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This Bird is on Fire: Nashville Hot Chicken

Erica F
Posted by Erica F on May 3, 2016

I took a quick food tour through some Southern states sampling BBQ, shrimp Po’ Boys, grilled oysters, crawfish and beignets last week. Despite a bevy of delicious meals, the standout winner was a chicken dinner! Not just any chicken dinner though--this was Nashville Hot Chicken. For those poor souls out there unfamiliar with the phenomena that is currently sweeping the Chicagoland area (check out Parson’s Chicken & Fish currently serving up Chicago’s very best hot chicken), here’s the skinny on this bird. 

Food legend has it that Nashville Hot Chicken was created long ago when a fiery young wife decided to get a little revenge on her womanizing husband by covering his fried chicken in hot peppers from the backyard. The chicken was so spicy it was sure to bring him back around... and it did bring him back... asking for more chicken! That womanizing man was Thornton Prince, great-uncle of today’s Queen of Hot Chicken, the current ruler of Prince’s Chicken Shack, Ms. Andre Prince. 

princes hot chicken

Started as a late-night joint 70 years ago, Prince’s Chicken is the gold standard by which all other hot chicken is and should be compared. Fresh out of the fryer and scorching hot, it comes covered in a secret spice sauce which varies in heat from Mild to XXX, juiciness pouring out of it, perched atop a saucy soaked piece of white bread, with a few pickles to cool you off. It was pretty much the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten (no offense Mom!).

hot chicken

As soon as I got back home to Chicago, I had to try to re-capture the inferno of deliciousness that is Prince’s Hot Chicken myself! Absent the inside scoop from Ms. Andre herself, I modified a recipe from Bon Appetit and took a peck at it.

Nashville-Style Hot Chicken

1 3 1/2–4-lb. chicken, cut into 10 pieces (breasts halved)

1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt or seasoning salt

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk or whole milk

1 tablespoon vinegar-based hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Texas Pete)

2 cups all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil (for frying; about 10 cups)

3 tablespoons cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

White bread and sliced pickles (for serving)

I started with a whole chicken, brined and cut it into 10 pieces. I love brining chickens and turkeys. I usually do it in the fridge overnight, but even just a few hours in a gallon of water with ¾ cup salt and ¾ cup soy sauce can make a big difference in the moistness and texture of your meat. Additionally, I always buy whole chickens and piece them out at home. It’s a much better value and a whole bird gives you more options. Piecing out a chicken is really easy and is a great skill to add to your kitchen arsenal--learn all about it in our Culinary Boot Camp: Chicken and Beef Butchery, Stocks and Meat Cookery.

Once your chicken is cut up, season with black pepper and 1 tablespoon salt.

rawhotchix.jpg

Whisk eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce in a large bowl. Whisk flour and remaining 2 teaspoons seasoned salt in another large bowl.

hot chicken batter

Fit a Dutch oven with thermometer; pour in oil to measure 2 inches. 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 each piece registers 160° for white meat and 165° for dark, 15–18 minutes.

hot chicken fry

Transfer to a clean wire rack set inside a baking sheet. Let oil cool slightly.

hot chicken cooling

Whisk cayenne,brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika in a medium bowl; carefully whisk in 1 cup frying oil. Brush fried chicken with spicy oil.

hot chicken sauce

Serve with bread and pickles.

hot chicken plated

Enjoy and come join us for a taste of the South with The Chopping Block's New Orleans Brunch on the Grill on our outdoor grilling patio at Lincoln Square or brush up on your butchery skills in Culinary Boot Camp: Chicken and Beef Butchery, Stocks and Meat Cookery!

Topics: Nashville, chicken, Travel, Recipes

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