We have been plagued by the KFC Nashville Hot Fried Chicken commercials (first by Norm Macdonald and now Jim Gaffigan dressed as Colonel Sanders), warning us its hot fried chicken is around for a limited-time only.
Buffalo may fry and hot sauce its chicken wings, but Nashville takes it a step further to include every part of the bird which is fried, then given a bath of a cayenne hot sauce (among other ingredients).
Ironically, having been to Nashville three times in the past four years to visit family (a shout out to the McGuires), the chicken legs have never aligned for us to procure the hot fried delight we first read about in Bon Appetit magazine many moons ago.
The story referenced Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack (Andre Prince Jeffries' uncle is credited with inventing the chicken; here’s a good history), but there are several other famous joints including 400 Degrees, Hattie B’s, Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish and Pepperfire Hot Chicken.
A Hot Chicken Festival put on by the Nashville Hot Fried Chicken Coalition happens on July 4 (although who in the blazes wants to eat hot fried chicken in scorching weather?). We do love the coalition's motto, "To Protect & Burn."
Fearing we'd somehow miss out, we popped into the KFC at 535 Dick Road to get Nashville Hot Chicken. Packaged in a nifty black tray (not the iconic bucket), careful observation told us KFC’s recipe is essentially KFC Extra Crispy Chicken with added cayenne-hot sauce judiciously squirted on. Real hot chicken is made with layers of heat, including hot sauce in the buttermilk dip and cayenne whisked into an oil sauce. Yet, we cannot fault KFC for going the quicker route. We asked the counter lady how it’s selling and she noted “pretty good.”
Traditionally, hot fried chicken comes with pickles on top of white bread. We only got a few pickles and no bread. Our eight-piece meal ($28.26) included the usual suspects of cole slaw, mashed potatoes and gravy and biscuits.
The crispy chicken held up well after being drenched in the sauce. It was hot enough, but not scorching hot despite its reddish color.
It was tasty, with a heavy, (we think) paprika bitterness and cayenne heat, but really good. Those who want hotter would probably have to add Tabasco, Frank’s, etc. (We secretly wonder if folks in Buffalo have been doing this all along?)
Would we order hot chicken instead of KFC’s regular fried chicken next time? Probably not. But for a change of pace, it wasn’t bad. (We found ourselves guzzling water hours later, but that goes with the territory.)
Like our beloved chicken wings, real Nashville hot fried chicken can be ordered in a variety of heats. And although we can never forgive them for the Music City Miracle, who knew Buffalo would have something in common one of the South’s most iconic cities?