Dish of the Week: Nashville Hot Chicken

Nashville hot chicken isn't joking around when it says it's hot.EXPAND
Nashville hot chicken isn't joking around when it says it's hot.
Photo by T.Tseng

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re spicing up a Southern classic with Nashville Hot Chicken.

Also known as simply hot chicken, Nashville hot chicken is a variety of bone-in fried chicken that gets marinated, dredged in seasoned flour, fried and smothered in a paste spiced with cayenne pepper. It is commonly served over a slice of white bread with pickles.

As the name suggests, it is popular (and got its start) in Nashville, Tennessee. Though it’s unconfirmed, legend has it that hot chicken was born in the 1930s, when Thornton Prince’s girlfriend served him an especially spicy fried chicken in revenge for his cheating. Apparently that backfired, because Thornton enjoyed the fiery fried bird so much, he went on to open a popular fried chicken shack featuring the hot chicken. Today, later generations of the Prince family own Nashville's Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack.  

Eventually, the seriously tasty chicken ventured outside of Nashville, with several cities making their own version of the dish. It has even made its way to Houston (those seeking the heat can find it in biscuit form at Revival Market).

This recipe, from Saveur, claims the secret to Nashville fried chicken is in the layering. First, the bird takes a soak in spicy buttermilk before being dredged in flour and more spice. Then, it’s double-fried and absolutely slathered in a thick, rust-colored cayenne paste that adds tang and heat to the buttery crunch.

Nashville Hot Chicken

Ingredients serves 2-4
3 cups buttermilk
3?4 cup cayenne
9 tbsp granulated garlic
9 tbsp paprika
6 tbsp onion powder
3 tbsp sugar
1 (2 1?2–3 lb) chicken, cut into 8 pieces, or 3 lbs chicken wings
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Canola oil, for frying
2 cups self-rising flour
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Sliced white sandwich bread and dill pickle chips, for serving

Directions
Combine buttermilk, 1/4 cup cayenne, 1 tablespoon each granulated garlic and paprika, 2 tablespoons onion powder and 1 tablespoon sugar in a bowl; whisk until smooth. Add chicken and toss to coat; cover and chill at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

The next day, drain chicken, rinse and pat dry; season with salt and pepper. Heat 2" oil in a 6-quart saucepan until a deep-fry thermometer reads 300 degrees.

Stir remaining cayenne, granulated garlic, paprika, onion powder and sugar in a bowl; transfer half to another bowl and whisk in flour. Working in batches, dredge chicken in flour mixture; fry, flipping once, until golden and almost cooked through, about 6–7 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reads 150 degrees. Transfer chicken to paper towels.

Increase oil temperature to 350 degrees. Stir remaining cayenne mixture and melted butter in a bowl; set paste aside.

Dredge chicken once more in flour mixture and fry until cooked through, 2–3 minutes more; drain briefly on paper towels and brush with reserved paste. Serve with bread and pickles.


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