The Secret Ingredients in DC’s Best Chicken and Waffles
From Beuchert’s Saloon, recreate Chef Bart Hutchins's chicken and waffles from the comfort of home
Chef Bart Hutchins only wishes he grew up on the chicken and waffles he serves at Beuchert’s Saloon: a plate of homemade waffles scented with vanilla and topped with two freshly fried chicken thighs, house-made bacon jam, candied pecans seasoned with sage, maple syrup, and powdered sugar. A marriage of sweet and savory, of crisp and tender, it’s nostalgia to the max. But this hearty breakfast recipe isn’t his mom’s, but rather his mentor’s: Hutchins inherited the dish from Beuchert’s chef-owner Andrew Markert, who wasn’t just the first to give Hutchins a job upon his arrival in Washington, but was also the first to suffuse the saloon with high-end rustic appeal.
Indeed, according to Hutchins, the restaurant evokes the ideal blend of British pub and French bistro, tied up with a rustic Americana bow. The food at the saloon “can definitely be refined,” according to Hutchins, “but there has to be a rustic element to it, or it just seems off.”
This dish may well be the perfect example of the saloon’s aesthetic. The sage-infused candied pecans and bacon jam on each imposing portion are deceptively low-impact condiments that can be made in advance; the latter, which involves slow-cooking bacon in cider vinegar and brown sugar, keeps for up to ten days in the fridge, with any leftovers a providing a welcome sweet, smoky, salty addition to burgers, BLTs, shrimp and grits, or grilled cheese. The chicken and waffles at the heart of the dish, meanwhile, are simple stalwarts, making the final dish easy to pull together for a special occasion brunch or brinner with friends.
These days, after years of close collaboration with Hutchins, Markert is devoting his time to a new venture, Newland, leaving Hutchins to take on a leadership role — and full ownership of the menu — at Beuchert’s.
“It was to the point where I was writing a portion of the menu, and he was writing a portion of it,” says Hutchins. “Now that I’m running the Beuchert’s kitchen, the menu is basically completely mine.”
The one exception he’s pleased to carry the torch of? Markert’s chicken and waffles, which, Hutchins promises, “will still be on the menu until this place closes 100 years from now.”
Chicken and Waffles with Bacon Jam and Candied Pecans (serves 4)
For the chicken:
- 8 bone-out skin-on thighs
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ tablespoon garlic powder
- ½ tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce or chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
For the bacon jam:
- 2 pounds bacon diced
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup diced onion
For the candied pecans:
- 1 egg white
- 2 cups pecans
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the waffles:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 5 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1¼ cup milk
- 8 tablespoon melted butter
- 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
For the seasoned flour:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup (43 g) cornstarch
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- Peanut oil, for frying
- Powdered sugar and maple syrup, for serving
The night before, combine the buttermilk, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, hot sauce or chili powder, and smoked paprika. Add the chicken, cover, and brine in the fridge overnight.
Make the bacon jam. Sweat the bacon in a pan to render the fat, then strain off the majority of the liquid fat. Remove the bacon and set aside. Add the onion to the same pan, and sweat until translucent. Add the bacon back to the pan as well as the brown sugar and vinegar. Cook over low heat until syrupy. The jam will keep up to 10 days in the fridge.
The day of serving, make the candied pecans. Preheat the oven to 350º F, and, using a whisk, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold the remaining ingredients into the egg whites, spread out on a baking sheet, and bake for seven minutes. Cool 30 minutes before using.
Meanwhile, make the waffles. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and combine eggs, vanilla, milk, and melted butter with a whisk. Create a well in the center of your dry mixture and slowly incorporate the wet ingredient. Mix thoroughly but do not over mix because that will create stiff and dense waffles. On a lubricated waffle maker, cook waffle mixture in batches.
Fry the chicken. Combine the ingredients for the seasoned flour. In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring peanut oil to 350º F. Remove the chicken from the brine and shake off any excess liquid, then dredge the brined chicken in the flour mixture. Fry the chicken until golden brown and until you reach 165º F internal temperature.
Plate two chicken thighs on each hot waffle, and garnish with bacon jam, candied pecans, and powdered sugar. Serve with maple syrup on the side.
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