Inspired by Nashville hot chicken, this recipe for fried chicken sandwiches with hot honey and buttermilk slaw is satisfyingly crisp and can be made as hot as you’d like. The honey offsets the heat from the cayenne, and the slaw cools everything down. To make this dish vegan, use mushrooms (see NOTE) or firm tofu, cut into sandwich-size slabs and pressed, and use soy milk instead of buttermilk.
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Active time: 25 mins; Total time: 1 hour, plus optional marinating time
Make Ahead: The mushrooms or chicken can be marinated overnight.
Storage Notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated in covered containers for up to 4 days.
Tested size: 4 servings; makes 4 sandwiches and 4 cups of slaw
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, tapioca starch or almond flour, 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 evenly coated 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.
From staff writer G. Daniela Galarza.
Tested by Jim Webster.
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