Something about the change of seasons makes me happy, and this is especially true when we can see Labor Day just up ahead. This time last year, my husband, Les, and I were gallivanting all over New Jersey, Connecticut and New York, visiting old friends, meeting new ones and satisfying our culinary curiosity with so many delicious foods. Our plans this year have kept us mostly at home, and so the transition to fall doesn’t feel nearly as dramatic, but we have at least fulfilled the delicious food requirement. The big food news of our week occurred when we celebrated my hubby’s birthday with a fantastic veal and eggplant Parmesan dish, which he will be proud to share on Comfort du Jour soon (it will be an excellent way to re-welcome the Sunday Supper category).
Yes, the countdown to autumn has begun, and I’ll be at the front of the line to greet it. For now, I’d like to share this colorful, late-summer dish that I whipped up last month, just before our garden tomatoes started coming in. It’s a “healthy-ish” play on chicken and waffles, and a great way to hang onto the lingering days of summer as we prepare to roll out the welcome mat for the glorious comfort foods of autumn.
It may seem that “chicken and waffles” could not qualify as healthy-ish, but I did lighten this up in a number of ways. First, I used skinless chicken tenders (rather than skin-on, bone-in pieces), which were drenched in flavor after a two-hour bath in buttermilk, seasoned with plenty of hot sauce and a bit of Bell’s poultry seasoning. Never miss an opportunity to add flavor—that’s one of my key approaches to cooking. Rather than deep frying the tenders, I dipped them in seasoned flour and crisped them up lightly in a cast-iron skillet. And with a high volume of vegetables in the succotash, each serving only included two of the fried tenders. Portion control is one of the simplest ways to reduce calorie intake. 🙂
The waffles for this dish were on the healthy side of things, too, and based on a sourdough pancake recipe from my favorite baking site, King Arthur Baking Company.
I followed the King Arthur recipe as written, except that I halved it, swapped in white whole wheat flour with a little cornmeal, and bumped up the oil just enough to prevent them from sticking to the waffle iron. The scallions and leftover grilled corn folded into the batter made the waffles extra hearty, and sourdough can’t be beat for this application because of the amazing crispy texture it puts on the waffle exterior. If you aren’t riding the sourdough train, there’s no reason in the world you couldn’t substitute another waffle recipe you like and add the corn and scallions to it.
The succotash (technically this isn’t one because it doesn’t have beans) has everything that I love—zucchini (still plenty of it at the farmers’ market), grilled corn, leeks, ripe baby tomatoes, pickled onions and half of a tiny jar of pimentos we had in the fridge. I used one of my favorite prep-ahead techniques for this meal, which is layering the cut-up ingredients in reverse order in a single prep bowl that I can tuck into the fridge until I’m ready to start cooking.
This recipe gave me a first chance to use the new non-stick skillets we bought this summer; Les and I had looked high and low for replacements that didn’t feel chintzy and weren’t made in some factory overseas. Les learned via online research that the only pair of American-made non-stick skillets were a specific set of Calphalon pans that were sold by Williams-Sonoma (most of Calphalon’s products are made in China, but this set is made in Ohio). They are available online if you don’t have a store near you.
The non-stick coating is great, and I love the sturdiness of our new pans, but for me the real test of a new skillet is “how easily can I flip my ingredients?” Sometimes when I have a lot going on at once, I don’t want to take time to pick up a utensil so I’ll employ the flipping technique I learned during my catering days. It worked fine, though the pan was a bit heavy, so I’m counting it as upper-body exercise (and I only lost a few pieces of onion to the floor).
Having one prep bowl filled with vegetables makes cooking a snap, as I simply empty them into the skillet as I need them, and there’s no jumbling around in the fridge to find what I need or washing extra prep dishes. When the zucchini started to become tender, I moved deeper into the bowl for the other ingredients until I had everything in the pan.
All three components of this dish—the waffles, the chicken and the succotash—happen simultaneously, but you could certainly make the succotash ahead and simply rewarm it when you’re ready to serve. Keep the waffles warm on your oven’s low setting if needed, and aim to make the chicken the last thing you prepare. Remember to season it with a light touch of salt from the skillet!
Pile it onto a plate, with the succotash underneath and over top of the crispy waffles, and the chicken tenders leaned against it. Finish the dish with a scattering of fresh chopped basil leaves, and dinner is served!
Not only does this presentation look beautiful, it serves the purpose of keeping everything warm until you make it to the last delicious bite!
Late Summer Succotash with Chicken & Waffles
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders, patted dry
- 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
- Up to 1 Tbsp. bottled hot sauce
- 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup neutral oil (for skillet frying]
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp. medium-grind corn meal
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, hot sauce, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Add chicken tenders to the bowl, tossing to coat. Allow this to rest at room temperature at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate up to a few hours if working ahead. Take them from the fridge 30 minutes before pan-frying them.
- In a small bowl, combine flour, corn meal and garlic powder, plus a few shakes each salt and pepper. Set this aside for breading the chicken tenders.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, with 1/2-inch oil.
- When oil is hot, remove tenders from buttermilk mixture, allowing all liquid to run off. Dip the tenders into the breading mixture; coat evenly without dredging too heavily. Carefully place each tender into the hot oil, taking care to not crowd the pan too quickly, as this will drop the temperature of the oil and result in greasy chicken. Turn tenders when the first side is golden brown; transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate when done. Season immediately with a light sprinkle of salt.
- 1/4 cup fed sourdough starter
- 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
- 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
- 3 Tbsp. medium-grind cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup leftover grilled corn kernels
- 3 chopped green onions (scallions), white and green parts
- In a medium batter bowl, combine sourdough starter and buttermilk. Add flour and cornmeal. Stir until smooth; cover and leave at room temperature at least 30 minutes, up to about 2 hours.
- In a small bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- Set waffle iron to medium heat. While it preheats, add egg, oil, soda and salt to the sourdough batter. Stir until smooth. Fold in corn and scallions.
- Brush waffle iron with oil. Add a scoop of batter and bake until crispy, following manufacturer’s instructions. As a visual cue, watch for steam to dissipate from the iron. Generally, if the waffles are sticking, they aren’t finished baking. If working ahead, place finished waffles on a rack over a cookie sheet and keep them in a warm (250° F) oven.
- 1 medium zucchini, chopped into chunks
- 1 small leek or onion, chopped
- 1 cup leftover grilled corn kernels
- 1/4 cup pickled onions, chopped (I like the “pickled” flavor here; substitute anything pickled, such as okra, green beans, cucumber)
- 2 Tbsp. jarred pimento, drained
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup ripe baby tomatoes, halved
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh basil or parsley, to garnish
- Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium flame. Add olive oil and saute zucchini with leeks or onions until slightly tender.
- Add remaining vegetables, except tomatoes, and toss until evenly combined. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet with a lid so that the pan ingredients can heat through without much more cooking.
- Add tomatoes at the end, tossing just to combine.