Hattie B's Hot Chicken From 'Fried & True'

[Photograph: Evan Sung]

We're starting this week of fried chicken off with a bang. This recipe for Hattie B's Hot Chicken, from Lee Brian Schrager's Fried & True: More than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides, packs the heat and is quite possibly my favorite recipe in the book. Burnished a deep, hell-fire red with a finishing coat of cayenne-amplified oil, the bird is emphatically crunchy with juicy and flavorful meat.

As Schrager tells it, hot chicken traces its incendiary roots to a enterprising philanderer in the 1930s, whose jealous girlfriend attempted to punish his tastebuds by sabotaging his fried chicken with the fiery juice of the peppers in her garden. Ironically, he liked it enough to open a chicken shack, Prince's Hot Chicken, which still specializes in what is now Nashville's trademark dish. Hattie B's Hot Chicken is a relative newcomer on the scene, opening in 2012, but has quickly established itself as a contender for the crown. Owner Nick Bishop and chef John Lasater sell their chicken in five heat levels, the hottest being Shut the Cluck Up!!! (exclamation points theirs). If I had to rate this recipe's heat, I would put it somewhere between their Hot and their Damn Hot. Powerful but not prohibitive.

Why I picked this recipe: I'd heard about this 'hyper-regional' specialty, but I'd never tasted it myself. When a dish has come to dominate and represent the culinary scene of a major US city, it must be worth a try!

What worked: The whole process resulted in well-flavored meat and the crispiest crust of the recipes I tested. It started with a simple 24-hour dry brine of salt and pepper. The chicken was then double dipped in a milk/egg/hot sauce mixture and a minimalist dredge of salt-seasoned flour. It fried at a moderate temperature of 325°, which let the breading get hard as glass while perfectly cooking the large pieces of chicken. And the spicy coating, for which you can use melted lard or a scoop of the hot cooking oil, is thick with cayenne kept just barely in check with a touch of brown sugar and other seasonings.

What didn't: You can't complain when your mouth is on fire (and there's nothing to complain about).

Suggested tweaks: So utterly non-traditional, but I can't help thinking you could make a mean taco with any leftovers.

As usual, we are giving away 5 copies of Fried & True this week.

Reprinted from Fried & True by Lee Schrager with Adeena Sussman. Copyright (c) 2014 by Lee Schrager. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, LLC.

Hattie B's Hot Chicken From 'Fried & True'

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About This Recipe

Yield:Serves 4
Active time:1 hour 10 minutes
Total time:12 to 24 hours
Special equipment:Candy or deep-fry thermometer
This recipe appears in: Hattie B's Hot Chicken From 'Fried & True'
Rated:

Ingredients

  • For the Dry Brine
  • 1 whole chicken (3 pounds), washed, patted dry, and cut into quarters
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Dip
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Louisiana-style hot sauce
  • For the Dredge
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • For the Spicy Coating
  • 1/2 cup lard, melted and heated (or hot frying oil)
  • 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Procedures

  1. 1

    Dry brine the chicken: In a bowl, toss the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

  2. 2

    Make the dip and dredge: In a bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and hot sauce. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.

  3. 3

    Dredge the chicken: Dip the chicken in the flour mixture, then in the milk mixture, then in the flour mixture again, shaking off the excess after each step.

  4. 4

    Fry the chicken: Fill a 6- to 8-quart pot halfway with oil and to 325°F. Set a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet and set aside. Working in batches, lower the chicken into the fryer and fry until crisp, 15 to 17 minutes for breast quarters and 18 to 20 minutes for leg quarters. Remove the chicken and let drain on the rack.

  5. 5

    Make the spicy coating: Carefully ladle the lard or frying oil into a medium heatproof bowl and whisk in the cayenne pepper, brown sugar, black pepper, salt, paprika, and garlic powder. Baste the spice mixture over the hot fried chicken and serve immediately.

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