Nashville Hot Chicken: Andrew’s Version

It has been several months since I posted a food-related article, so I decided it was time to rectify that. This is in part because I have been much more conscience of my food choices of late. Not because I ate incredibly unhealthy, but I have introduced several more fruits and vegetables into my daily diet while eliminating things like soft drinks, all processed foods, and fast food. Additionally, I have limited red meat, alcohol, desserts, and baked goods made with AP flour.

Speaking of food, if you live in Nashville as I do, one finds a wonderful oasis for Foodies. Most people think of Barbeque when they think of Tennessee, but Nashville more than holds its own in terms of culinary diversity and quality. One staple dish for this city is Hot Chicken. If you ever visit Nashville or live here and have not tried it, I cannot impress upon you enough the level of flavor Hot Chicken achieves.

What is Hot Chicken? Essentially, it is spicy fried chicken, served over a piece of white bread, with pickles. If you like fried chicken and enjoy a little kick in your food, then it is the perfect dish. Combine that with the fact that this simple piece of white bread soaks up the juices and spices after cutting into the chicken, adding a whole other dimension of flavor.

The bad news is if one is attempting to eat healthier, as I am, Hot Chicken will not help in that endeavor. I have not cut out fried foods or foods that use flour (yes, you must use flour in fried chicken). I am simply cutting back on my intake. Besides, the way I look at it, if I can achieve the same level of succulence and flavor while simultaneously making the dish less unhealthy for me, it is a win-win. Therefore, in a rare moment, here is how I prepare my new version of Hot Chicken. By the way, I tend not to measure my ingredients, so good luck. You will need the following:

Chicken pieces (I prefer thighs, but they MUST have skin and preferably bone-in as well)

Panko Bread Crumbs (Very crunch breadcrumbs, available at your local grocery)

1 Egg

Salt

Bread (I chose Rye for this application, but any works)

Pickles (Preferably Dill)

Spice Rub (More on that below)

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Mix the egg with roughly a tablespoon of water and whisk to combine. This creates an egg wash.

Without detaching it, gently fold back the skin to reveal the meat. Apply a pinch of salt, preferably Kosher, and a generous amount of your spice rub. Replace the skin and dredge in the egg wash, making sure to let excess egg drip off. Lightly salt the skin, and then apply the spice rub liberally to the chicken. Dredge the chicken in the breadcrumbs, covering generously. Place in a baking dish or on a cooling rack over a sheet pan. Repeat for all pieces of chicken. Drizzle the pieces lightly with olive oil, cook in oven. For two thighs, cook roughly 50 minutes. Plate by placing one piece of bread per piece of chicken on the plate. Place chicken on top of bread, then spear 4 or 5 pickle chips on top of chicken.

You may ask why such a long time, for which I have two very good reasons. First, chicken , like many meats, cooked at a low temperature over a longer period of time will be more succulent and flavorful. Secondly, the low temperature will prevent the spices in the spice rub from burning, thus preserving their flavor and heat.

In terms of spices,I believe tradition would demand good old Cayenne Pepper for Hot Chicken. I use a variety of mixes, switching out ingredients from time to time. Again, I do not have specific measurements, so I encourage you to experiment. In my latest batch, here are individual spices that I included:

Black Pepper

Onion Powder

Garlic Powder

Ground Chipotle Powder (Very spicy, but flavorful stuff)

Smoked Paprika

Fenugreek (adds a touch of sweetness, perfect to balance with the heat)

These add great flavor and a decent amount of heat, but as I said, I encourage you to try out your own combinations. The final product should be juicy from the meat, crunchy from the breadcrumbs, and spicy from the mixes. Enjoy a piece of your bread slice with a helping forkful of chicken and you have an excellent meal. For me, here is the final product:

Hot Chicken

Finally, I would recommend some component to balance the heat, such as a creamy dipping sauce or a cool Cole Slaw. In this photo, I have homemade honey mustard.

To recap, here are the elements that I replace in order to make this slightly healthier:

Bake the chicken instead of frying

Coat with Panko breadcrumbs instead of all-purpose flour

Use Rye bread instead of standard white bread.

Shoot me an e-mail or sound off below if you have tried Hot Chicken, have your own method for cooking, or have improved on mine. As always, thank you for reading.

-Andrew

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