Welcome to Don’t Shoot the Food, a semi-regular series where I combine my love of gaming with my love of cooking and eating.
Ah March, winter is ending and a young man’s thoughts turn to baseball. Well, the video game version any way. I haven’t cared about baseball since I was made to play Little League in 5th grade but I have always loved the idea of ballparks being the perfect place to take in regional fare. This week, I turn your attention down south to Atlanta, home of Turner Field and one of the greatest sandwiches ever invented. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Hammer time.
Despite being raised a Yankee, my stomach was born in the deep South. Luckily I now live in Atlanta and am but a stone’s throw away from some truly exceptional southern cooking. One of the oddest food pairings I have discovered since moving here is the combination of chicken and waffles. The name says it all. It’s a piece of fried chicken and a waffle. Nothing more to it than that. Oh sure you can vary the piece of chicken and restaurants usually have daily specials on what flavor of waffles, but what you see is what you get. I get my chicken and waffles fix at Gladys and Ron’s Chicken and Waffles, as their fried chicken is exceptional, their sides are fantastic and their sweet potato cheesecake is, hands down, one of the best desserts I have ever had. The fact that the restaurant was created by Gladys Knight and Ron Winans doesn’t hurt either.
So what does this have to do with baseball? Well, if you head a few miles south on 75/85 from Gladys and Ron’s, to Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, you can have your own version of chicken and waffles in a sandwich called The Hammer. The sandwich features waffles instead of bread, fried chicken cutlets, bacon, pepper-jack cheese and a pecan syrup mayonnaise, The Hammer is all of the southern goodness of chicken and waffles made portable. The best part about The Hammer? It’s a tribute to Hank Aaron, one of the greatest individuals to ever grace a baseball diamond.
As I couldn’t get the exact recipe for The Hammer, this is a good approximation. For the vegetarians among us, these sandwiches used breaded and fried chicken cutlets but you could very easily use breaded, fried tofu, as seen in this recipe. Make a fake bacon switch to go with it and you’re all set.
Makes four generous sandwiches.
Waffles – two per sandwich, obviously. Use your own recipe, use frozen, or use this recipe.
1. 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2. 1/4 cup cornstarch
3. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4. 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
5. 1/2 teaspoon salt
6. 1 cup buttermilk
7. 1/3 cup peanut oil
8. 1 egg
9. 1 teaspoon sugar
Peanut oil, for frying – You can use any vegetable oil if you don’t want to buy 5 gallons of peanut oil however I like peanut oil best for frying chicken as it’s a lot lighter and cleaner than other vegetable oils.
1. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2. 1 cup panko bread crumbs
3. 3/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning – Feel free to use whatever spice inducing seasonings you want here, Cajun, smoked chile powder, maybe some Old Bay. Go crazy with your bad self.
4. 5 – 10 dashes hot sauce – Texas Pete’s rules the roost at my house but again, it’s your dish.
5. 1 egg, beaten
6. 1 tablespoon water
7. 12 chicken tenderloins (1 to 1 1/2 lbs) – Make sure to trim off all of the nasty bits first. I usually use chicken breasts that I just cut into tenderloin shaped pieces as chicken breasts are less expensive and I find that I end up trimming so much of the tenderloins away that it’s a waste of food.
8. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. 1 cup mayonnaise
2. 1/4 cup pure maple syrup – This is the pure, from the tree stuff, not Mrs. Buttersworth.
3. 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
4. 1 teaspoon horseradish
1. 12 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and drained
2. 8 slices pepper-jack cheese
1. In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients until well mixed. Add the buttermilk, peanut oil, egg, and sugar and mix well. Let the batter rest for thirty minutes.
2. Get your waffle iron fired up and either make four large waffles that you’ll split for each sandwich, or eight bread sized waffles. I don’t have a waffle iron, so do whatever your waffle iron demands of you!
3. Once the waffles are done, set aside and keep warm.
Now, for the chicken, if you want, you can deep fry the chicken entirely or, do what I do and do a combination of pan frying and oven baking. You use less oil, so there’s less to clean up and it’s a little better for you.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Place flour in a shallow bowl or deep plate. In another bowl, mix the panko and Cajun seasonings. In a third bowl, beat together the hot sauce, egg and water.
3. Heat up about 1/2 inch of oil in a large skillet.
3. Dredge each tender in flour, then in the egg mixture, then in the panko mix. Fry immediately until golden on each side, about 3 – 4 minutes total (that’s total frying time, not per side) and place the fried pieces on a large cookie sheet. Once all of the pieces are fried, bake the chicken in the oven for another five minutes.
1. In a medium bowl, combine the mayo, syrup, mustard powder and horseradish.
1. Preheat your oven’s broiler.
2. Place a waffle on an oven proof plate, or a cookie sheet. Place three chicken cutlets on the waffle. Top the cutlets with three slices of bacon and two slices of cheese. Broil the sandwich, open faced, until the cheese melts. Spread about three tablespoons of mayo on the other waffle, top the sandwich off and then repeat the assembly for the other three sandwiches.
Hammer time never tasted so good.
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