Nashville-Style Hot Chicken
Depending on how tuned in you are to foodie holidays — as for us, we’re on constant alert for the next excuse to indulge — July 6th marks National Fried Chicken Day, so we’re serving up Carla Hall’s Nashville-Style Hot Chicken from America the Great Cookbook. Soaking your bird in brine before frying it up yields unbelievably juicy meat. Accompany with white bread and pickles and you’re good to go! Believe us: This poultry recipe packs a powerful punch.
1 cup (160 g) sliced dill pickles
1 large habanero chile (or 2 small)
1⁄4 cup (50 g) kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
1 cup (240 ml) dill pickle juice
1⁄2 cup (120 ml) water
8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
2 cups (500 ml) canola oil
1 1⁄2 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 1⁄2 tsp smoked paprika
1 1⁄2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1⁄2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
1⁄2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
To fry and serve
2 qt (2 l) canola or vegetable oil, or more as needed for deep-frying
6–8 slices white bread
1 1⁄2 cups (240 g) sliced dill pickles
To brine the chicken, in a blender, pulse the pickles, habanero, salt, and sugar until combined; add the pickle juice in small amounts, pulsing after each addition, until incorporated. Add the water and blend until smooth.
Place the chicken in a large storage container or food-grade bag. Pour the brine over the chicken, ensuring that all of the chicken is well coated. Refrigerate for 4–8 hours.
To prepare the Hot Oil, in a small, heavy-bottomed pot, whisk all the ingredients together. Place the pot over medium heat, warm the mixture to about 165°F (75°C), and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and transfer to a storage container. The oil will last for 1 month if stored in a cool place.
To dredge the chicken, place a wire rack over a baking sheet. Remove the chicken from the brine and place it on the wire rack. Refrigerate the chicken, uncovered, for 1 hour to allow it to dry.
Place the flour dredge ingredients in a large, lock-top plastic bag and mix well. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and coat it evenly in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess flour. Reserve the remaining seasoned flour. Place the chicken on a clean baking sheet and return it to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
To fry the chicken, line a baking pan with crumpled paper towels, or set a wire rack over (or inside) a baking pan. Pour the oil into a deep, heavy-bottomed cast-iron frying pan to a depth of about 3 inches (7.5 cm) and heat to 365°F (185°C). The oil will be ready when a little flour dropped into it bubbles and sizzles steadily.
While the oil is heating, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and coat evenly in the remaining seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. In batches, carefully place the chicken in the oil, skin side down and laying it down away from you. Don’t crowd the pan, and maintain the oil at 365°F (185°C). Fry, turning the chicken pieces to brown them evenly, until cooked through, 12–14 minutes. The internal temperature should reach 160°F (71°C).
Place the cooked chicken pieces in the prepared pan to drain. Repeat with the remaining chicken, replenishing and reheating the oil between batches.
To serve, dunk the hot fried chicken in the prepared Hot Oil, then place on the white bread. Excess oil will drip onto the bread—this is a yummy good thing. Serve immediately with the dill pickles.