The New Flock: Four Fantastic Fried Chicken Dishes in Boston
For a city full of northerners, Boston’s no slouch at serving up a mean piece of fried chicken. Sure enough, it’s been a banner year for battered-poultry aficionados, with the debut of four worthy exemplars of the crunchy, flour-dredged art form to add to the old “bucket” list. Here, we break them down according to provenance, prep, and plating.
Nashville-Style Hot Chicken, State Park
The latest fried-chicken entrant to the area comes from Hungry Mother’s laid-back Kendall Square offshoot, which at press time was slated to open in mid-December. When planning the menu for the hangout—which will feature a pool table, shuffleboard, a jukebox, and a pinball machine—chef Barry Maiden decided to focus on regional southern guilty pleasures of the cult-status variety. For local diners, this means a slew of sloppy-good, not-often-seen-in-Boston specialties—like the Kentucky Hot Brown (a bubbling open-faced turkey, bacon, and cheese-sauce sandwich), the special-to-DC half-smoke (a smoked, griddled, and chili-slathered pork-and-beef sausage), and Memphis-style “barbecue spaghetti” (spaghetti topped with a concoction of marinara, crispy pulled pork, and barbecue sauce). Of course, fried chicken comes into play here as well—in the form of Nashville-style hot chicken, a dish that layers chili-paste-slathered fried chicken between a slice of squishy white bread and a topper of cool, crunchy pickles. “It’s invigorating when you’re eating it,” says Maiden, who fell for the dish when he lived in Nashville in the ’90s. “It’s spicy and hot, and you don’t know why you’re taking your next bite—but you want to.”
Maiden’s chicken gets an herb-and-spice-infused milk-and-buttermilk brine, a layer of spice directly on the flesh, and a single coating of flour before being dunked in the deep fryer. Finally, it’s smeared with a paste made from a smattering of spicy dried chili peppers (including, but not limited to, cayenne) and bourbon-barrel-smoked paprika.
House-made pain de mie bread and pickles.
Mini Chicken and Waffles, Saus
This September, the team behind this frites-and-waffle shop near Faneuil Hall expanded their menu with a roster of sandwiches and snack-friendly items like corn dogs, shrimp fritters, and—you guessed it—deep-fried poultry. “It’s been my childhood fantasy, from the first time I went to KFC, to make fried chicken,” says chef and co-owner Chin Kuo. “I think it fits what we do—we are a fry shop, a comfort and guilty-pleasure type of place.”
Kuo gives boneless chicken-breast strips a long bath in a salty brine of Narragansett lager and scallions, then coats them with a mix of panko bread crumbs, flour, cornstarch, granulated onion and garlic, and lots of white and black pepper.
A cornbread waffle, house barbecue sauce, and pickles.
Turkish-Style Fried Chicken, Sarma
Before she opened Somerville meze bar Sarma, chef-owner Cassie Piuma—an admitted fried-chicken obsessive—knew she had to have a version on her menu. And after three long weeks of R & D, she landed on a winning, spice-layered combination that’s now served to diners dim-sum style from roving platters.
Boneless Giannone chicken thighs (skin intact) are cured with salt and a dry-mustard-based spice blend, dunked in a buttermilk wash, dredged in a floury mix spiked with toasted sesame and nigella seeds, fried to a crisp, and finished with a sprinkle of dried green harissa.
A rémoulade of tahini, yogurt, and pickles.
Fried-Chicken Sandwich, Cutty’s
To boost business last January, Cutty’s owners Rachel and Charles Kelsey decided to open up their Brookline Village sandwich shop one Sunday a month to serve fast-food-inspired chicken sandwiches. Fast-forward a year, and the couple now sells 500 of them to fans who line the block for each “Super Cluckin’ Sunday.”
Each piece of Bell & Evans chicken breast is brined in buttermilk and double-crusted in seasoned flour for an ultra-craggy exterior.
Cabot sharp cheddar, Hellmann’s mayo, house-made Maille Dijon–based honey mustard, shaved sweet onion, and iceberg lettuce, all within the confines of a buttered-and-grilled Iggy’s sesame-seed brioche bun.