Chow Town

Remembering Stephenson’s Apple Farm and an iconic Sunday chicken recipe

Stephenson’s Apple Farm Restaurant in Independence
Stephenson’s Apple Farm Restaurant in Independence File photo

It is a typical Sunday in my house. I awake at 7 a.m. and have my coffee. I have the local news on, check my computer for email and then I read the New York Times and Kansas City Star online.

I flip through the articles too fast. I read the headlines and really don’t have much interest in the paper today. I am not really focused because my mind is on dinner. Yes, Sunday dinner.

Will it just be my wife and I or will it be a family dinner? Hmmmm … Perhaps an Italian Sunday dinner with pasta, braciole, meatballs and sausage? How about my wife, Lisa’s, fried chicken and all of the fixins or a simple pot roast? Decisions, decisions!

All of a sudden I became very nostalgic and start thinking about the first time I remember going out to dinner in a restaurant. I was around 5 years old, and my father and mother, my three brothers and I took a Sunday ride in my dad’s new yellow Cadillac DeVille sedan to Stephenson’s Old Apple Farm Restaurant in Independence. (The restaurant closed in 2007). Yes, I remember that day well.

I remember the stories Dad told us on the way down old 40 Highway. I remember it seemed like hours in the car until we reached our destination. I remember arriving at Stephenson’s and running down the stairs to the lobby where there was a barrel with ice cold apple cider and these little 2-ounce paper cups. I must have filled mine 10 times.

I remember walking into the Parlour, the first room to the left of the lobby, red velvet wallpaper and a little faux balcony, one of eight dining rooms at the Old Apple Farm Restaurant. I remember the paintings on the wall, the white tablecloths, starched napkins, candles on each table and the big glasses.

We sat down, and my father immediately ordered two dozen apple fritters and some chicken livers. All the boys were served cider in big chilled glasses, while Mom and Dad sipped apple daiquiris. They were served on little cocktail napkins with Stephenson’s logo and a bite taken out of the apple. Did I mention the bowls of fresh apple butter served with the fritters? How about the corn relish? Oh my …

And now to the next course. We were all served a salad with Thousand Island dressing and this wonderful mini carrot-shaped piece of cheese with a little sprig of parsley hanging out. I was just overwhelmed with this. Stephenson’s also offered a frozen fruit salad and a marshmallow salad.

My father and I had Baked Chicken ’N’ Butter in a rich creamy sauce. My brothers had baked bone-in ham and barbecued beef brisket. Mom had pork chops. Yes, I was 5 years old, and I remember what people ate almost 50 years later. And a squash casserole was served alongside, a little on the sweet side, but very delicious. And Stephenson’s signature Green Rice Casserole, also creamy and cheesy, another iconic recipe.

Now I am going to be honest with you, I don’t recall if we enjoyed dessert that evening. Shocking isn’t it? I presume we had apple pie a la mode or apple dumplings. And I remember we never left the restaurant without a bag of hot apple fritters.

So my Sunday memory got out of hand this week, and I had no alternative but to prepare Stephenson’s Baked Chicken ’N’ Butter for the family.

It was a fun trip down memory lane and so nostalgic. And yes, I made the Green Rice Casserole, but I haven’t figured out that carrot-shaped cheese yet!

Thanks for riding along and please, enjoy the recipe for Stephenson’s Old Apple Farm Baked Chicken ’N’ Butter, it’s the real deal, I promise.

Stephenson’s Old Apple Farm Baked Chicken ’N’ Butter

Makes 3-4 servings

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 chicken, 2 1/2 to 3 pound fryer, cut up

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup nonfat milk powder

Combine flour, salt, paprika and pepper. Dip chicken in water. Coat with mixture of flour and seasonings.

Put chicken skin side down into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan (2 inches deep). Slice butter thinly over chicken.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Mix milk powder with 1  1/2 cups of hot water. Pour around chicken. Bake 1  1/4 hours more, or till tender.

Source: Stephenson’s Apple Farm

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 62-year-old 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 is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.

The Golden Ox Restaurant closed its doors after 65 years at 1600 Genessee in the West Bottoms area of Kansas City. Longtime and curious customers flocked to have one last meal. (Dec. 19, 2014)