Better than Fried – Jane and Michael Stern and Nashville-Style Hot Chicken


Monday:                              Corn Fritters with Summer Bean Ragout, App of grilled eggplants


Tuesday:                              Nashville-Style Hot Chicken Sandwich, Coleslaw, app of tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil


Wednesday:                      Cioppino  Restaurant Bar with Billy – New Home for Dunnings:  Good drinks, mediocre food, perfect.

Thursday:                            Dunnings Meeting


Friday:                                  Salad Niçoise sans les oeufs


Saturday:                             Salmon Burgers, Arugula Salad


Sunday:                                Fromage Fort avec Craquelins, Smoked Oysters / Vietnamese-Style Pork Chops with herb salad

Lynn Rosetto Kasper, the creator of “The Splendid Table” (podcast, cookbook, PBS radio show) is a great gourmand, a great cook, a great recipe writer, and a great voice, but her crowning achievement may have been having connecting with Jane and Michael Stern – authors of the book and the web-site (blog) “Road Food:  Your Regional Guide to Authentic Eats” – reviewing diners, joints, and eat-at-Joe’s holes-in- the-wall across America.  Much great (not just good) food is hidden in such places – out of the way of the wealthy and the vegan – but available for any of the rest of us who will open our eyes, lower our prejudices, and indulge.

When I think of how many people whose lives and diets would have been improved by the fish sandwich at Nied’s Hotel in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, had they not been afraid to walk through the door, I mourn for the timidity of our species.  But when I reflect on how many people will never taste Nashville-Style Hot Chicken because they “don’t like spicy food,” I curse the universe in which, because we are ensouled, the first critic was free to dismiss a book or scorn a dish and to establish that mode of false superiority – that “I know what I like” stance that has blighted so many vegan, vegetarian and judgmental lives.

The point is, folks – drop the prissy “I don’t eat that” nonsense, leave aside your Ladies Home Journal opposition to frying and live a little.  Just don’t overeat, exercise from time to time, clean your own house and do 30 push-ups and 40 sit-ups every morning and, for God’s sake, have some hot chicken.

At Casa Stewarti, it was another week of fine dinners with Billy out a few times and Bill Fettes in town for Thursday night.  A decent week of business.  Another struggling week for the Pirates.  A week of happy anticipation for Steelers and Pitt football fans.  In other words, just an average week until – well, until Tuesday when we cooked what I have been salivating over since hearing the Sterns talk about it on “The Splendid Table” podcast– NASHVILLE-STYLE HOT CHICKEN.

This particular version is best with iceberg lettuce (that retro green), a shmear of mayo, and on a toasted bun with dill pickle chips, so let a few carbs into your life.  If you have just one of these sandwiches once each year, you will not get fat.  You will, however, increase the sheer joy and ecstasy in your life.  You may also permanently stain your favorite white shirt (so don’t wear it while eating this).

The smoked oyster dish we had on Sunday, during a lamentable Steelers game, was one of the other great discoveries of the year.  So I’m offering that recipe as an Extra.  (If you don’t know how to shuck oyster, employ someone who can teach you.  For a sizeable fee, I am willing to come and shuck for you – though I am having second thoughts about publishing that sentence in the blog.)

 Hot Chicken on rack.JPG

Nashville-Style Hot Chicken Sandwich (Adapted from a recipe of Jeff Mauro)

This takes 1 ½ –5 hours from start to finish.  You can marinate for 1, 2 or 3 hours.

Supplies:         (for 4)

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Note:  Get the chicken at Whole Foods or a local butcher.  Your local grocery store will offer thighs from chickens that are aspiring to become Turkeys – enormous honkers that you can use, but will probably need to cut in half to cook or fit on a bun.  2 of those thighs will do.

5 Tablespoons Cayenne (a lot of this will go into a sauce you brush on the chicken)
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Teaspoon Chile Powder
1 Teaspoon Granulated Garlic
12 cups vegetable oil (for frying)
1 Cup buttermilk
1 Tablespoon hot sauce (use your favorite)
2 Large Eggs
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
4 Hawaiian Rolls or Brioche Buns
Dill Pickle Chips
Iceberg Lettuce
Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper


Mix Cayenne, brown sugar, chile powder, granulated garlic, paprika, tablespoon of salt and teaspoon of better in a large heat-resistant bowl.  (You will be ladling hot oil into this bowl)

Trim excess fat from thighs

Sprinkle spice mixture on all sides of the chicken (you’ll have a lot of spice left in the bowl) and refrigerate chicken for 1 – 3 hours.  I would get the chicken out of the refrigerator about 1 hour before cooking so that it approaches room temperature.  Otherwise, you’ll have to fiddle with your burners to keep your oil hot enough after dropping in the chicken.

Whisk together buttermilk, hot sauce and eggs in a bowl.

Put the flour in a second bowl and mix with salt and pepper.


In a large Dutch oven (I have a deep fryer which automatically regulates the heat), heat the oil until a thermometer reads 350 F.

Set a wire rack (you can use the rack that fits into the bottom of a roasting pan) on a baking sheet – you’ll use this to drain the fried chicken.

Coat the chicken in the egg mixture and then dredge in the flour to coat thoroughly.

Place the chicken carefully into the oil and fry until golden brown – 10-12 minutes.

Place the cooked chicken on the wire rack.

Add about l ladle-ful of the frying oil to the reserved spice mixture and let it bloom for 20 seconds, then whisk and brush as much or as little as you like on the fried chicken.  (I’d brush a lot.)

Build the Sandwich:

Halve the buns and toast them or butter and toast on a griddle.

Put the Hot Chicken on the buns, top with pickles, lettuce and some mayonnaise.

Take a bite of heaven.


EXTRA                                   Grilled, Smoked Oysters with Crusty Bread (Recipe from Steve Raichlen, WSJ May 28-29, 2016)

Supplies:              (for 4 as an appetizer)

12 large oysters (Bluepoint are perfect – the refined little Japanese and Northern California oysters won’t work in this recipe)

Good bread for grilling

½ Stick of cold butter (you don’t have to use it all)

Cup and ½ of dry hickory or other wood chips (i.e., don’t soak the chips)


Oyster Shucking Knife (necessary – not expensive – I shucked my first oysters with a screwdriver which was tough on the oysters and tougher on me, though it is not true that I lost enough blood to require a transfusion)

Rack for cooking the oysters (there are such things as shellfish grilling racks – I’d used a rack from

a roasting pan – what you’re trying to do is to keep the oyster liquor in the shell, i.e., not tip the oyster).


Clean the oysters well with a stiff brush under cold, running water.  You’ll need to scrub quite a bit where the shells come together and at the hinge where lots of sand can build up.  Wrap the oysters in a damp dish towel and return to the refrigerator. (Oysters will keep this way for a few hours – if you have access to seaweed, wrap them in that)


Light you charcoal.

While the charcoal is catching fire, shuck the oysters and place each on shellfish grilling rack or (as I did) on a rack from a roasting pan.  Try not to spill the liquor in the oysters (you will spill some).  Put a pat of butter on each oyster.

When you spread the coals, toss the wood chips on top.  Replace the grate and place the racked oysters on the grill.  Cover (make sure the lid vents are wide open) and cook for about 4 minutes.  You want the oysters to be warm but not fully cooked (they will shrivel – but still be very good).  If you’re grilling the bread, put it on the grill for the last minute or so.

Served with grilled or very crusty bread to sop up the juices.

This is a spectacular hors’ d’oeuvre and will keep your guests happy while you prepare the main course.