Our Daily Breather: Maintaining Sanity During A Pandemic In Our Daily Breather, we ask artists to recommend ways to find calm in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Paul Burch and his wife have spent their time perfecting a recipe for Nashville hot chicken.
NPR logo Our Daily Breather: Paul Burch's Recipe For Nashville-Style 'Hot Chicken Quarantine'

Our Daily Breather: Paul Burch's Recipe For Nashville-Style 'Hot Chicken Quarantine'

Lately, Paul Burch has been making hot chicken while stuck inside. Emily Beaver/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Emily Beaver/Courtesy of the artist

Lately, Paul Burch has been making hot chicken while stuck inside.

Emily Beaver/Courtesy of the artist

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Paul Burch

Where: Nashville, Tenn.

Recommendation: Making hot chicken


Paul Burch and his wife Meg Giuffrida. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

It's tough work to be a chicken. You're always the punchline. If you're not brave, you're chicken. If you buy up all the toilet paper in a pandemic, you're like a chicken with its head cut off. If you're old, you're no spring chicken. The foolish count their eggs before they hatch — or worse, put all their eggs in one basket. If you're cruel, your comeuppance will come in the form of chickens coming home to roost. Chickens are bystanders in life's eternal questions: "Who came first, the chicken or the egg?" and "Why did the chicken cross the road?" Witches cut their throats for spells. Country music stars like Minnie Pearl and Eddy Arnold opened chicken shacks and found the only thing tougher than being a chicken is owning a restaurant. Chickens have it so rough, people eat them twice in the same meal and then boil their bones.

Paul and Meg's fried chicken. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

But in Nashville, a chicken really is good for something. When the fine people of Prince's Hot Chicken made their secret recipe, they never considered a turkey or a duck. Only one bird can endure soaking, spicing and frying and come out more beautiful dead than alive. I've got some tough friends who have survived cancer, divorce and even hit records; the one thing that made them all cry at the same time was a chicken.

My wife, Meg Giuffrida, loves a challenge. She married a songwriter. Some of the city's favorite chefs love her cooking. Confined to our home and unable to reach out to our city, Meg decided to try her hand at Nashville's other favorite pastime and created something all her own: Hot Chicken Quarantine. I may never leave the house.


Paul Burch's Recommendation

Paul Burch recommends cooking up a comforting batch of fried chicken. Here's a recipe from his wife, Meg Giuffrida:

Whenever I eat hot chicken in a restaurant, I find I always want it to taste like something more than just hot-flavored. In a nod to Nashville's cultural diversity, and also because I just can't leave well-enough alone, I have layered the heat with an Ethiopian Berbere spice blend.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup pickle juice
  • 6 tablespoons vinegar based hot sauce of your choice, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons Berbere spice blend
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon cider vinegar to 1 scant cup of whole milk)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • vegetable oil for frying


Instructions:

1. To brine chicken, combine these ingredients in a non-reactive container and refrigerate for 2 hours, up to overnight.

  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in 1/2 in. slices
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar based hot sauce of your choice
  • 1 cup pickle juice

2. Combine in a separate bowl:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons Berbere spice blend
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

3. In another bowl, whisk together:

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons hot sauce

4. Heat 2 in. of vegetable oil in Dutch oven to a temp of approximately 325°

5. Working in small batches, follow these steps as follows:

  • Drain chicken pieces, and pat dry.
  • Dredge chicken in flour mixture, coating all sides
  • Dip chicken in egg mixture to coat
  • Dredge chicken in flour mixture a second time
  • Using tongs, carefully place chicken pieces in hot oil, cooking for 6-8 minutes, flipping once.
  • Using an instant read thermometer, check internal temp of chicken, which should be 165°.
  • Drain on paper towel.

6. In a medium bowl, whisk together:

  • 2 tablespoons cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Berbere spice blend
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter

7. Brush fried chicken with spiced butter. Serve with homemade biscuits or Bunny Bread, and pickle chips. Or if you are sheltering at home because of a pandemic, pickle spears will do.


Paul Burch's new album, Light Sensitive, came out this month via Plowboy Records.

YouTube