Every recipe on the internet must begin with a longwinded personal story, so here’s mine: Once upon a time, I made a spicy chicken sandwich. It was good, so I wrote up the recipe and posted it on my personal blog. The end.
This was my attempt at a from-memory clone of the Alamo Drafthouse’s fried chicken sandwich, although what they have in common is mostly being a sandwich containing fried chicken. (Per my local Drafthouse’s menu, their sandwich comes with “spicy Sriracha-soy, slaw of shaved Brussels sprouts, cabbage, scallions, toasted seeded bun.” Also good. This one contains uuuhhhhhh none of that.) This recipe is adapted in part from recipes I found on the internet by Serious Eats’s J. Kenji López-Alt and bon appétit’s Claire Saffitz. Oh, and this one too, from Son of a Gun in LA. Read up on that first one in particular for more science-y deets about why good food is good.
Some hardware you’ll probably want
- A pot large enough to deep fry chicken in
- A deep-fry / candy thermometer
- A meat thermometer
- Wire racks
- 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 pint low-fat cultured buttermilk
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup corn starch
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Ground cayenne
- Garlic powder
- ½ head red cabbage
- 1 red onion
- 2 jalapeños, optional
- 1 cup pickle juice
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp Louisiana hot sauce
- 48 fl oz canola or peanut oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 8 potato buns
- 8 pickle spears
All measures are estimates. Exact measures are for nerds; I recommend eyeballing everything like the punk rock rebel you know you are.
If you don’t have pickle juice on hand, heat 2 parts white vinegar with 3 parts water and a liberal pinch of salt, and add any other flavorings you might want. I’ve been making jalapeño dill fridge pickles recently (hey, maybe a follow-up blog?), so I had some at the ready, but I’m sure I’ll forget this step one of these days, so it’s nice to have a fallback.
Prep work (~6 hours before dinner)
Start by making your spice blend. Per Kenji, I used cayenne, paprika, and garlic powder. I left out oregano because I forgot it and because you can really use anything and/or everything you want here.
Divide your chicken into patty-sized pieces. Split the chicken breasts into flat halves (like you’re butterflying them, but cut all the way through), and then if you’re using the massive supermarket chicken like I was, you’ll probably want to cut them crosswise into roughly square pieces.
Mix half your spice blend into the buttermilk along with like a bunch of salt and probably some pepper too. Put it in an airtight resealable container along with your chicken. Make sure the chicken is well coated on all sides. Set this in the fridge for up to six hours, turning every couple of hours.
Slice up the cabbage and onion, and remove the seeds from the jalapeños (or, I mean, not) and slice those up too. You can chop these up really finely if you want or leave them in longer strands. I went for a rough chop so they’d be easy to spoon over the chicken when assembling the final sandwich but still have some crunch. Mix all these veggies up in a bowl and pour over the pickle juice. Cover and leave in the fridge.
Also, don’t be a doofus like me — wear gloves when you handle peppers!
Mix a cup of mayo with Louisiana hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Keep this chilled until ready to use.
Just before dinner time
Heat the oil to 350 °F. On my stove, medium heat stays pretty close to 350 °F, so maybe start there? It’ll take a little while to get up to temp, so get this going first, otherwise you’ll just be sitting around after the next step.
Mix the flour, corn starch, baking powder, the remaining half of the spice blend, and some salt and pepper in a large pan or dish. Retrieve the chicken from the fridge and dredge it in the flour mixture. Be sure to shake off any excess buttermilk before the chicken hits the flour, and shake off excess flour before moving it to a wire rack to rest before frying.
If you’re fancy, you can seed some nice craggly bits by spooning a bit of the buttermilk liquid into the flour mixture and mixing it up with your fingers before dredging the chicken.
Drain the pickle juice from the slaw and mix in a cup of mayo (not the spicy mayo we made previously, just plain old straight-from-the-jar egg sauce). Season to taste. Try not to just eat whole spoonfuls of this stuff. That’d be weird, right? HA HA HA! SO WEIRD!
Heat a skillet over medium-low to medium heat and melt some butter in it. Or leave the skillet dry, melt the butter in a bowl, and brush it on the buns immediately before toasting. I’m not the boss of you.
Once the oil is hot and chicken is coated, begin frying it one or two pieces at a time, depending on how big your pieces are and how big your fryer is. You’ll want the chicken to hit 165 °F, which should take about four minutes. Flip these over halfway to ensure even cooking. Once they’re done, let them rest on another wire rack for a few minutes before assembling.
Toast the potato buns in the buttered skillet, or toast the buttered potato buns in the skillet, or potato the skilleted butter in the toasted buns, or whatever. This’ll only take a minute or two. If you walk away, they’ll burn and you’ll have to chuck them and start over.
Okay! It’s time to assemble everything! Spread some spicy mayo on the bottom bun, add a chicken patty, spoon on some slaw, and add the top bun.
Serve with a pickle spear and whatever side(s) you want. Enjoy with a strong ale and a good movie, being sure to abide by Alamo Drafthouse rules. (No talking, no texting, no arriving late.)
I remember a time this was a game development blog.