually have the time presently to make the trek. I have another friend who fawns over the chicken and waffles at Sweet Chick, which I will get to at some point. All the reviews I read rated Amy Ruth’s as one of the best, and readers who left comments unofficially rated Amy Ruth’s as the long reigning champion.
As soon as I walked into the restaurant, I knew why. The atmosphere is casual, the decor is culturally relevant, but the food…the food was soul satisfyingly delicious! I was almost tempted by the daily special but I decided to go with the chicken and waffle. The waffle combinations are named after famous people and both Eva and I ordered The Rev. Al Sharpton. She got hers fried and I ordered mine smothered. I also got to try the Sugar Hill beer, which is produced by the Harlem Brewing Company which has been around for 86 years. I really liked the beer, which says a lot coming from a very infrequent beer drinker. It turns out that this soul food worked wonders for my Chinese-American soul. I am definitely going back for more.
Whole Wheat Cinnamon Buttermilk Waffles
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat four
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 pinch cream of tartar
vegetable oil spray
1. Whisk together the flours, cornmeal, cinnamon, and baking soda in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and melted butter together, then whisk in the buttermilk and maple syrup until well incorporated.
2. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low with an electric mixer for one minute, until the mixture gets foamy. Then increase the speed to medium high until the egg whites turn into stiff peaks.
3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Whisk very gently until the mixture is just incorporated. A few lumps are ok. Fold in the egg whites with a rubber spatula.
4. Use the waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s directions. Be sure to use vegetable spray before pouring the batter.
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 pounds of chicken pieces
1/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon water
vegetable oil for frying
1. Place chicken in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk over the chicken. Stir to coat and set aside for 5 minutes.
2. In a large frying pan, add 1/4 inch of oil and heat over medium-high heat.
3. In a plastic bag, combine the flour, paprika, and pepper. One by one, place a piece of chicken in the bag and shake to coat. Shake off any excess flour mixture.
4. Fry the chicken about 30 minutes until golden brown, turning so they brown evenly. Drain on paper towels.