Photo: Toby Scott
Remove any visible fat from the birds, then rinse under cold water and pat dry. Combine the buttermilk, onion, garlic, 8 thyme sprigs and the hot sauce together in a large bowl. Add the hens, turning to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 6-12 hours.
Remove the hens from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Place 1 garlic clove and the remaining thyme sprigs in each hen's cavity, then tie the legs together with kitchen twine and sprinkle the hens with the salt.
Whisk the flour and cayenne together in a medium bowl. Dredge the hens first in flour and then in the panko breadcrumbs, patting off the excess flour. Heat the oil in a casserole dish over a medium-high heat and fry one at a time for 10 minutes until crispy, golden brown and cooked through. Drain on a wire rack and leave to rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the waffles.
Preheat the oven to its lowest temperature to keep the waffles warm after they are cooked. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In another bowl, mix the all the wet ingredients together, including the melted butter. Pour the wet into the dry mixture and stir just until they are just combined.
Lightly spray a waffle iron with non-stick spray and pour in 125ml batter for each waffle. Cook until browned and crisp. Place in the oven to keep warm while cooking the other waffles. Serve the warm hens with the waffles as soon as they are cooked.
Breakfast For Dinner by Carol Hilker (Ryland Peters & Small, £16.99)