Last weekend, my family and I spent the weekend in Nashville, Tennessee mainly to visit Vanderbilt University, but also to eat as much BBQ, hot chicken and ice cream as possible. I have heard so much about Nashville hot chicken from watching food shows and reading about it, but never in my life have I ever had this unique and authentic southern specialty until last weekend.
Hot chicken is similar yet very different from fried chicken. To make hot chicken, you take your crispy fried chicken and essentially give it a bath in a cayenne and spice-infused oil, then finish it with a generous sprinkle of a hot and spicy dry rub. So, it’s basically fried chicken on steroids.
There are a lot of places that serve hot chicken in Nashville, but we went to Haddie B’s because we have heard so many amazing things about it, and coincidentally, it was within walking distance of our hotel. When you walk in, their menu is displayed on the wall and you have the choice to order your hot chicken according to the level of heat you can handle.
My daughter and I ordered the mild, my son ordered the medium and when my husband ordered the “Shut the Cluck Up” sandwich and the “Damn Hot” leg/thigh quarter, the woman at the register looked at him and asked if he was sure. His first couple of bites of the sandwich were ok, but then the heat started to set in and he couldn’t feel his face! He had tears coming out of his eyes, was sweating and couldn’t talk, but loved every minute of it. I was genuinely wondering if we would need to call an ambulance, but he showed that chicken who was boss! The employee that took our order came to check on him, and was thoroughly impressed he finished his sandwich…she told us that only 1% of people can.
When ordering our meals, we were offered a choice of sauces to go along with our chicken: ranch, honey mustard, blue cheese or comeback sauce. I had never heard of comeback sauce, so that’s what I ordered. It sort of tastes like if Alabama BBQ sauce and Remoulade got together and had a delicious, savory but sweet little baby!
It’s a no-cook sauce made from common pantry items, so it’s easy to assemble. This sauce originated in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1930s specifically at The Rotisserie, a Greek restaurant, where it was used as a salad dressing, but it took off in popularity and versatility and is now served all over the South with many different dishes including spicy food, fried food and seafood. It’s also a great dip for crudité and chips, and would be divine on my shrimp burgers.
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 1 1/2 cups; 4-6 servings
Active time: 10 minutes
Start to finish: 10 minutes
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon, whole grain or Creole mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients and adjust with lemon juice to taste. Chill until ready to serve.
Because it’s such an easy sauce to make and requires no cooking, this sauce will definitely be my go-to this summer. The comeback sauce is making its debut at my house tonight and will be served with a fillet of blackened catfish along with a broccoli slaw and red beans and rice.
For the fish, you’ll need:
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
1 1/2 pounds catfish, cut into 5-ounce fillets
Salt to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons Cajun Creole spice/blackening blend
2 tablespoons butter
1. Heat a cast iron pan, griddle or sauté pan over medium heat, and add the grapeseed oil.
2. Season the fish fillets with the salt and Cajun Creole spice/blackening blend.
3. When the pan is hot sear the fish, presentation side down, until the spices have toasted, 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Flip the fish over, and add the butter into the pan. Continue to cook the fish, basting it with the butter until it’s just cooked through.
It’s a simple-yet-effective fish recipe that bursts with flavor. Top it with a dollop of comeback sauce, and you’re in for a real, Southern treat. Now, every household and restaurant has their own version of this recipe, but I like this one the best because it’s well balanced and straight forward.
If you weren’t craving southern-inspired food before reading thig blog, you are now! You’re in luck, because we’re offering a new grilling class on our patio called Southern BBQ-Styles Made Easy on Saturday, July 9th. Craving some blackened fish? Join us for our Virtual Blackened Mahi Mahi class on Friday, July 1st.