Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nashville-Style Hot Fried Chicken ala Bon Appetit

Let's take a break from all this travel to talk about something else.  Namely, one of  my favorite subjects - fried chicken.  There's a running joke among my friends that I can eat a lot of it.  It started at the lunch buffet at Dooky Chase in New Orleans - where, according to my husband - I ate five pieces of chicken.  Of course, they cut the chicken into small pieces for the buffet, so it wasn't like I ate a whole bucket of KFC...  Yeah, I know - the more I try to explain it the worse it gets...  In any event, good fried chicken is a little harder to find around here than it is in NOLA, so I decided to go ahead and make my own after seeing the photos of the Nashville Hot Chicken in this month's Bon Appetit.  (I want to make the cherry pie on the cover too - but haven't been able to find any sour cherries in SD!)

This is a pretty traditional recipe, right up to the point where you whisk a bunch of spices into some of the frying oil, and brush it over the top.  I was a little skeptical about using the cooking oil for this - thinking it might be bitter or greasy, but it was just fine. I changed a few things here to reflect some things I learned in the cooking process.  I found the cooking time suggested in the magazine of 15-18 minutes too long.  The coating started to burn before that.  Around 13 minutes was just right - cooked through but not burnt to a crisp.  Since I fried this in four batches I kept the cooked chicken hot on a rack in the oven, where it had plenty of time to finish cooking if it needed to.  It actually improves a bit while it sits.

I reduced the amount of cayenne, because six tablespoons is just RIDICULOUS - it was still plenty spicy with half that amount - and I don't own garlic powder, so I just smashed a clove of garlic to flavor the oil. You could certainly play around with the seasonings to suit your taste too, making it more or less spicy or sweet.  The hardest part of this might be finding chickens that are small enough - you want the pieces the right size to cook through without burning on the outside. If yours are a little big, I think you could just crank up the oven to 300 and give them a few minutes to finish cooking in there once the coating is as dark as you want it.  Enjoy!
Nashville-Style Hot Fried Chicken - adapted from Bon Appetit

2 small (3½–4-lb.) chickens - preferably kosher or pre-brined, each cut into 10 pieces (breasts halved)  (If you are not proficient at cutting up a chicken, there's a great tutorial here.)
1 tablespoon finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons (if not using pre-brined chicken) plus 4 tsp. kosher salt
4 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/4-1/2 cup whole milk (if your buttermilk is really thick)
 2 tablespoons Crystal or other vinegar-based hot sauce
4 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil (for frying; about 10 cups)
3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 clove fresh garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon paprika
White bread and bread & butter pickles (for serving)

If your chicken is brined - toss it with the pepper in a large bowl about 1 hour before frying - leave out to come to room temperature.  If the chicken isn't brined - toss with both 2 Tbs salt and pepper and chill for a few hours before cooking.  Pull out of the fridge about an hour before you plan to start frying.

Whisk eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce in a large bowl. Whisk flour and remaining 4 tsp. salt in another large bowl.

Fit a Dutch oven with thermometer; pour in oil to measure a generous 2”. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 325°. Pat chicken dry. While the oil heats, dip each piece in the buttermilk mixture, letting excess drip back into bowl, and dredge in flour mixture and place on a baking sheet.

Heat oven to 250 degrees.  Working in 4 batches and returning oil to over 300° between batches, fry chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is deep golden brown and crisp - about 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a clean wire rack set inside a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm and continue cooking.  It will take about an hour to cook all the chicken.

Whisk cayenne, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika in a medium bowl; carefully ladle in 1 cup frying oil and whisk to blend. Brush fried chicken with spicy oil. Serve with bread and pickles.


  1. eight pieces of chicken, you ate eight pieces that day! :-)

  2. I think I might be able to give you a run for your money in a fried chicken eating contest. This explains our TG love!

  3. I read the recipe and thought the same thing about the amount of cayenne, but then felt like a wimp, especially since I'm from NM :) Glad to hear a foodie and cook like yourself went ahead and halved it. And btw, I think 8 pieces of fried chicken sounds about right :D