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Nashville Hot Chicken

2012 October 15
by Mrs. FoodieLawyer

In the Thursday game last week, the Steelers played the Tennessee Titans.  Coming up with a food for which Tennessee is particularly well-known for the Steeler Opponent-City Challenge wasn’t easy.  And apparently neither was playing the Titans, since the Steelers lost the game that they were heavily favored to win.  Since the Titans play in Nashville, we focused our search on that city and discovered Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, which is famous for, you guessed it, their “hot chicken” — fried chicken sauced with a very spicy paste.  Prince’s is also famous for the story behind the chicken.  The current owner of Prince’s explains that she had a great-uncle who was quite the ladies’ man and once got caught by his live-in girlfriend after cheating on her with another girlfriend.  To get back at him, the jilted girlfriend made him a breakfast of super spicy fried chicken.  Her hot dish of revenge backfired, however, because he loved the chicken so much that he started serving it in his restaurant (and reportedly continued sleeping with other women.)  The dish was a hit with the locals and became so popular that there is an annual city-wide festival and competition honoring it.  Understandably, the actual recipe for Prince’s Nashville Hot Chicken is a closely-kept secret, but we found this recipe, which we adapted by using coconut oil instead of lard to make it a bit more healthy and about half the amount of cayenne pepper to make it tolerable for our delicate constitutions.

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We used our buttermilk fried game hen recipe, which involves brining the poultry in water with garlic, parsley, bay leaves, honey, salt, peppercorns and lemons for several hours.

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We used bone-in chicken thighs, with excess fat removed (but leave on the skin.)

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Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse off the chicken under cold water, pat it dry with paper towels and allow it to sit at room temperature for about an hour in order to further dry out.

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Dredge the chicken in flour once,

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then buttermilk,

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then dredge it in flour a second time.  Because we knew we would be adding the “hot chicken” paste after frying the chicken, we didn’t season the flour as we usually would (with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne and salt & pepper.)  But adding some cayenne to the flour would certainly increase the spice factor.

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Fry the chicken in peanut or canola oil heated to 325 degrees, turning once halfway through, until the chicken is cooked through and the breading turns a deep golden brown — about 8-10 minutes.

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The ingredients for the hot chicken paste are pretty simple — 3 tablespoons coconut oil (or lard), 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper.  The original recipe called for 3 tablespoons of cayenne, but we used half that much for milder (but still spicy!) chicken that we could actually eat without scorching off our taste buds.

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Mix the ingredients together to form a paste.  The coconut oil will soften and become more liquid as you stir it — no need to heat it.  When you brush the paste on the warm fried chicken, it will melt into all the crispy nooks and crannies.

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Place the fried chicken on a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet, tray or fancy newspaper to catch any drips, then brush generous amounts of the spicy paste all over each piece of chicken.

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Serve the chicken as Prince’s does, on top of a couple of slices of white bread with pickles on the side.  The bread soaks up the spicy paste and can be eaten as a dessert (of sorts.)  We also recommend serving the chicken with a side of mac-n-cheese or something similarly palate-cooling.  Our hot chicken was perfect — just spicy enough to make your taste buds come alive, clear your sinuses and give that barely-perspiring, rosy-cheeked glow, but not SO spicy that you can no longer taste anything after the first few bites and you weep not only from the searing heat, but the knowledge of how much you will pay for that heat in the end (so to speak.)  Nashville Hot Chicken is a clear winner, which brings the current S.O.C.C. record to:  Steelers 2-3, Foodie Lawyer 4-1.

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