nashville hot chicken


nashville hot chicken

I like hot things. I like to think that I have a tolerance for spicy foods. I like hot sauce. Sweet chili gets on my nerves. I order raw jalapeños on my burritos for crying out loud.

When I approached the counter to order Nashville hot chicken for the first time last summer, I had it under control. Let me back up a little. Nashville is known for a dish called hot chicken. It’s spicy fried chicken. There are lots of restaurants there that serve the staple, but traditionally, the who-created-it-credit is given to Prince’s Hot Chicken. My husband and I were in Nashville last summer and knew we had to try this food we’d heard so much about, so naturally we chose Prince’s.

nashville hot chicken

We drove up to the humble space within a strip mall, put the car in park, and looked at each other.

“Okay, so, we can order from four choices: mild, medium, hot, or extra hot.”

Knowing we both had the guts for a little spice, I said, “Let’s get hot. Extra hot? …hmm…I don’t know. Let’s just stick with hot for now.”

And we locked eyes for a minute as if we were making a tiny pact, got out of the car, and bolted into the line and stood there firmly like we’d been regulars for years. Remember, we had it under control.

Once it was our turn, we approached the man in the tiny window. I opened my mouth to order. “I…”

“This y’all’s first time here?”

My husband and I looked at each other. “…yeah. Yeah, it is! We’re excited and we’d like to try the…”


“Well, you see, we actually really like spi…”

“Uhh, no, you gettin’ mild.” Chingggg.

And just like that, the register chimed open and the order was placed.

nashville hot chickennashville hot chicken

We probably owe that man some money, at least our first born child or something, because I’ll tell you this: mild is not mild. Mild is hotter than anything I’ve ever eaten. I can’t even imagine eating medium and I’d bet that extra hot just makes your entire body burst into flame.

They try to make it better for you by serving the chicken with white bread and pickles. The white bread is honestly some what of a tease. In the midst of your sweating and faucet nose, you see that white bread laying there, and think, “RELIEF.” So you grab a chunk of it and shove it in your mouth and immediately realize that that bread has been soaking up all that cayenne-infused oil for about 10 minutes and now your mouth is just numb and you can’t remember how to swallow. The bread is a tease. A delicious tease, but, yeah…a tease.

The only real relief comes from eating one of the pickles and it only lasts about .7 seconds. The pickles are only there to give you a little encouragement. They’re like miniature cheerleaders when you feel like your entire body is turning into a giant ball of capsaicin.

Basically, Nashville hot chicken is hot. It’s dang hot. But it’s also dang good. I squealed when I saw the cover of the newest Bon Appétit magazine: “The Hottest Fried Chicken”. If you can’t make it to Nashville, this’ll do just fine.

nashville hot chicken

nashville-style hot chicken
recipe from Bon Appétit, June 2014
active time: 1 1/2 hours total time: 4 1/2 hours

(2) 3 1/2 to 4 lb. chickens, each cut into 10 pieces (breasts halved)
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp plus 4 tsp kosher salt
4 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk (or whole milk)
2 tbsp vinegar-based hot sauce
4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
vegetable oil for frying (about 10 cups)
6 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
bread and sliced pickles (for serving)

Toss chicken with black pepper and 2 tbsp salt in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 3 hours.
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 a deep-fry thermometer; pour in oil to measure 2″. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 325º. Pat chicken dry. Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge in flour mixture, shaking off excess, then dip in buttermilk mixture, letting excess drip back into bowl. Dredge again in flour mixture and place on a baking sheet.
Working in 4 batches and returning oil to 325º between batches, fry chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of pieces registers 160º for white meat and 165º for dark, 15-18 minutes. Transfer to a clean wire rack set inside a baking sheet. Let oil cool slightly.
Whisk cayenne, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika in a medium bowl; carefully whisk in 1 cup of the frying oil. Brush fried chicken with spicy oil. Serve with bread and pickles.

nashville hot chicken

braised chicken with lentils

I’m a little short on words today, mostly because I’m currently sitting in one of my favorite places in Columbia and they just plopped a pesto turkey sandwich on French bread with tomato soup right in front of me. If you’re ever in the area, try the Gourmet Shop. Le best.

Before I check out and start beasting on this hit-the-spot meal, I wanted to give the run down on lentils. The little pea-like, bean-like round things we eat are actually the seeds of the lentil plant, which grow in pods. They are inexpensive and, boy, are they crazy about the health of humans. They are packed with protein, fiber, iron, and lots of vitamins and minerals. Plus, they are excellent tummy fillers and soak up the good flavors of whatever you’re cooking them in.

braised chicken with lentils
prep time: 5 minutes cook time: 1 hour yield: 4 servings
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds skinless chicken thighs, bone-in
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
a touch of cayenne pepper
2 tbsp prepared yellow mustard
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup lentils

Preheat the oven to 350º. Season the chicken with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. In a large, oven-proof skillet that has a lid, heat the oil on the stove over medium heat (no lid is needed yet). Add the chicken and cook, turning to allow both sides to sear, about 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Lower the heat to medium-low and add the sliced onion. Add a little cayenne to taste. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, and then stir in the mustard.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in 2 cups of the chicken stock while scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the lentils, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Cook the lentils for about 10 minutes.
Return the chicken to the skillet. If the liquid has evaporated while cooking the lentils, add more stock until it covers the chicken about half-way (I found I had to add about 1 cup more at this point). Cover with the lid and transfer to the oven. Cook, turning once, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 160º, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. If you find that your lentils still have a little bite to them, just remove the chicken and heat the lentil mixture on the stove until it reaches your desired texture.

Someone at the table beside me, and I know this is random, just said, “I know that it’s a good thing, I just can’t see it yet.” I have no idea what she was talking about, but I thought it was beautiful. Sometimes eavesdropping is a blessing.

masters chicken salad

In my best Jim Nantz voice,

“A tradition unlike any other…the Masters on CBS.”

Ahem. I wouldn’t really consider myself a golf person. I did once, however, par a hole on a par three course and, at that moment, expected bands to come marching out of the trees next to the green and the clubhouse attendees to run out with sashes and embroider a patch on my collared shirt that said, “Winner.”

I am, though, in actuality, rather bad at the sport and still can’t figure out how real golfers hit the ball from the tee on the first stroke. I use baseball rules and give myself three strikes. It’s after that when the grass suffers the blows from my club. I’m still convinced that my body can not physically torque itself to keep my arms straight, head down, and, all the while, keep my eyes on that one-inch-across white speck they call a ball.

Although I wouldn’t consider myself a golf person based on the fact that I simply can’t play, I do enjoy keeping up with the professionals and watching tournaments with my husband. And for golf nerds like him, this time of year is prime. Augusta National is saturated with the best and their fans, who most likely have been holding onto those golden tickets for the past few months tighter than their own children. The birds are chirping (I think those sounds are fake, by the way. Too perfect. Too, too perfect). The azaleas are (usually) blooming. And, surprisingly, people are paying nickels and dimes for sandwiches and drinks. Oh, yes. Their refreshments are dirt cheap. What they hey, right? It’s cool, though, and I think they’re just trying to keep some traditions alive. It’s mostly simple sandwiches, like tuna salad and pimiento cheese and things that are easy to walk around and eat in the sun.

I’ve never been to the Masters (podunk me, right), but I’m assuming that chicken salad there is probably two things: chicken. And mayonnaise. And I bet egg salad is egg. And mayonnaise. And that’s cool, that’s cool, but I wanted to spruce this (still simple) salad up. They also serve the sandwiches on plain white bread and…y’all. I just…can’t…tell you to eat plain white bread. The whole food fairy would come beat me up in my sleep tonight. So, just pick up some whole wheat and pretend.

masters chicken salad
yield: 4 cups prep time: 15 minutes cook time: 40 minutes
2 chicken breasts, bone in and skin on
2 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1 celery stalk, diced
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp yellow mustard
dash hot sauce
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped parsley

To cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 350º. Place the chicken, breast side up, on a baking sheet and coat evenly with the olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165º. After the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and tear the meat from the bones. Finely chop the chicken.
In a large bowl, add the chopped chicken, onion, celery, apple, mayonnaise, mustard, hot sauce, lemon juice, and parsley. Mix well until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Taste and add salt and pepper, if desired.

My husband and I actually stood at the edge of the green as Rory McIlroy snagged his first PGA win in Charlotte, NC. He was basically a baby and we cheered with the crowd as we watched him beat Phil and all the other old guys. But…I’m not gonna tell you who I’m rootin’ for. Wink.

Masters fans: Enjoy the weekend. Don’t get stressed. Eat a sandwich. Congratulate the winner. Swing a golf club. Have fun.

And to Masters fans and everyone else: Happy Resurrection Day Eve!

chicken pot pie

This (beat) is (beat) the best (beat) chicken pot pie you will ever eat.

Whoa, startin’ out a little strong there, are we? No story? No “this is what I did today”? No “I ate this with my grandmother when I was six years old”?

Self, calm down. The truth is, growing up, I didn’t like chicken pot pie. What the hey, right? I’m not sure what it was. Maybe I thought gravy looking white stuff tasted icky. Maybe I didn’t like cubed carrots. Maybe it was because the only chicken pot pie I ever ate was at school, where the crust was the consistency and taste of a spray-painted egg carton. All unnecessary negativities aside, I’m an adult now (psh, hah, let’s all laugh at that) and I absolutely enjoy, and crave, chicken pot pie. Let’s think for a minute. It includes two of my total favorites. 1. Sauce. It’s kind of like soup. You all know how I feel about soup and all of those ingredients mashed up into one spoonful. And 2. Biscuits. The top isn’t really a biscuit, but it’s like a thin flaky and doughy one. Goodness, why are all of my cravings centered around butter and cream and carbohydrates? I’ve a feeling I’m not alone in this.

It should come to no surprise that I’m, once again, referencing Ina Garten. This time, though, she’s got a co-star: Smitten Kitchen! Oh, how I love them both, both filled with foundational references that are good enough to keep coming back to over a lifetime. This recipe is going to be, kind of, an adaptation of Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, which is an adaptation of Ina’s recipe.

chicken pot pie
2 whole (4 split) hormone-free chicken breasts, with bone and skin
3 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 onions, chopped
3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups frozen peas

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup (or more) ice-cold water
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water, for egg wash
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350º. Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and roast for 40 minutes (or until cooked through). Let the chicken rest until cool enough to handle and pull the meat from the bones and discard skin. Shred the meat with your fingers and set aside.

Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan. In a large pot, melt the butter and sauté the onions with salt and pepper (and, if you’re like me, a little cayenne) on medium-low heat until translucent, about 10 or 15 minutes. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock and simmer over low heat, continuing to stir, for 1 minute until thickened slightly. Stir in the heavy cream. Add the chicken, carrots, and peas and mix well.

To create the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the diced butter (this butter should be COLD. Like, real cold. The non-melted fat in the precooked dough creates little pockets of air in the postcooked dough. We know those little pockets as flakiness!) to the flour mixture and quickly crumble the butter pieces into the flour, until it resembles little peas. Add the ice-cold water and fold it all until it just comes together to make a dough (you may need to add more water; just add small amounts until it all holds). Turn the dough onto a floured surface and quickly knead it into a ball. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375º. Divide the filling equally between 4 oven-proof bowls (or, in my case, coffee cups). Divide the dough into 4 quarters and roll each one into an 8″ circle. Brush the outer edges of each bowl with egg wash and place the dough on top. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make sure it sticks. Brush the dough with egg wash and cut 3 slits in the top. If you’d like, make little personalizations (like initials or hearts) with dough scraps and add to the top. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and bake, on a baking sheet, for 1 hour or until the dough is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Like I said, this pie is what’s up. I can picture you all hovering over your bowls, building forts around it with your arms and cereal boxes and daring anything moving to come toward you. Protect it with your spoons and elbows and the threat of its boiling, molten lava-like temperature. That may not work, though. My tongue is still burned from dinner. And that was (looking at watch) six hours ago. Oh well. Time for another pie.