The Hot Chicken Project is more than the sum of its parts. Yes, it’s a cookbook, but it’s also a narrative, a photographic celebration and most importantly, it’s Aaron Turner’s love letter to his obsession. This book is about immersing yourself into the world of hot chicken. So, to plunge you into this journey along with Aaron, we have a fun offer.
For acclaimed Australian chef Aaron Turner, hot chicken isn’t just food—it’s salvation in crispy, fried and devilishly spicy form. In The Hot Chicken Project, he travels back to Nashville, the place of its birth, to pay his respects to the makers, to chart the love and obsession that has shaped his world, and to make sure that what he does back home is doing it justice. Part cookbook, part pilgrimage, The Hot Chicken Project is both an epic love letter to the fiery bird and a celebration of a way of life that is in danger of vanishing forever.
The Hot Chicken Project is part recipe book (40 recipes covering the best mains, sandwiches, sides, salads and sauces), part narrative, part pictorial celebration of the history and power hot chicken holds over the city of Nashville—and now beyond (including Melbourne!).
It frames the stories of the people and families and communities who have cooked and eaten and appropriated it in Nashville over several generations. It offers a loud, opinionated take-no-prisoners perspective on food culture in the US (and beyond) today, as well as being an incomparable how-to manual for the VERY best hot chicken and accompaniments—wherever you are.
This recipe is cobbled together from countless hours of trial and error and lots and lots of burnt chicken pieces, and if there’s only one thing you take from it then make it this: don’t skimp on the lard here. If you do, your chicken will be dry and nasty. One more piece of advice: don’t cop out on the skillet. Invest in quality, take care of it and you’ll be frying for a lifetime. (A splatter screen is also pretty much a chicken fryer’s must-have—it’ll save both your kitchen and your favourite metal band t-shirts from ruin.)
Finally, when breaking down the chicken, be sure that the bones are left in and the skin is left on. There is no place in this world for skinless, boneless skillet-fried chicken.
1 x 1.2 kg (2 lb 10 oz) chicken, cut into 8 pieces (2 x wings, 2 x drumsticks, 2 x thighs, 2 x breasts)
500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) buttermilk
lard, for deep-frying
600 g (1 lb 5 oz/4 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
1 tablespoon table salt
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Place all the chicken pieces in a bowl, pour over the buttermilk and toss to coat all over. Leave the chicken to sit for 20 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack set above a tray to let the excess buttermilk drip away.
Mix together the breading ingredients in a large bowl.
Individually coat all the chicken pieces in the breading mix, then transfer to a tray. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, coat the chicken a second time in the breading mix and leave to sit at room temperature on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
Half-fill a heavy-based skillet with melted lard and heat to 180°C (350°F). Carefully add the leg and thigh pieces to the hot fat and cook for 4 minutes, then add the breasts and wings and cook for a further 4 minutes. Turn the pieces and continue to fry, turning as you go, until the internal temperature reaches 75°C (165°F) when measured with a probe thermometer, the juices of the chicken are running clear and the spices are golden and crisp. Remove the chicken pieces from the skillet and place on a paper towel to drain off any excess oil, then season with salt and serve immediately.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Hardie Grant Books.