Necessity is the mother of creativity. I’ve always been someone who works better under firm deadlines, due dates and commitment – it forces me to get things done that otherwise I might let slide. I’m the person that waits until the day before it’s due and, then, under the pressure of necessity, gets things done.
This caused some problems in my PhD and whatever freelance work I have done and I’ve had to learn ways to self-motivate. I had to learn to set my own deadlines, but they never had the same ‘firmness’ or threat of impending doom when I knew I had the power to move them…
With my cooking, I have seen massive strides over the past ten months since I have taken over full-time cooking duties in my family. There’s that pressure or deadline every day: every dinner time my family is going to gather around the table and expects to be fed. It forces me to cook, to come up with something. And in this pressure, this necessity, I have found the creativity.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be different. But it does have to be home cooked and healthy. Not healthy in ‘the we-only-eat-kale-with-quinoa-and-hemp-seeds’ sense, but healthy in the ‘it’s-nourishing-and-comforting-to-our-bodies-and-minds’ sense.
Since I’ve started cooking full-time for my family I’ve probably cooked 29 dinners a month on average, plus other meals and snacks (many breakfasts & lunches are not so much cooked as ‘assembled’…). It forces me to be creative, to think of new ways of using ingredients, to keep it interesting. It’s handy to have some ‘house meals‘ in your pocket, but I’m also someone that likes trying new things!
We don’t eat out much these days (those with small children might relate…). So, if I want to eat something particular I need to figure out how to make it! Necessity, and desire, the mothers of culinary creativity!
This recipe was sparked by seeing this Savoury Crepes with Za’atar Spiced Chicken. I love the idea of savoury crepes but crepes can be time consuming to make, especially when making them for a large family. So, I switched it up to waffles, which our family loves (and can be a ‘house meal’ for dinner some times…) and are a little less time consuming. And if we’re going to pair chicken with waffles, then we needed to make it fried chicken. Fried chicken and waffles are definitely something I desire, so I had to figure out how to make it and using this za’atar spiced twist was the perfect way to keep it fun!
Za'atar Fried Chicken and Waffles with Grainy Dijon Sauce
Waffles and fried chicken is a classic Southern dish, often still smothered in syrup or some sort of spicy and sweet combination. It's delicious. This recipe takes this premise and gives it a Middle Eastern-ish twist, using za'atar, pickled onions, tomatoes, and a dijon sauce to introduce a host of savoury elements that push this version away from the sweetness often associated with waffles. Crispy chicken loaded with savoury za'atar is complimented by tangy onions and the acidic burst of cherry tomatoes, all on top of the crispy shell of a fluffy waffle. Topped with a creamy dijon sauce to pull all the flavors together, my whole family enjoyed this playful take on waffles for dinner! Also: weekend brunch!
- 1 red onion
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 pounds chicken breast
- 3 cups flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 3 cups milk
- 1/2 cup melted butter (or margarine)
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons grainy dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup oil, for frying (canola/vegetable works - I use a shallow frying method here, so enough oil to reach halfway up the chicken in the pan you're using...)
- 1 cup flour
- 6 tablespoons za'atar
- cherry tomatoes, to serve
Thinly slice your red onion and quick pickle them, using this method.
Cut the chicken breasts into small, approximately 1 inch thick, pieces.
Mix the milk, lemon juice, and tahini and pour over the chicken pieces. Mix well so that the chicken is coated, and marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes but ideally 2-4 hours.
Prepare the waffle batter: Mix the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking powder & salt).
Mix the wet batter together (eggs, milk & butter).
Combine and mix well to remove lumps in batter. Batter can be stored in the fridge if need be until needed. Cook using your waffle makers instructions.
For the sauce: Melt the butter on medium heat in a saucepan. Add the flour and whisk till smooth.
Slowly add the milk and keep whisking vigorously to ensure lumps don't form. Lower the heat and let it cook for 2-3 mins.
Remove from the heat and add the mustard and whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir and taste.
For the chicken: Combine 1 cup of flour and 6 tablespoons of za'atar in a bowl.
Heat oil in a skillet (at same time, plug that waffle in and get it heated up). The oil should sizzle and dance when you drop the chicken in (you can test this before by dropping a drop of water in the oil).
Remove marinated chicken and dredge the pieces in the flour/za'atar mixture, making sure each piece is fully coated.
Fry in batches until deep golden and cooked through, flipping halfway through.
While cooking the chicken, cook the waffles. If need be (especially if you have one of the waffle irons that cooks 1 waffle at a time...) heat the oven (and then turn off) and keep waffles & chicken warm on a sheet pan in the heated oven).
To serve: drizzle dijon sauce over waffles. Add chicken, pickled onions and cherry tomatoes.
Making for less people? This recipe easily halves, making 5 waffles with chicken.