I have a strange obsession with regional foods. Mind you, there doesn’t really have to be a personal connection to said region for me to feel the pull of the food it proudly claims as its own.
On the contrary – Keri doesn’t discriminate. Keri wants a bite of whatever is on your plate, no matter where you happen to hail.
It’s the reason I have two different King Cake recipes (one from scratch, one a total cheat. Both DELISH.) It also accounts for my occasional need to whip up a batch of Lobster Bisque, or my ongoing mission to find the perfect breading for my fried green tomatoes. I can’t wait until The Hub fires up the smoker we received for Christmas so we can start busting out batches of sauces and rubs from all the different regional BBQ styles our great nation has to offer. Goodness knows I have devoted enough time to extolling the glory of the the much revered Houston Green Sauce.
If there is a regional favorite to be had – I want to have it, regardless of how far my current geographical location is from the actual region.
However – my introduction to this particular regional food is kind of a shame, perhaps. You see, it is all about the KFC. That’s right – I’m talking about the currently buzzed about KFC version of Nashville Hot Chicken. After reading an article about the launch, I had to know more. KFC may have its 11 herbs and spices down, but there was no way I was going to trust KENTUCKY FRIED Chicken when it came to NASHVILLE HOT Chicken.
All my research left my mouth watering – oh how I wanted some. BUT (always with the but, Keri, ) two things stood in my way:
- There was no way in hell I was going to KFC for this – I knew it would fall sadly short
- The whole “riding the Keto/Low Carb, High Fat train” thing. Blowing my carb count sky high for the day on crap breading and super-sugary sauce? Sorry, no – Keri’s not givin’ up Them Gainz!!!
I took what I had learned and set out to make the best version of the chicken that I could eat and actually feel good about (and feel good after – no thank you starchy carb coma!)
I cooked A LOT of chicken – and some of it was super not good. BUT, I perservered (that is what I do for you people – I eat LOTS of fried chicken. You’re welcome.)
What I came up with is a really tasty, really spicy, crunchy spin on the NHC concept. Is it authentic? Well, no. It might be best to call it a cousin of the original. It is comfort food you can feel good eating, made with the deepest respect for the region that inspired it, and the people who proudly call Tennessee home.
1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken cut into 5 or 6 pieces
1/2 cup coconut oil (for frying)
For the Marinade:
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons Tabasco style hot sauce
For the Dredge:
1 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk (could sub heavy whipping cream)
2 tablespoons Tabasco
For the Sauce:
3 tablespoons Tabasco
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon brown sugar (could sub no carb sweetener)
WHAT YOU DO:
For this recipe, I find that smaller pieces of chicken get kind of lost, or something, with all the breading and the heat – but leaving breasts whole doesn’t allow enough contact with the marinade and leaves large amounts free of crispy breading (Sad panda.) 5/6 nice sized chunks from 1.5 lbs works really well for this.
Add to a large ziploc bag with the chicken pieces, remove extra air, and allow to rest in the fridge for AT LEAST 1 hour, but no more than 10 (the acid in the buttermilk isn’t something you want to leave working on chicken breast for any longer than that!)
On a large plate or in a flat-bottom pie pan, thoroughly combine the ingredients for the dry dredge. In a bowl, beat the egg lightly, then add the remaining wet dredge ingredients and stir to combine.
Remove the chicken from the bag and pull all excess marinade off of the chicken pieces the drier the chicken, the more even the initial coating of the dry dredge ingredients turns out.
Then, working one piece at a time dip each first into the wet dredge ingredients, hold up and using fingers remove extra so that no large globs (sorry, there is no nicer way to say that) of the liquid dredge remain.
Then, pat each piece into the dry dredge again, coating and allowing the extra to fall away. I did not want to use a bunch of extra carb-y breading, so I kept the coating thin, using only a small amount for each piece and being careful to remove clumps. Almond flour isn’t cheap – just as a side note- so I wasn’t going willy-nilly with a bunch of extra on the plate. If things don’t quite even up, you can always mix just a bit more of the dry ingredients to cover the last bits. I did not find it an issue and had no trouble coating all 5 of my pieces (without having a ton left over to feel guilty about or feel obligated to pile on the chicken.)
Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees and prepare a 2nd pan with wire rack.
I use a two-step cooking process for this “fried” chicken. For the first step, heat 1/2 cup of coconut oil in a large frying pan. To test the heat, take a pinch of the leftover dry dredge flour and drop it into the oil. Did it sizzle right up? If so, your oil is ready for frying.
CAREFULLY add the coated chicken to the pan, and once you have placed a piece, do not move it around right away or the coating on the bottom might stick to the pan and not the chicken! (NOOOOO!!) Keep the heat up on high for now, while you add all the pieces. The chicken will drop the temp of the oil, and keeping the heat high will allow for a quick recovery. (Again, CAREFULLY – it is oil and it pops and bubbles and those tiny oil burns HURT.)
Cook the first side for 3 minutes, then carefully lift one piece and flip. If the piece does not lift easily from the bottom, you can give it another minute, but don’t go walking way to refill your wine just now or you will end up with chicken that is too dark on one side (trust the voice of experience.)
You want the air to circulate all around your chicken pieces in the oven, so the bottom stays crunchy (not squishy. Yuck.)
Pop the chicken into the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest part of each piece reads around 160 if you are into that kind of thing (I am way more likely to just cut a piece open to check if my super-scientific “Keri poke test” is inconclusive.)
Pull the chicken out of the oven and let it rest a minute or two while you whip up the sauce. Mix the three ingredients together and whisk to combine.
I can hear you all now “BUT KERI, SUGAR… that is a keto-no-no, yo-yo!?” (Sorry, got carried away there.)
Yes. Yes it is. This is a small amount – and to me it is worth it to watch what else I am eating that day to allow for this because the brown sugar really adds the flavor and sticky consistency that I want here. If you aren’t into it – try using the low-carb sweetener you love! Let us know how it goes in the comments below so others can try too!
Drizzle that goodness evenly over all the pieces of the chicken, and then return it to the oven for just long enough to get that glaze all melty and starting to sink in a bit. (This only takes a minute.)
Traditionally this chicken gets served with pickles and basic white bread – Oopsie rolls would be a yummy addition! We know how Keri loves an excuse to Oopsie. This go around I had some yummy Quest Salt and Vinegar Protein Chips. Yassss.
There you are – my take on Nashville Hot Chicken, with massive amounts of chicken-fried love for the good folks in Tennessee who give regional food stalkers like me a new entry on my “must visit and eat” list.
*roughly 10 carbs per piece, with in between 2 and 3 of those being fiber. BUT that is assuming that a full 1/5 cup of buttermilk sticks to each chicken piece, (which would be gross!) and that you use every single bit of that almond flour (which is possible.) Just for some perspective on carb count.