What I know about Nashville: Mrs. Coach from Friday Night Lights has a show about it and something called “hot chicken” was invented there.
A handful of Food Network shows have signal-boosted the wet-looking fried bird in the past decade and, based on the various hosts’ reactions, it’s amazing. If my hazy memory is correct, most of the purveyors of the Music City specialty are tight lipped about the recipe, but a cursory bit of internet sleuthing reveals some sort of cayenne pepper paste mix as the secret.
Enter KFC. Never mind that Nashville is in Tennessee and the “K” in KFC stands for a state that geographically stifles Tennessee like a big brother sitting on top of you trying to squeeze out a fart.
The Yum! Brands conglomerate will have your local delicacy and good luck trying to trademark something with two words as simple as “hot” and “chicken.” They have the balls to put an exclamation point in the name of their company. They have the balls to do anything. Anyway, KFC serves Nashville Hot Chicken. And it’s okay, if not for the typical KFC pitfalls.
The advertisements for Nashville Hot Chicken promise a good amount of heat, one that builds, based on a “secret” recipe that includes cayenne and smoked paprika. On this, it delivers. I had the two-piece basket, which includes a biscuit, a sprinkling of pickles and a side of cole slaw.
The breading on the chicken was nice and chunky, crispy. The initial heat factor was low but as the meal went on it chugged into a nice hum. It’s a dull, pleasant spice that is never overwhelming and contrasts well with the smoother tastes of the buttermilk breading and dark meat.
Since it’s being sold with sides as a package, I’ll go into those. The cole slaw is KFC cole slaw. It’s a bit too sweet but the coolness really acts well against the chicken, and basically serves as a palate cleanser whenever you need a respite from the spice.
The flimsy pickles, which are thrown onto the chicken, are an afterthought and do not possess any value whatsoever. They have no bite or any flavor and have wilted onto the greasy bird.
The biscuit touches the chicken and, through magical biscuit powers, absorbs some of the hot chicken oil, which makes an awesome hot oil-dipped biscuit, improving the already-great side.
This does, however, bring up the oil situation. KFC calls the entire thing a “two-piece basket” but it came in a plastic container. It traps in all the oil that was on the chicken, KFC-style, but this is hella oil. Hot chicken already looks wet and saturated, but this is for real the most oily chicken I have ever had. Two dozen napkins later, I had dripped the red-colored oil on my sleeves and my notepad, which was on an adjacent table.
Sure, chalk it up to me being a disaster, but this stuff got everywhere. I quit eating the thigh three-fourths the way through because it got too gross. The breading was slipping off like a cummerbund after prom and it was making a gigantic mess.
I had hot chicken once before (in Los Angeles, go figure). It was served on a slice of white bread, to soak up all the oil. Nothing was done like this here, and it was unbearable. The previous experience also had nice homemade vinegar to go along with the chicken, which made me lament the pickle situation even more.
The taste is fine, but the oil is harsh. Yum! Brands, what hast thou wrought?
(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)
Item: KFC Nashville Hot Chicken
Purchased Price: $5.49 (includes cole slaw and biscuit)
Size: 2 pieces basket
Purchased at: KFC
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Nice amount of heat, a low simmer of spice. Good breading.
Cons: Unbearably oily. Pickles were flimsy, not bright.