Hot chicken. I had never heard of this phenomenon until David’s coworker, who went to med school in Nashville, told us about this local specialty. It’s basically super spicy fried chicken (although nothing like Buffalo chicken so don’t be fooled!), which sounded really good to me! David’s coworker is a great cook so when he made some and invited us over, we were there in a heartbeat.
Eating this hot chicken was quite an experience. At first I was self-conscious that I kept having to wipe my forehead, blow my nose, but then I realized that everyone else at the table was doing the same. Apparently the experience in the actual restaurant is similar; everyone is sitting there sweating and eating. I’ve never eaten fries and ketchup out of desperation, but I did that day – it was necessary in order to balance out the burn.
I was hooked after that.
But I was also intimidated to try and make it myself because I’ve never actually made fried chicken before. So I started doing some research on both hot chicken recipes and also techniques for making Southern fried chicken.
This is what I came across:
And after all the research, bone-in chicken breasts went on sale which nudged me to finally go ahead and try it! The first obstacle that I faced was that I could not find lard in any of the usual grocery stores that I go to. I probably could have tried an ethnic store but I really didn’t feel like driving all over the place. So I did the next best thing and rendered my own lard from pork fat from a local butcher shop. I felt super accomplished when it was done! 🙂
1 3/4 pounds gave me 2 jars this size.
Isn’t it pretty?? I don’t think I would use it for baking because there was still a little bit of meat attached. But for savory cooking, most definitely.
Next, I soaked the chicken overnight in a brine of water, hot sauce, salt, sugar, and spices. This is to keep the breast meat from drying out and also gives a deeper flavor into the meat itself.
100% pain. Thanks Mollie!
Next I made the paste to coat the chicken after frying, which is typically 1 part lard and 3 parts cayenne pepper, along with some other spices.
Finally, the most important part…frying the chicken! I read a lot of recipes and articles, but this one from Seattle Times was the most helpful. What I did: removed the chicken from brine, dunked it in buttermilk and shook off the excess, then let it rest in the fridge for an hour after a single light dredge in plain flour. I fried in a deep stainless steel skillet in about 1/2 inch of canola oil + a few tablespoons of lard. Our meat thermometer is pretty useless, so I kept it at medium heat after the oil was completely heated up and ended up frying for a total of 25 minutes.
This was the result:
This photo is now husband’s wallpaper on his phone.
The chicken itself was juicy, well-seasoned, and a tiny bit spicy from the brine. The crust was crunchy and not super thick or greasy, and with the spicy paste on top on top, it set my mouth on FIRE. So good! My mouth is watering as I type this. As a side note, hot chicken is apparently typically served on white bread with pickles, but I like the fries 🙂 And the beer is a must.
So this was my experience with making hot chicken. Too bad Nashville is not on our way to California, or we would definitely make a stop!