Spicy Hot Chicken Salad

My mom likes contrasts in her foods. I like her theory. Cold and hot. Creamy and crunchy. A little sweet and a little sour. Colors. Tastes. Textures. Keeping these extremes in mind while you play in the kitchen can help magic happen.  I was thinking about her theory while putting this salad together. (By the way, I am aware that too many of my salads involve blue cheese and bacon, but I can’t help it)

I was reading an article in Cook’s Countryabout Nashville Hot Chicken. I didn’t want to make fried chicken. But, it got me thinking about a salad they serve at Neiman’s Mermaid Bar that is essentially fried chicken strips slathered in buffalo wing sauce and served on greens with blue cheese. Again, I wasn’t in the mood for fried. So I thought, what if I used the techniques from the Nashville Hot Chicken but pan grilled the chicken and put it into a salad? Cool…but hot. It worked. It was delicious. And if you are feeding people who like a little kick in their dinner, it is a hit. The basic technique is: brine the chicken, pan grill the chicken, coat the chicken, chop it all up and put it on a bed of greens and veggies (yes, and bacon).

So let’s say this salad is an homage to the editors of Cooks Country and their Nashville Hot Chicken. ..and the cooks at Neiman’s…and bacon.


Spicy Hot Chicken Salad
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Recipe type: Salad
Author:
I love a little bit of spicy in a salad. This one has plenty.
Ingredients
Salad Fixins
  • 1 package chicken tenderloins (about 4 per person)
  • salad greens (I used hearts of Romaine)
  • blue cheese crumbles
  • bacon (about 3 slices per person), fried crisp and chopped
  • red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 large carrot, julienned or “ribboned” using a peeler
  • celery (chopped on the diagonal)
  • blue cheese salad dressing (I used Marie’s)
Brine
  • 2 quarts water
  • ¼ to ½ cup Tabasco sauce or Frank’s Hot Sauce, depending on your sensibility
  • ½ cup salt
  • ½ cup sugar
Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
Instructions
  1. First, prepare the brine by mixing the water, hot sauce, salt and sugar. When the sugar and salt have dissolved, add the chicken and allow it to soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain the brine and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Be very careful about your hands. I recommend using a fork to move the chicken to the paper towels because the last thing you want is to put Tabasco-ey fingers in your eyes. Meanwhile, clean, dry and chop your lettuce and veggies. Fry and chop the bacon.
  2. “Bloom” the sauce. This means to put the oil in a small saucepan and heat it on medium high until it begins to shimmer. Add the spices and stir to combine. Allow the spices to cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Remove the sauce from the heat.
  3. Cook the chicken for about three minutes per side on a grill pan or in a skillet, until no longer pink inside. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Allow the chicken to rest for at least 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, spread the sauce on the chicken with a brush. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.
  4. Now, build your salad. Lettuce, carrot, onion, bacon, celery, crumbles, hot chicken. Apply salad dressing and devour.

A word of caution. I alluded to this earlier. If you are not accustomed to cooking with Tabasco or cayenne pepper, these are very hot ingredients. To eat them is one thing, but to get the stuff on your hand and then into your eyes is another. Please work with some respect for these fantastic friends.

I suspect this would also be wonderful with Ranch dressing though I would probably omit the blue cheese crumbles in that case.

(And, a personal note to Laura Lucia: I am saddened, as I am sure you are, that I did not use authentic Tabasco, but I bought too large of a bottle last time and it had turned that funky brown color and I just couldn’t use it. The Frank’s performed admirably but I want you to know I was thinking about your sweet Baton Rouge self as I chose my fire.)

I will end with a question: have you ever eaten or made real Nashville Hot Chicken? What did you think of it. Did you have to wear chapstick to get through the meal????

Comments

  1. Elisa says

    I’m thinking you need a road trip to do some Nashville Hot Chicken benchmarking for your website. Memphis BBQ might need testing. Jackson Alfredo, too. :)

  2. Courtney says

    This does have a wonderful contrast of flavors. I really enjoyed it and will be making it again soon.

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