I promise you I’ve done tons of cooking and baking the past week, but for some reason writer’s block has struck hard. I think partially because I’d been so excited to share this recipe with you, but researching this dish’s origins isn’t a completely pretty undertaking. Let’s just say the word “segregation” came up a lot, and served as a reminder of some of our country’s uglier moments in history.
However it may have gotten here, Nashville Hot Chicken is all the rage right now, and people of all colors and stripes flock to its city of origin to try it. Well, the brave ones with iron stomachs do, anyways. It seems this isn’t just a meal, it’s an experience. One that leaves most sweating, panting, and cursing all the while asking for more. From what I read, it’s not just me and Matt who behaved that way.
The “Hot” in the title is most definitely not lying. Yikes. I’m a big chile-head, I’ve eaten both my and your shares of hot and spicy stuff, but this knocked me on my heels a bit. And yet – it’s frickin’ delicious. Make sure there’s plenty of beer and ice cream on hand to tame the flames that inevitably rise in your mouth, but this chicken is some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. (And I’d highly prefer you didn’t ask me how much fried chicken I’ve had in my lifetime.)
If you like your foods hot and fiery, you’ve just got to try this icon. Basically, you’ve got your usual fried chicken, but then you whisk some of the frying oil into a mixture of spices which is mostly cayenne pepper, and then toss the fried chicken pieces in it. Serve with a pickle to “help” tame the heat, and a slice of white bread to soak up some juices. Unbelievable. Enjoy!
3 1/2-4-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces (breasts halved)
1/2 tbs freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs plus 2 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk or whole milk
1 tbs vinegar-based hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Texas Pete
2 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil, for frying
3 tbs cayenne pepper
1 tbs dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
White bread and pickles*, for serving
Toss chicken with black pepper and 1 tbs salt in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 3 hours.
Whisk eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce in a large bowl. Whisk flour and remaining 2 tsp salt in another large bowl.
Fit a Dutch oven with thermometer; pour in oil to measure 2″. Alternatively, heat your deep fryer according to manufacturer’s instructions. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 325°. Pat chicken dry. Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge in flour mixture, shaking off excess, then dip in buttermilk mixture, letting excess drip back into bowl. Dredge again in flour mixture and place on a baking sheet.
Working in 4 batches and returning oil to 325° between batches, fry chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of pieces registers 160° for white meat and 165° for dark, 15-18 minutes. Transfer to a clean wire rack set inside a baking sheet. Let oil cool slightly.
Whisk cayenne, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika in a medium bowl; carefully whisk in 1/2 cup frying oil. Gently toss fried chicken with spicy oil. Serve immediately with bread and pickles.
*In Nashville, it’s customary to serve this dish with crinkle-cut sliced pickles. My favorite brand only makes spears, so spears is what I used. Still tasty!