While I’ve never ordered the classic soul food combo chicken and waffles while dining out or jumped on the “midnight train” to the world-famous Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles Restaurant right here in Greater Atlanta to seek out what is said to be the best representation of its kind (south of the Mason-Dixon line, that is), I’ve always loved the idea behind this dynamic duo. And whenever I look at the dish, I always step back and think about how I could put a New Orleans spin on it (or, in the words of Ella Brennan, “Creolize” it). Well, my friends, after many attempts and lots of tinkering and tasting, I’ve finally created a local interpretation—Shrimp and Waffle Bites with Creole Pepper Jelly Sauce. A tasty finger food that blurs the lines not only between breakfast and dinner (like the original) but also between Creole and soul food. My rendition hits all the traditional notes of this savory, sweet, chewy, crunchy and sticky American icon and pitches them a couple of octaves higher by replacing the chicken with deep-fried Louisiana shrimp and substituting the traditional syrup pour with a jazzy jelly sauce. My riff also comes together a lot quicker than the original since I rely on frozen mini-waffles in lieu of the more time-consuming scratch waffles. Trust me, the kids won’t mind.
Of course, no Finger Food Friday meal would be complete without an accompanying adult beverage. So today let me suggest Green Flash Hop Head Red to compliment these bold bites. This stunning American red ale, which carries an impressive 8.10% ABV, has noticeably hoppy qualities (hence the name) which slightly jack up the spice level of the waffle bites. But this feisty “ginger” also delivers a deep caramel malt base which balances out the overall profile of the beer and ultimately calms the palate, making Shrimp and Waffle Bites with Creole Pepper Jelly Sauce and Hop Head Red a blissful union of food and drink.
Until next time …
Shrimp and Waffle Bites with Creole Pepper Jelly Sauce Recipe
1 10.9-ounce box frozen mini waffles
Fried Shrimp, recipe follows
Creole Pepper Jelly Sauce, recipe follows
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions, for garnish
Toast waffles until crisp; separate into individual mini waffles. Top each waffle with a fried shrimp, drizzle with Creole Pepper Jelly Sauce and garnish with green onions. Makes 10 appetizer servings.
Fried Shrimp Recipe
Peanut or canola oil, for frying
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
2 cups Zatarain’s Crispy Southern Seasoned Fish-Fri
2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled
Place oil in a large skillet or electric fryer and heat to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, pour buttermilk and Creole seasoning into a large resealable bag. Seal bag and mix ingredients until combined. Add shrimp and let soak for 20 minutes. Pour seasoned fish-fri into a separate resealable bag. Working in batches, remove shrimp from buttermilk mixture, drain off excess and dredge in fish-fri. Fry until shrimp float to the top and are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per batch. Transfer to a wire rack or stack of paper towels to drain. Season to taste with salt. Makes 4-6 servings.
Creole Pepper Jelly Sauce Recipe
1 10.5-ounce jar spicy red pepper jelly
2 tablespoons Creole mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine jelly, mustard and vinegar. Cook, whisking frequently, until jelly is melted and mixture is smooth. Keep warm over low heat until ready to use. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.