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Fried Chicken and Waffles at 30 Below

Brrr. Also, yum.
Brrr. Also, yum.

We started planning Christmas Eve dinner back in August. My husband had gone to Alaska for a business trip, and I met him at the tail end to spend a couple of weeks with our Alaska family in Fairbanks. Around several campfires, Josh and his other wife (my best friend Helen -- they are best cooking mates) planned out our menu for our return trip at Christmas.

What? You don't like to travel to the (sub) Arctic tundra for the holidays, and plan your menus for those trips months in advance? AMATEURS!

Josh was raving about his favorite new dish since moving to Texas -- chicken and waffles -- and he and Helen agreed that it would make the perfect Christmas Eve meal. Josh insisted that the chicken be fried outside, on the charcoal grill, and so it was. With help from our friend Bennish, Josh and Helen executed fried chicken and waffles at 30 degrees below zero. I drank a lot of wine and watched.

I look gorgeous and fresh from the moment I awake.
I look gorgeous and fresh from the moment I awake.

I should mention that when we go home to visit, our entire lives revolve around planning, prepping and cooking meals. When we wake up, we usually eat the previous night's leftovers for breakfast, start boozing, and set about the task of planning and preparing the rest of the meals for the day. We arrived in Fairbanks on December 19, and breakfast on December 20 was leftover turkey with homemade mole sauce and a fried egg:

Leftover turkey benefits from mole and a super-runny fried egg. Just 42 below zero outside when this was snapped.
Leftover turkey benefits from mole and a super-runny fried egg. Just 42 below zero outside when this was snapped.

It was Justin's second crack at mole, and it was absolutely divine.

After breakfast, Josh and Justin set out to Fred Meyer (West Coast Kroger) for chicken and waffle supplies, but seeing as it was 40 below zero that day, I stayed home, did the dishes and got drunk well before noon. Vacation.

Good eats.
Good eats.

I didn't get a picture of my birthday dinner, but just after breakfast on my birthday -- right after Josh went out and dumped scraps into the compost -- a moose came along and munched on them. Look! Birthday moose!

Come Christmas Eve, all of our best pals came over to Helen's for our traditional sleepover. Fourteen grown men and women drinking in their PJs -- that's what I call Christmas.

Fire and ice!
Fire and ice!

By December 24 the temperatures had warmed up a bit during the day -- about 10 below during the three hours and 45 minutes of daylight -- but unfortunately for Santa, by evening the temps had dipped back near 30 below. Bad news for the guys frying the chicken, too, but Josh and Bennish bundled up, fired up the coals and got to work on frying chicken for 14 people. It took about an hour to fry the chicken, which Josh prepped inside and then delivered to Bennish, who manned the operation outside.

Josh preps the chicken inside, in batches, before delivering fry-ready pieces to Bennish at the grill.
Josh preps the chicken inside, in batches, before delivering fry-ready pieces to Bennish at the grill.
After the chicken is cooked off, it's brought back inside to the warm oven.
After the chicken is cooked off, it's brought back inside to the warm oven.
They put me in charge of ice.
They put me in charge of ice.

By this time I was deep into the Lillet, to the point where the entire waffle-making process escaped me. I don't have one photo of waffle making, but frankly it was inside and not all that exciting. Sorry, waffle makers. But lest you judge me for being lazy, please note that I was in charge of ice production and procurement. Though Fairbanks winters are certainly harsh, they do have their benefits. You can store extra meat and booze outside when the fridge is full, and you can make all the ice you want just outside your front door.

Voila! Hot from the outdoor oven.
Voila! Hot from the outdoor oven.

This meal was actually my very first crack at eating chicken and waffles. I've had bites of Josh's here and there at various restaurants, but it's such an intimidating dish I never ordered it myself. Our Alaskan version was so supremely delicious that I returned to Texas with a real hankering to try it out around town. After all, if a bunch of New Yorkers and Midwesterners could produce something this amazing in Fairbanks, Alaska, I have to imagine a dish right here in Texas would knock my socks off. Any suggestions on the best FC&W around town? Leave them in the comments!



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