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4 easy steps to crisp, oven-fried Nashville chicken

  • LOS ANGELES TIMES
                                Serve hot chicken with pickles for a bright bite to balance the heat of the chicken.

    LOS ANGELES TIMES

    Serve hot chicken with pickles for a bright bite to balance the heat of the chicken.

My favorite fried chicken shop in Los Angeles is Broaster Kitchen in Montebello. The secret to its shatteringly crisp chicken is its broaster machines, which simultaneously deep-fry and pressure-cook chicken to maximize crunch and juiciness.

Since we home cooks do not have pressure fryers — and deep-frying is the sort of thing that’s a deal-breaker for many (it takes a lot of oil, spatters greasy grime and is a mess to clean up), I turn to oven-frying in times of crisp-chicken need.

It’s not the same, but it comes close, especially if you’re making Nashville-style hot chicken. The final drizzle of oil seasons and spices the crust and hits with the same satisfying wallop as the original.

To nail the other hallmarks of hot chicken, I’ve come up with four workarounds that will give you an easy weeknight crunchy chicken dinner:

>> Use only drumsticks. They stay juicy even in the dry heat of the oven.

>> Substitute a quick mayon­naise coating for the usual buttermilk. Mayo not only helps glue on the breading, it keeps the meat tender.

>> Boost the taste and texture of the crumb coating. I combine spices and Parmesan with panko. The cheese acts as an umami boost while helping the crumbs brown. Panko offers the most crunch of all the supermarket crumb options, but its pieces are a bit large for fried chicken. To mimic a flour-based coating, break the panko into smaller bits, by hand or in a food processor.

>> Bake the chicken on a wire rack. Elevating the chicken allows the heat to circulate, crisping the crumbs on all sides. Because nobody wants soggy-bottomed fried chicken.

As with any hot chicken, the spice oil makes or breaks it. “The goal is to make the spice oil flavorful — not just hot,” says Kim Prince of Hotville Chicken in Los Angeles, a member of the Prince family that operates Nashville’s original hot-chicken restaurant. “You don’t need to try to figure out the original spice recipe from Prince’s or any other place. Just find the spices that work.”

The result is hot chicken that’s as good right out of the oven as it is the next day cold from the fridge.

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OVEN-FRIED NASHVILLE-STYLE HOT CHICKEN

Crunchy and spicy, this is a great option for making fried chicken at home. Use your favorite hot pepper sauce in the mayonnaise coating; it stays on the chicken and contributes to its heat level and flavor. If you’re afraid of spicy heat and just want a solid oven-fried chicken recipe, use a mild hot sauce in the mayo mix and eliminate the cayenne. Classic Nashville hot chicken is served with sliced white bread and pickles, the former for soaking up the spiced oil and taming the heat, the latter to provide a tart counterpoint.

12 chicken drumsticks (about 3-1/2 pounds)

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Vegetable oil to grease rack

>> Coating:

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup hot pepper sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

>> Breading:

1-1/2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

>> Spice oil:

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoons paprika

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Set an oven rack in top third of oven, then heat to 450 degrees. Line half-sheet pan or rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack over it. Lightly coat rack with oil.

To make coating: Whisk mayonnaise, hot pepper sauce, mustard, garlic powder and salt in large bowl. Add chicken and turn to evenly coat.

Combine breading ingredients in shallow dish. Rub mixture together with fingers to break panko into smaller bits. Roll a coated drumstick in mixture to evenly and completely coat, pressing on crumbs if needed. Shake off any excess, then place on prepared rack. Repeat with remaining drumsticks. Let stand at least 15 minutes.

Bake until chicken is golden, crunchy and cooked through, about 30 minutes. When a piece is pierced with a sharp paring knife, juices should run clear.

While chicken bakes, make spice oil: Combine sugar with paprika, garlic powder, cayenne and salt in medium heatproof bowl. Heat oil in small saucepan over medium until wavy. Pour over spices. Once sizzling subsides, stir well.

As soon as chicken comes out of the oven, stir spiced oil again and drizzle evenly over drumsticks. Serve hot. Serves 6 to 8.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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