Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Make Your Own Hot Chicken

By Lindsey McClave



Kentucky may lay claim to fried chicken’s fame but it’s our neighbor to the south, Nashville, that receives full credit for the latest food craze sweeping the nation: Hot Chicken. Yes, this fiery fad has found its way to Louisville with new restaurants dedicated solely to the art of perfecting this spicy fried bird popping up in both NuLu (Royals Hot Chicken) and St. Matthews (Joella’s Hot Chicken). Rumor has it more are on the way and it’s no wonder why — one bite of this almost-too-hot chicken, and it’s hard not to become addicted. But what did the good folks in Nashville do to set their variation of fried chicken head and shoulders above everyone else's?





Lo and behold it all began one morning in the 1930s, when Thornton Prince awoke to his favorite breakfast, fried chicken. Little did he know that his girlfriend had spiked the chicken with all manner of spicy seasoning, hoping to give him a good burn after a night of philandering about town. Much to her surprise, Thornton loved the peppery flavor and the first ever hot-chicken restaurant, Prince’s Chicken Shack, was born.



Nashville now boasts a network of fried chicken hot spots including the much heralded Hattie B’s, whose recipe I borrowed for my first foray into making hot chicken at home. After several trial runs I settled on a spicy blend of my own, the components of Hattie B’s genius rounded out with a touch of smoky cumin and chili powder, the chicken bathed in buttermilk before frying. Served in the traditional manner - atop a plain slice of white bread with dill pickle slices — and with a cheddar-laden mac-cheese alongside to cool our tastebuds, our plates were licked clean in no time, affirmation above any other that hot chicken is far more than a passing fad.

Hot Chicken Recipe
Serves Four




1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds, quartered (recipe will also work with two-three pounds of chicken tenders)
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tbsp Louisiana Hot Sauce
2 cups all purpose flour
vegetable oil for frying (approximately 10 cups)
3 tbsp cayenne
1 tbsp light brown sugar
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp chili powder
½ cup frying oil, reserved post frying
2 tbsp kosher salt, divided
2½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
slices of white bread and dill pickle slices for serving

Prep the night before by dry-brining the chicken. Toss chicken with one tablespoon kosher salt and one-and-one-half tsp freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate for eight to 24 hours.

In a large, shallow bowl, toss the flour with two tsp kosher salt to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, eggs and hot sauce together until well blended.

Set a heavy bottom pot with tall sides over high heat and add the vegetable oil. You want the oil to be two inches deep. Heat to 325 degrees.

While the oil is warming, batter the chicken. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet and begin by tossing each piece of chicken in the flour until coated, then in the buttermilk and then back in the flour, shaking lightly to allow any excess to drip off after each step. Place chicken on the wire rack until it is time to fry.

When the oil is at 325 degrees, carefully lower two pieces of the chicken into the oil. Fry for 15-17 minutes for breast quarters and 18-20 minutes for leg quarters, turning once halfway. Fry chicken tenders for 10 minutes total. Keep an eye on your oil temperature throughout the frying process as it will drop when chicken is added. Be sure to adjust the heat as needed to keep it as close to 325 as possible.

When the chicken is done, remove to a clean wire rack set over a baking sheet.

Carefully transfer one-half cup of the cooking oil into a heat-proof bowl. Mix in the cayenne, brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, three-quarter tsp kosher salt and one tsp freshly ground black pepper. Whisk until well combined. Brush the spicy oil over the fried chicken until well coated. Serve on top of slices of white bread and top with dill pickles.

Cheddar Mac-and-Cheese
Serves 6-8 as a side dish




For Macaroni Base
2 cups whole milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ pound pasta (elbow or shell shape)
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

For Breadcrumb Topping
½ cup plain panko bread crumbs
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ crushed red pepper flakes
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Set a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add two teaspoons of kosher salt to the pasta water and then add pasta (shell or elbow shaped noodles recommended). Cook for two minutes less than the package recommends and drain (the pasta will finish cooking in the oven). Cover the drained pasta with a clean dish towel to keep warm.

Place the milk in a small sauce pan over low heat and warm (do not boil).

While the milk is warming, place a medium pot over medium heat. Add the butter and melt. When melted, add the flour and whisk to combine, creating what is known as a roux. Mix the butter and flour until well blended, about two minutes. Slowly add the warm milk to the roux, whisking the entire time, ensuring clumps of flour dissolve. Add the mustard powder, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to the sauce and continue to whisk until it begins to thicken, approximately five to eight minutes. Once the sauce has blended and is beginning to thicken slightly, turn off the heat and add the cheddar cheese. Mix together and allow the cheese to melt into the sauce.

Add the noodles to the cheese sauce and toss until well combined. Pour into a buttered baking dish and set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss together the panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the mac-and-cheese and set in the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes until brown and bubbly.

Allow to sit for five minutes before serving.

Try experimenting with a few new recipes to variate your meals. Lindsey has plenty of ideas to share here.

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