Chow Town

Birthday calls for fried chicken — in the style from Brookville Hotel in Abilene, Kan.

This past week, I celebrated my birthday. Another day, another milestone but for this chef, it’s all about the family getting together and enjoying a great meal.

When I was younger, my mother would always make me my favorite meal and we would celebrate with a birthday cake prepared by my not. I would get to sit at the head of the table, blow out the candles on the cake and then tear into my gifts.

As you get older, material gifts really do not have much meaning but the family dinner remains.

For the past 20 years, I travel to Colorado every year along with my wife and daughter for an annual ski trip. We head down Interstate 70, west through Kansas and there is always one stop that we have to make and that is the Brookville Hotel.

No, we did not sleep there, it is only in Abilene, Kan., so about two hours and 45 minutes from Kansas City. What we do stop for is the famous fried chicken dinner with all the fixings. I’m talking some of the best fried chicken you’ll ever eat at this 100-plus-year-old hotel.

Now you may be asking what this has to do with my birthday? Road trip? The answer is simple, I was able to enjoy the The Brookville Hotel fried chicken dinner in my own home on my birthday this past week thanks to my wife.

My wife Lisa is a wonderful cook and this girl can fry chicken like no one else. Everybody in my family has a specialty and my wife’s specialty is her fried chicken. The chicken is moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. Simple seasonings includes salt and pepper. I get the biggest kick out of her process of cooking and all the preparation it goes into it.

Lisa starts of with this big baggy that she puts her flour and seasoning in and she adds to chicken legs to it. Shake ‘n Bake has nothing on my wife.

She has a 50-year-old skillet filled with lard at the exact temperature. She shakes the chicken in the flour mixture and then adds it to the oil. No timer needed, she knows exactly when to turn the chicken.

When the chicken is finished, she starts to process of preparing her famous gravy. Wow, you should see this. Simple ingredients again such as flour, salt and pepper, and milk. That is all. She drains off some of the oil from the pan and leaves in all the cracklings in it. She begins to make a room with her flour and seizing. She then begins to add the milk slowly until her gravy forms. Talk about delicious.

The fried chicken is the centerpiece but it is the sides that make the dinner. Just like at the The Brookville Hotel, Lisa Serves the hotel’s recipe for coleslaw, cream corn, and biscuits. The accompaniments on the table also includes bread-and-butter pickles, cottage cheese and spiced apple rings along with a nice slab of butter and homemade strawberry preserves.

I’m telling you, this is the exact dinner is served at The Brookville Hotel. Nothing was missing. Unbelievable!

Wait a second, did I tell you about the mashed potatoes. Those mashed potatoes along with the gravy could be a meal in itself.

I do need to make one note here. This year, she changed her biscuit recipe. Other than the fried chicken and mashed potatoes, this may have been the highlight of the meal. I just happened to be watching her make the biscuits and I think I have discovered her secret.

In the bottom of the casserole that she bakes the biscuits in, she uses one stick of butter. Seriously, she melts the butter and then adds the cut out biscuits. Mouthwatering is not even a description that can be used here. I’m talking more than mouthwatering, believe me.

And so my friends, I share with you not Lisa’s fried chicken recipe, not the mashed potatoes or the gravy or even the famous Brookville Hotel slaw recipe. I share with you Lisa’s now famous biscuits. Along with the rest of the fried chicken and all the fixings, this will be a staple in my house.

The more I think about it, there’s no really reason to take a road trip, just pan fry yourself some chicken and make a few side dishes and you’ll have your own Brookville Hotel fried chicken dinner. I do hope you enjoy and make it a part of your fried chicken experience.

A big “Grazie Mille” to my wife for the wonderful birthday dinner and for the recipe. You see my friends, it’s all about the family dinner in my home.

Did I tell you about the vanilla bean ice cream that The Brookville Hotel serves after dinner.

Ha …That’s for another story.

Lisa Mirabile’s Not-So-Road-Trip Biscuits 5 cups Bisquick 1 cup sour cream 1 cup 7-Up soda 1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix Bisquick, sour cream and 7-Up. Dough will be very soft —don’t worry. Knead and fold dough until coated with your baking mix. Pat dough out and cut biscuits using a round biscuit or cookie cutter. Melt butter in the bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch casserole dish. Place biscuits on top of melted butter and bake for 12-15 minutes or until brown. Serve warm with strawberry preserves.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM and sells a line of dressings and sauces.