The Setting: Blue skies, white, puffy clouds, and slightly above-frigid temps. Beautiful day!
The Soundtrack: Some sort of BBQ masters show Hoosband has discovered on Hulu.
Sizzlin on the Griddle: French toast.
The Scenario: When you think of a romantic Valentine's Day meal, the first thing that comes to mind is fried chicken, right?
What if it's spicy? Spicy food is said to be a natural aphrodisiac, you know.
Well, what if it's so spicy it's literally red-hot?
Nashville-style hot chicken gets its fiery-red exterior and extra helping of heat fresh from the fryer with a brush of cayenne-and-paprika oil. While the spice runs deep (there's hot sauce in the brine and spices in the breading), this last-minute paint job is what truly sets Nashville hot chicken apart.
Let's just say you can't get this kind of spice in your favorite sandwich at Wendy's.
Still not convinced hot chicken is V-Day material?
Take things to the next level and make it a full-on theme night of heart-warming, cheeks-blushing Southern charm. What's not to love about that?
Vanilla-Bean Lemonade with cranberry-juice ice cubes
Oysters on the half shell
Nashville Hot Chicken
Nashville hot chicken, like Texas BBQ, is ALWAYS served with white bread and pickles. In fact, at a fancy restaurant on a recent trip to Nashville, Hoosband and I were even served a riff on Nashville hot chicken involving spicy crisped-up chicken skin, Wonder Bread puree, and dill pickle salt. Crazy...but delicious.
~for the brine~
3 cups buttermilk
1 cup hot sauce
1/3 cup honey
2/3 cup kosher salt
1 chicken, cut into breasts, thighs, legs, and wings
~for the "paint"~
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 T cayenne (or up to 2 T if you REALLY want to turn up the heat)
1/2 tsp honey
~for the dredge~
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp cayenne
peanut oil for frying
In a large bowl whisk together brine ingredients. Either add the chicken pieces to the bowl with the brine and press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface, or divide the chicken between two gallon-sized zip-top bags and pour the marinade over the chicken pieces before sealing. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
In a small saute pan or skillet, stir together the paint ingredients over medium heat until glistening and fragrant, no more than one minute. Set aside.
Set up two cooling racks, both over rimmed baking sheets. One will be for the dredged chicken before it goes to the fryer, and one will be for the just-fried chicken.
In a shallow dish such as an 8-inch, round cake pan, whisk together the dredge ingredients.
Working with one piece of chicken at a time, use tongs to transfer the chicken from the brine to the dredge. Use the tongs to help coat the chicken completely in the flour mixture and transfer the coated chicken to the prepared cooling rack. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
Affix a candy thermometer to a cast-iron skillet or large, heavy-bottomed pan. Make sure the thermometer does not touch the bottom of the pan. Pour a depth of about 3/4-inch of oil into the pan. Heat the oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the oil is ready, use the tongs to dredge the chicken through the flour mixture one more time before carefully transferring the chicken to the oil. Work in batches as necessary so that you do not crowd the pan. I could fit 3-4 pieces in my skillet at a time, depending on the size of the pieces.
Fry the chicken for 8-9 minutes on each side, or until dark golden brown and cooked through. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a temperature of 300-325 degrees Fahrenheit. Use tongs to carefully transfer the cooked chicken to the other prepared cooling rack. Give the paint mixture a stir and brush the paint all over the fried chicken.
Allow the frying oil to come back to 350 degrees, and repeat frying and painting with remaining batches.
Serve right away with white bread and pickles.
Leftover Nashville Hot Chicken is best straight out of the fridge--it won't be as crispy leftover, but it's darn good cold.
video of Nashville hot chicken in the test kitchen at www.CooksCountry.com.
Traveling to Nashville? Check out the granddaddy, Prince's Hot Chicken Shack (123 Ewing Dr #3), the double-timer, Bolton's Spicy Chicken and Fish (624 Main St), or the tasty newcomer, Hattie B's Hot Chicken (112 19th Ave S) to see what's getting everybody all hot and bothered.
Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.