Some things you eat and enjoy and then you move on. Some things you eat and enjoy and then want to eat again every day for the rest of your life and daydream about how you could justify a trip over 5000 miles away, plus a two-hour queue in a weird shopping centre just to taste it again. Did I mention I really enjoyed Howlin’ Ray’s Nashville-style fried chicken in L.A.?
We went at the end of last year during our epic West Coast adventure. It had always been on the hit list because we’d both drooled (and whimpered in moderate fear) when we watched Sean Evans try the dangerously hot option on Hot Ones. If you haven’t seen the clip, it’s equal measures hilarious and terrifying. This made my chilli-head of a boyfriend want to try it, and me very reassured that the mild sandwiches between mayo-slathered bread was the right choice for my delicate mouth. Alex was actually fine with the heat of the hottest batter they did and sad that the guy’s in the shop had convinced him to scale-back the rest of his order to medium heat, and by contrast, I found the mild quite bloody spicy but delicious. Like DELICIOUS. The best fried chicken I’ve ever had, and boy have I frequented my fair share of South East London’s chicken shops. The meat was so so juicy and succulent and flavourful and the batter was perfectly crisp, a little bit crackly and fiery. In a really great way. Tbh, I haven’t really enjoyed a chicken burger since – they all pale into insignificance in Howlin’ Ray’s shadow.
Since we won’t be jetting off to Los Angeles for lunch anytime soon, I decided to make my own version of Howlin’ Ray’s famed hot chicken. And it came out very well indeed.
In an ideal world, you’d make this Nashville-style fried chicken in a deep-fat fryer, and in an ideal world, we’d have enough kitchen counter space to not have to rotate our culinary gadgets every few months, meaning our dirty but delicious fryer is in storage (the KitchenAid sits in its place, so it’s not all bad news). I considered not doing the recipe because of this but then I realised most households won’t have a deep-fat fryer anyway, and a Nashville-style fried chicken recipe without a deep-fat fryer might be exactly what someone out there was searching for.
There are two stages: the marinating, which is very important and needs upwards of six hours, but I’d recommend 24. Then the frying. Whether you stuff it in your mouth as it is, load it with soured cream to temper the spice or place it between two pieces of bread with some iceberg lettuce, is up to you.
Makes a feast for four+ people
4-6 chicken thighs
3-4 chicken breasts
2 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
4 tsp garlic powder
4 tsp onion powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp light brown sugar
1/2 bottle Frank’s hot sauce
1 tsp smoked paprika
400g plain flour
1 tsp salt
The first step is to marinate the chicken: in a bowl, combine the salt, pepper, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper and sugar. Put the spice mix on a big plate or in a big Tupperware so you’ve got a good surface area to roll all the chicken through for a thorough coating. Cover the chicken and keep it in the fridge overnight, for up to 24 hours.
Then, it’s on to day two.
Mix the flour, paprika and salt in a large bowl. In another large bowl combine the buttermilk and hot sauce.
First, coat the chicken in the flour mixture, shake off, and then drag through the buttermilk mixture. Let the excess drip off and go back to the flour mixture so it’s completely covered.
Pour the groundnut oil (about half the bottle so the chicken will be almost completely submerged) into a wide pan and heat till bubbles appear. You’ll want to work in batches, maybe three or four pieces of chicken at once, lowering them into the oil and cooking for 15-18 minutes each in total, turning them halfway through.
Put them on kitchen roll to absorb excess oil and then onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving. If you’re a hot sauce fiend, brush some more hot sauce onto them now. Serving suggestion that involved more chilli and ample cheese over here!