hot chicken that i made and then ate


2012-06-10-0383

ADDENDUM:
A few corrections since I wrote this:

  • First, nashville style hot chicken is a uniquely southern food, so in my attempt to make the actual fried chicken base, I looked up a recipe for "Traditional southern fried chicken" -- i.e. buttermilk brined, heavily dredged in flour, buttermilk, and flour again. The result is a very thick, very bready fried chicken which is fine on its own, but absolutely wrong for nashville-style hot chicken. Opinions vary, but in my opinion the archetypical nashville-style chicken has to have a thin, flaky breaded crust (more on that later).
  • Second, no sugar. That was a huge mistake -- I'm more open to creative additions of sugar or honey these days, but it's way too easy to overdo it (as I did). Sweetness will detract from the spice and heat.

So, I decided to try my hand at making hot chicken. I loosely based it around this recipe. Before I get into the specifics, though, I want to pat myself on the back a little. Not for successfully making hot chicken, no, but rather for the fact that when I first tried it 5 years ago, I said to myself: there's nothing mysterious about this chicken. Magical and wonderful, yes, but not mysterious. It's obviously a shit-ton of cayenne pepper slathered over fried chicken. So while it may be heretical to downplay the mystery around Nashville's primary culinary claim to fame, I have to say: it ain't complicated. I honestly had a much harder time getting the fried chicken right.

That said, a few details, photos and questions:

  • The assembled ingredients.
  • I marinated the chicken in buttermilk and a random assemblage of salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. I added a little bit of ghost pepper sauce for the hell of it, but it was barely perceptible. The buttermilk marinade had been recommended to me often as a rather traditional way of doing things, but I'm not convinced of its merit. I'm no stranger to the science of how brining and marinating works, and I'm not clear on how buttermilk could have really penetrated the meat that much. It did provide a slightly goopier base for dredging in the flower and aiding a crispy crust, but that's about it. I think next time I'm just gonna brine it like normal.
  • Safety first. I don't fry stuff a lot. You never know. Sometimes I set stuff on fire.
  • An optional but highly recommended accompaniment. Chef's little helper.
  • The resulting paste. Shortly after this photo I realized I needed to make more, and I did, and had a Sugar Accident. I accidentally dumped way too much sugar into it. In the spirit of my "eh, fuckit" attitude to cooking, I just rolled with it. This was a mistake. The sugar was a bit overwhelming and turned the gritty/smokey pepper flavor into a sortof sickly sweet crust in the end. The chicken was still good, but the sugar bumped it out of contention for "Great". Ah well. Similarly, I had a lot of trouble getting it hot enough. I added a bunch of chile to round out the flavor a bit, but I felt like I couldn't add enough cayenne to get the kick I wanted. Maybe the cheap Kroger cayenne I bought was old. Maybe I need to experiment with blending in some hotter peppers?
  • This was probably unnecessary and pointless, but I added some cayenne to the flour before dredging. I figured it couldn't hurt, but maybe the pepper could burn and add a bitter flavor. I didn't notice. I probably won't do it again though.
  • Dredged and ready to fry. Of course, I made a huge mess.
  • I had the slightest bit of trouble actually frying the chicken. I was having trouble getting even the individually cut 8ths (legs and thighs) to cook thoroughly without the crust starting to burn. I had the oil temperature pegged at right around 330F. Do I need to go lower to give the meat more time to cook before the crust burns?
  • And, as usual, I'm incapable of making reasonable portions of anything and wound up with Way Too Much Chicken. Normally this would be a good problem to have, but I have to admit, it's not great. The excess sugar in the crust is a bit much for me. But I'll suffer through it. Somehow.

So there you have it. I feel pretty confident that I can nail it the next time around. As I said above, this dish is not a complicated one, so I think I need to resist my urge to experiment and fuck around. The secret is in the simplicity: a shit-ton of pepper and fried chicken. What more do you need?

  • http://twitter.com/kellyjogarner KJ Garner

    How about some hot chicken chicken salad? Was ruminating on that the other night. Mayo might pull some of the sweet out, or you could dress with onions/lettuce on a weck roll… MMM

  • Slayla

    I always halfway cook the chicken by baking it and then fry it up. The 2 alternatives seem to be 1) undercooked meat, or 2) burnt/soggy crust. Southern secrets. 

    • cwage

      I wondered about that — I do something similar most times that I pan-fry a steak (stick it in the oven to bring it to at least 170 degrees before I sear it)

  • Scavenger

    First!

  • Cyndie Todd

    Great post!  We love to fry chicken, but haven’t attempted hot chicken yet.  We’ll have to do that soon.  You’ve inspired us.

    You need to use a clip-on thermometer for your oil, not allowing it to touch the bottom of the pan but keeping it in the oil at all times.  You need to fry chicken at 375 degrees and let the oil warm back up each time before you add more chicken to the oil.  If you put too many pieces into the oil at once, you will bring the temperature down to low, you’ll have to cook them longer, and that leads to burning/drying out/etc.  Also, save up some pickle juice and use it next time you fry for brining instead of buttermilk.

    Here’s a post I wrote last year about frying chicken in general.  You can apply the process to hot chicken for sure. http://mrbibbshouseoflove.com/2012/06/11/how-to-make-southern-fried-chicken-green-hills-style/

  • cwage

    Interesting — does soaking it in the buttermilk for any amount of time actually matter? Or can I just dip and dredge?

    • Cyndie Todd

      Dip and dredge is just what buttermilk is made for, we say.  In this post above, we didn’t mention the pickle juice for brining because we didn’t have enough for a whole chicken.  We have another post in the can about making chicken tenders and that is when we brine with pickle juice for sure.  Then we dip and dredge using buttermilk.  Mr. Bibb says the buttermilk helps the coating to adhere to the chicken.  Also using a little cornstarch in the flour helps, too.

  • Beth

    Please tell me you used cast iron as the frying implement. This is of the utmost importance.

    • cwage

      But of course.

  • Chris Chamberlain

    The most successful HCEP version I’ve done used the same paste recipe you used with Crisco instead of lard, because I just couldn’t bring myself to to take it to that level of unhealthiness. The big difference was that I used Linton Hopkins’ recipe for frying the chicken which doesn’t employ the traditional overnight buttermilk soak. I got to talk to Linton himself about why he uses a dry brine and then just a buttermilk dredge right before frying and what he told me makes incredible sense. If you have a thick layer of buttermilk on the surface of the chicken under the breading when you dunk it in the oil (325 degrees btw), you’re going to steam the buttermilk before the crust begins to crisp, so it’s impossible to get that crunchy coating you want as the chicken passes hot buttermilk steam through the flour.

    The dry brine still draws the moisture through the chicken but allows the surface of the meat and skin to get crispy underneath the coating. Since you’re gonna slather it with a wet coating anyway, it’s critical that you start with the absolute best fried chicken to begin with. If you ask nicely, I might even give you my extra copy of the Bon Appetit magazine where I first encountered Linton’s version. But you’ll have to share the result…

  • http://www.superbrecipes.com/nonveg-recipes/ Non veg recipes

    Gud post..I havent tried hot chicken ever but after reading this, will surely do over the weekend. I’m fond of chicken pasta though and chicken frankie is one f my all-time fav recipes!

  • http://www.superbrecipes.com/nonveg-recipes/ non veg recipes

    I’ve been wanting to make hot chicken myself but haven’t quite got around to doing it. Your recipe looks good, will definitely try it out. 

  • Pingback: nashville style hot chicken – My Quiet Life