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Warm Up with a Piece of Nashville's Famous 'Hot Chicken'

February 7, 2014 at 3:21 PM | by | ()

It's Friday, which means we have junk food on the brain as the weekend approaches. And with the cold weather in full effect, we need something to warm us up from the inside out. Enter Nashville's beloved regional specialty, "Hot Chicken." Let's take a look at how it's made and where it came from.

Generally speaking, the chicken is marinated in buttermilk, fried, smothered in a Nashville-style spice paste made of lard and cayenne pepper, and then served on a piece of bread that soaks up the sauce. Specific recipes, spice additions, and heat levels vary from restaurant to restaurant, and some even add the spice paste before breading and frying. As you would expect, recipes are very closely guarded, but this is the starting point for almost all vendors.

The photos above show the chicken served at Prince's, 400 Degrees, and Moore's in Nashville. All are very down-to-earth, blue-collar joints -- think dented cash registers, receipts that touch the floor, and take it or leave it service.

You'll also find plenty of sweaty patrons, but that doesn't have anything to do with the outside temperature. It certainly isn't called hot chicken for nothing, and although each restaurant has its own scale of spice, we hope you like your pleasure with a dose of pain. As one Prince's patron described, "The skin is absolutely the most delicious, and the most spicy part of the meal. It's kind of a cruel joke almost. You can't stop eating it because of how good it is, but it's the part bringing the pain."

Moore's Famous Fried Chicken is said to have the hottest chicken in town (called 3x), but Prince's is the place that started it all. According to Owner André Prince Jeffries, the concept came from her uncle. Rumored to be a womanizer, one lady friend attempted to get revenge by dumping extra pepper into his chicken on the morning after, but he ended up enjoying the burn so much that he asked her to recreate the recipe for him.

Guess that gives a whole new meaning to the word backfire, yeah?

[Photos: Nate Morguelan]

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