Several months ago, I was listening to the food critics on KCUR. They were discussing the best restaurants to visit in Kansas City for fried chicken. Of course, the discussion centered on all of the restaurants that you would expect but then there was a twist. One of the panelists mentioned that the best fried chicken actually wasn’t fried at all. It was Oven Fried Baked Chicken made famous in the Harvey House restaurants.
Fred Harvey began his journey in the restaurant business in 1873 when he set up three restaurants along the Kansas Pacific Railroad. He also connected with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad. By 1889, Harvey operated all the restaurants on the Santa Fe system west of the Missouri River.
Harvey is credited with creating the first “chain” restaurants. He brought civility to the Wild West as trains forged through the country from coast to coast. He was the Thomas Keller of his time, known for seeking absolute perfectionism in a very imperfect world.
At the peak of the Harvey House era, there were 84 restaurants, and travelers could finally get a decent meal at a reasonable cost. It’s no wonder that Oven Fried Chicken is a winner.
After testing the recipe, there was a unanimous vote at our dinner table. It sounded something like this, “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!”
OK, seriously this is a great way to enjoy fried chicken without power washing the kitchen to clean up the spills and splatters for days after serving fried chicken. While the chicken is baking, clean up what splatters emerged and go about setting the table. Prepare to enjoy a feast.
Oven Fried Chicken
Adapted from “The Harvey House Cookbook” by George H. Foster & Peter C. Weiglin, (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2006)
Oil to cover large cast iron or heavy skillet
1 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (3 1/2 pound) chicken, cut up
1/2 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place oil in a large cast iron skillet or other ovenproof skillet. Heat skillet over medium high heat. Toss flour with salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Roll chicken pieces in flour. Place floured chicken pieces in skillet and brown, turning so that both sides are well browned. Drizzle melted butter over the chicken in the skillet and bake, uncovered, for 45 to 60 minutes or until chicken is done.
Roxanne Wyss is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is “Delicious Dump Cakes.” Other recent books include “Slow Cooker Desserts, Oh So Easy, Oh So Delicious” and “The Newlywed Cookbook: Cooking Happily Ever After.” She develops the recipes for the Eating for Life column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier. She blogs at pluggedintocooking.com.