Nashville Hot Chicken Milanese

Nashville Hot Chicken Milanese

I’ve spent the last thirty years on either of the two blue US coasts, and sadly, I have not clocked a great deal of time in the south. I’ve sung karaoke at a dueling piano bar in Lubbock, Texas; I've been attacked by city raccoons in Austin; I even visited my sister once or twice during the two years that she attended Savannah College of Art and Design. But in reality, the most time I’ve ever spent in any place vaguely resembling the south is the year I spent working at Hungry Mother, an Appalachian-inspired, James Beard-award winning, casual fine-dining restaurant in Cambridge, MA. 

I was twenty-four years old, and Hungry Mother taught me a lot. It helped hone a love for the simple pleasures given and received through hospitality; it instilled in me a life-long obsession with Amaro; and it taught me that beef tongue is actually really fucking delicious. But by far the most important takeaway was a deep appreciation for Nashville Hot Chicken. Hungry Mother’s sister restaurant, State Park, was the first place I ever tried the Tennessee specialty. Crispy exterior, hot as hell, and more than a little sweet, it came with an optional shot of buttermilk on the side, a piece of white bread, and some pickles to cool that hot hot heat. I nearly burst into tears upon my first bite—both because of how unexpectedly spicy it was, and how utterly delicious. Here in Seattle, Sister and Brothers does a great job carrying the torch for my sweet-spicy bird cravings, but I still yearn for it on a more regular basis than a $16 price tag allows.

So, I decided to make my own fix. I’m not one for deep-frying at home—it feels like a lot of oil to waste, and it immediately stinks up my <900-square-foot living space. Thus, the only way I will fry chicken in my kitchen is pounded thin and lightly fried in a pan, then served with enough salad to trick you into thinking it’s healthy. In lieu of the buttermilk shot and a sad side of pickles, I make a buttermilk–pickle juice slaw that serves the same purpose, and looks a little prettier. But hey, if you want some buttermilk shots, go ahead and pour ’em up. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.


Nashville Hot Chicken Milanese with Dill Buttermilk Slaw

If you’ve never had Nashville hot chicken—be warned. This is one spicy bird. The key is this: You can adjust the spice. The recipe below is for somewhere between mild and medium-hot chicken—which on the scale of Nashville chicken spice is pretty damn hot. If you’re looking for something less spicy, reduce the amount of cayenne (two or three tablespoons will still give you a good kick), or only coat one side of your bird with the sauce. And remember, the slaw is there to cool things down.

Time: 1 hr
Active Time: 1 hr
Serves: 4
Drink: Brut rosé or off-dry Riesling

INGREDIENTS

For the chicken
  • 2 large chicken breasts, roughly 1 ¼ – 1 ½ pounds
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons Tabasco (or similar hot sauce)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

    For the slaw
  • 1 small red cabbage
  • 1 small bunch of lacinato kale
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 cup non-fat greek yogurt
  • 5 tablespoons of pickle juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of buttermilk or whole milk
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Make your slaw:

    Kale and cabbage are hearty—you want to give them enough time to get good and tender with that dressing. Make your slaw first and let it sit until you’re ready to serve the whole meal.

    1. Make dressing
    Whisk together greek yogurt, pickle juice, mustard, vinegar, and milk.

    2. Shred your cruciferous
    Remove kale leaves from the stems and core the cabbage. Chop both into long ribbons and place in a big bowl.

    3. Julienne those carrots and apples
    That just means cut 'em into matchsticks. 

    5. Toss salad
    Slowly add about a quarter of the dressing and mix with your hands. Then, add another quarter and mix again. At this point, its time to taste test. If the salad needs more dressing, continue to add dressing slowly until it is well-dressed, but not over-dressed. Add salt and pepper to taste.


    On to the chicken:

    1. Set up a dredging station
    Get out three shallow bowls and fill one with flour and a pinch of salt and pepper, one with the eggs, milk, and tabasco, and the final one with panko bread crumbs.

    2. Portion your chicken
    We're about to turn two chicken breasts into four servings. Lay the chicken breast-down and place your palm on top. Then, slice it in half horizontally.

    3. Pound chicken flat
    One by one, place each chicken portion between two pieces of parchment paper and flatten by pounding with a rolling pin (or whatever works, I've used a meat tenderizer, a small cast iron, and an actual hammer). Pound until the chicken is roughly 1/4-inch thick.

    4. Preheat oven on its warming setting, or about 200 degrees

    5.
     Dredge chicken
    Dip chicken piece by piece in flour, egg mixture, and panko.

    6. Cook chicken
    Heat pan over medium-low and melt 1/2 tbs olive oil and 1/2 tbs butter. Once the butter starts bubbling, place one piece of chicken in the pan. Cook for three minutes per side, only flipping once.

    Keep the chicken warm and crisp in the oven while you cook the rest. Place it on a wire rack on top of a sheet pan for ideal crispness.

    8. Make spicy oil
    Whisk cayenne pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika together. Then, slowly whisk in the remaining olive oil.

    9. Brush chicken with oil; serve
    Remove the chicken from the oven and brush each piece with spicy oil until it deepens in color. Serve one chicken piece per person topped with a hearty scoop of slaw.  

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    Um, excuse me?

    I don't like spicy food!
    Feel free to skip the spicy oil and you'll just have regular chicken Milanese. It's still delicious.

    Why is there pickle juice in the dressing?
    Hot chicken is usually served with pickles—consider this a delicious nod to tradition. It's a subtle flavor, and one that you can skip if you're not into pickles.

    I don't have a wire rack, can I use something else instead?
    First, I recommend investing in one—or two for that matter! They are pretty cheap and have roughly a zillion uses. However, if you don't have one, you can place your chicken on a few paper towels to drain excess oil before placing them in the oven to stay warm.

    What are some good side dishes for this?
    Crispy potato pucks. Always. 

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