A hot chicken sandwich recipe to embrace the burn, or make a meatless mushroom variation

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Though the origins of many now-common dishes are muddled in mystery, hot chicken’s history, a spicy tale of love and deception, revenge and surprise, is alive and well.

I wrote about it this week after experiencing the heat while visiting Los Angeles recently. No, hot chicken didn’t originate in Los Angeles. Nashville’s Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack was the first place to sell the dish. There, the most popular order is bone-in chicken quarters, fried to a crisp and doused in red, fiery spice. But a few years ago, a member of the family, Kim Prince, opened Hotville in L.A.’s Baldwin Hills neighborhood. She serves the same recipe her great-great uncle started selling in the 1930s. You can order bone-in pieces, which are served with slices of white bread and pickles; fish, which is fried and covered in the same blend of spices; or hot chicken sandwiches.

After I took my first bite of a hot chicken sandwich at Hotville, in the key of Music City Medium, I thought I was going to be all right. The heat is warming at first, like a glowing ember, cozy and soft. So I took another bite. But as you chew and swallow, the fireworks start to pop. I put the sandwich down and reeled in my chair. My hubris couldn’t handle the heat.

As I was wiping sweat from my forehead, another patron passed my table. “Hope you put your toilet paper in the freezer!” he said with a smirk. (I only really understood that comment about 16 hours later!)

At Hotville, when patrons can’t handle the heat, they’re offered ranch dressing (the dairy helps cut the heat), extra pickles (the acidity cools the tongue) and honey. “My daddy, Martin Prince, drizzles honey on everything,” Kim Prince says.

I squeezed two packets of honey on the chicken in front of me and took another bite. It hurt so good.

Honey indeed helps offset the heat, and helped inspire this recipe for hot chicken or mushroom sandwiches. It’s not the Prince family recipe — it might not even come close — but it does deliver a peppery punch to the gut, whether you eat meat or not.

I want to be clear: This recipe is nothing more than an homage to Prince’s. Everyone who enjoys lots of spice should try the chicken at Prince’s or Hotville. But if you can’t make it there, or you don’t enjoy food with lots of heat, this recipe will give you a manageable taste of the classic. It calls for hot sauce in the brine, cayenne in the batter and chile flakes in the hot honey. Omit some or all of that spice to suit your tastes. Then, serve it with a buttermilk slaw and lots and lots of pickles.

Fried Chicken or Mushroom Sandwiches With Hot Honey and Slaw

  • To make vegan sandwiches >> make the mushroom variation using soy milk instead of buttermilk. Branches of oyster mushrooms get especially crisp around the edges and are slightly preferable to portobello caps. Firm tofu, pressed and cut into sandwich-size slabs, and patted dry, work too. Omit the honey, or use agave or another plant-based syrup instead.
  • If you don’t like heat >> reduce or omit the hot sauce, cayenne and chile flakes.
  • To make these sandwiches gluten-free >> use the suggested tapioca starch or chickpea flour instead of all-purpose, and use gluten-free buns.
  • 1 cup buttermilk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce or chile paste, any kind
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea or table salt, divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 pound total), trimmed and halved if very large or 6 portobello caps or oyster or maitake mushroom branches (8 to 10 ounces total), attached at stem end (see NOTE)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour or tapioca starch, plus more as needed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cayenne or another ground hot chile pepper, depending on your heat tolerance
  • 1/4 head cabbage (9 ounces total), any kind, finely shredded
  • 1/4 small red onion (1 ounce), thinly sliced
  • Zest and juice of 1 large lime
  • 5 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, chopped (optional)
  • Grapeseed or peanut oil, for frying
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 round sandwich buns, toasted if desired

In a large, shallow dish, whisk together 3/4 cup of buttermilk, the hot sauce and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the chicken or mushrooms, turning to coat and submerging if possible. Set aside while you prepare the dredging mixture and slaw — or cover and marinate overnight. In a large, shallow dish, whisk together the flour or tapioca starch, cayenne and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

To make the slaw, in a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, red onion, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, lime zest and juice. Using a fork, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of buttermilk and the cilantro, if using.

To fry the chicken or mushrooms, set a wire rack on top of a large, rimmed baking sheet (or line it with a clean paper bag).

Using tongs, remove each piece of chicken or mushroom from the buttermilk marinade, shaking off excess, and dip it into the flour mixture. Toss until each piece is coated evenly all around and in every crevice and cranny.

In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat, add the oil until it’s about 1 1/2 inches deep and heat until it registers 350 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Or, drop a pinch of the moist flour mixture into the hot oil. If the oil bubbles vigorously, it should be hot enough. Gently lay chicken or mushrooms in the oil, letting them fall away from you to minimize splatter. The oil will quickly drop in temperature once the meat or mushrooms are added, but it will rise again. Adjust the heat to maintain a consistent 325 degrees, and fry for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, turning and rotating pieces to check that none are burning. The chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees. The mushrooms are done when the exterior is dark golden brown.

Remove the chicken or mushrooms from the oil and transfer to the prepared wire rack (or paper bag) to drain.

To make the hot honey, in a small skillet, heat the honey and red pepper flakes until a few small bubbles appear on the edges of the pan, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Dip each chicken or mushroom piece into the hot honey before serving on buns, with a spoonful of slaw inside each sandwich and extra on the side.

NOTE: If using mushrooms, look for oyster or maitake mushrooms that are roughly the size of your palm, where several mushrooms are attached at a stem, making a bundle that’s fryable in one piece.

Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.

From staff writer G. Daniela Galarza.

Catch up on this week’s Eat Voraciously recipes:



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