by Patriots Daily Kitchen Staff
October 16, 2009

This week the Patriots are taking on the Tennessee Titans. The NFL Competition Committee has decided by executive fiat that this edition of the Buffet Table must be reviewed by Jeff Fisher.

Jeff Fisher is awesome. Did you know that he is the longest serving coach in the NFL? He personally brought mustaches back. Now that Tony Dungy has retired Jeff Fisher is the uncontested classiest coach in the NFL. Before Dungy retired, Jeff Fisher was the uncontested classiest coach in the NFL.

If Tennessee loses, it isn’t Jeff Fisher’s fault. It wasn’t Jeff Fisher’s fault in their first five losses. Jeff Fisher convinced LenDale White to stop drinking Tequila. Jeff Fisher will make an NFL QB out of Vince Young. “Albert Haynesworth” was actually Jeff Fisher in a Haynesworth jersey.

What to Eat?

In Tennessee they make a special type of fried chicken, called Hot Chicken. Not hot as in heat, but hot as in spicy. Hot Chicken was invented by Thornton Prince. Or mythically, by a jealous girlfriend of good ol’ Thornton after she poured spice all over his chicken to get back at him for seeing a few other women. Thornton’s great niece now runs his restaurant, called Prince’s Hot Chicken, but ‘chicken shacks’ are all over Nashville, each using their own secret recipe.

We’ll need some special hardware to do this dish right, but I think they’re pretty common. If you don’t already have them, they’re useful for all tailgating and grilling events.

First, a cast iron pan. To make fried chicken right, you really need a cast iron pan. Its ability to hold a massive amount of heat means you won’t cool down the oil when you add food to it. You want a pan that is at least 2″ deep for safety reasons.

Second, instead of a grill, we should be using a camp stove. Sure, a grill can heat a cast iron pan hot enough for fried chicken, but do you really want to risk heating oil on a grill? Most camp stoves are cheap, use small and cheap propane tanks, and have 2 burners. That second burner can be used for all sorts of things – heating up coffee, chili, chowder, sauce etc…

If you don’t want to go through this trouble, then don’t fry the chicken. Just grill it and use the same spices.

Tennessee Hot Chicken (serves 4)

  • 2 pounds, boneless chicken breasts, skinless if you prefer
  • All purpose flour, 1 cup
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper. This is hot, but you can cut this all the way back to 1 teaspoon for mild. We won’t laugh … much.
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • loaf of white bread
  • pickle slices

Heat 3/4″ of oil in a cast iron pan to between 350 and 375 degrees. You can tell it’s 375 by dropping in a small piece of white bread. If the bread browns in 20 seconds its 375 degree oil. If the bread browns too quickly, you need to back off the heat. If the bread browns too slowly, you need to increase the heat a bit. It is better to start the heat low, and slowly bring it up. If you heat oil to its ‘smoke point’ (simply the temperature it smokes), then you’ll need to replace the oil. Give it to a Jets fan, as they love using it on their hair.

Smoke point depends on the type of oil. The reason peanut oil is so popular for deep frying is because it is good up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Corn oil and Canola oil don’t make it that far, but they’re both good to over 400 degrees. Any of these oils can be used as we won’t be going over 375. Butter is probably the tastiest thing to fry in, but it is ruined at a very low 350 degrees. Luckily you can combine oils with a one third and two thirds mixture of butter and peanut/corn/canola oil to give you the best flavor and you can bring it up to 375 without burning it.

Wash and pat dry the chicken breasts. Place the buttermilk in one pan or bowl, and mix the dry ingredients and place in a second pan or bowl. One at a time, dip the chicken into the buttermilk. Allow most to drip off. Then, one piece at a time, place the chicken in the seasoning/flour mix and cover. Shake off excess flour. Add the chicken to the pan, doing so away from you; be careful not to splash the oil. Depending on the size of your cast iron pan, you’ll be able to do from 2 to 4 chicken breasts at a time. Cook for 10 minutes per side. Place the chicken onto a slice of white bread, add some of the pickle slices to your plate, and you have Tennessee Hot Chicken.

What to Drink?

This week we’re going with Amber Ales. Amber ale is one of the broadest beer styles. They can range from low to moderate to high alcohol. The hop flavor and bitterness can range from lightly bitter to strong. It may seem like a brown ale crossed with a pale ale, or a pale ale that got crossed with a brown ale. They may even seem like a darker, maltier IPA. The choice is up to the brewer, as this style doesn’t have as many preconceived notions or history behind it. One thing they all have is an amount of crystal malt giving a fuller body and caramel flavors.

The full body and caramel flavor will contrast well with and cut down on the heat from our chicken. In general, amber ales are a good session beer for the fall. Easy drinkability and something different from the ever present Octoberfests.

There are no breweries from Tennessee that distribute in New England. That isn’t going to stop us from finding plenty. In fact there are so many Amber Ales available we won’t even come close to listing the majority here.

Magic Hat moved their former winter seasonal Roxy Rolles to a fall seasonal this year. At 5.1% ABV and 40 IBU (a measure of the beer’s bitterness) it’s on the hoppier end of the style.

Ipswich Harvest Ale is their fall seasonal.  It’s darker and at almost 7% ABV is stronger than most.

Redhook also goes seasonal with their Late Harvest. Fairly middle of the road; not too hoppy, not too malty.

Offshore Ale Company from Martha’s Vineyard has a Offshore Amber that is well balanced and 5.5% ABV.

Nearby Cape Cod Beer goes with the hoppy Cape Cod Red. At 50 IBUs it’s as hoppy as some smaller IPAs.

Wolaver’s the organic Otter Creek spinoff goes more to the British ale side of ambers with their Wolaver’s Pat Leavy’s All American.

Sebago Brewing from Gorham, ME gets in on the act with Sebago Runabout Red. It’s a malty 5% ABV beer available in 22 ounce bottles.

New England Brewing cans their Atlantic Amber, which is brewed in a style similar to Anchor Steam.

From outside New England, Troeg’s Brewing from Pennsylvania brings their Hopback Amber. It’s one of the best Ambers available. In January Troeg’s also puts out Nugget Nectar – sort of Hopback Amber on steroids as a winter seasonal.