One of the most beloved old Fred Harvey recipes is Chicken Castaneda, a lightly fried boneless chicken breast dish created and popularized at the Harvey House in Las Vegas, NM (which opened in 1899 to immediate national fame because Teddy Roosevelt held the first Rough Riders reunion there that year).

Here is the original recipe (as found in the recipe appendix in my historical biography Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West–One Meal at a Time, just out in paperback). It is followed by a deliciously updated version by John Sharpe, owner/chef of The Turquoise Room at the restored Fred Harvey La Posada hotel in Winslow, AZ—the premiere Harvey heritage site in the country. (For a more info on Fred Harvey culinary travels, check out this story on the James Beard Foundation blog.)

FRIED CHICKEN CASTANEDA
Fry an onion, chopped very fine, in butter, add flour, mix and pour in one quart chicken broth and one-half pint cream. Stir and let come to a boil. Let it cook about ten minutes. Add two egg yolks and parsley, and remove from the fire. This sauce must be quite thick. Dip thin slices of one three-pound hen in the sauce so that it adheres to both sides. Lay them in a pan sprinkled with bread crumbs and also sprinkle the chicken with bread crumbs. When cold, dip them in beaten egg and crumbs and fry in deep hot grease. Serve with tomato sauce and French peas as garnish. If handled properly, one three-pound hen will make ten to twelve fair-sized orders.

BREAST OF CHICKEN CASTENADA WITH FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

This recipe is for four nice dinner portions
4 skinless chicken breasts
1 recipe of basic Béchamel Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
Half an onion with one bay leaf stuck to the onion with three whole cloves.

Directions
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan with the onion floating in it until just about to boil. Add the hot milk without the onion to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Remove from the heat allow cooling.

Seasoning for the sauce
¼ teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon Spike seasoning
¼ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon crumbled oregano
¼ teaspoon crumbled marjoram
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin (less if you do not like cumin)
Optional – you may add ½ to 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper if you wish to have the chicken spicy.
2 egg yolks
Add all of the above ingredients to the sauce and mix well. This is the coating for the chicken before you breadcrumb it for frying.

Assembly
Cut the breasts in half lengthways and place between a sheets of plastic wrap. Lightly pound with a butcher’s mallet or a rolling pin so the filets are flattened out a little. Spread the sauce evenly on each side of the breast. A nice coating so as to cover all of the meat. Lay the coated filets on a tray covered in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer for a few minutes while you are getting the breading mixtures ready. This firms it up and makes it easier to handle.

Breading process
1 quart of cooking oil 8 oz panko breadcrumbs
2 whole eggs ½ cup milk
½ cup flour
Flour on a tray. Beat the eggs with the milk and place in a shallow dish. Breadcrumbs on a tray. You will need a tray with wax paper or plastic wrap. First dip the chicken filet into the flour, shake off the excess and dip into the egg mixture. Then place it in the breadcrumbs. Pat to make sure the breadcrumbs stick and lay on the tray till you wish to cook them. They can now be refrigerated for up to 6 hours. Place the oil in the thick casserole and make sure you have a frying thermometer. I usually recommend you do this outside on your barbeque. It is safer than in the house. Heat the oil to 350%. Fry the chicken for five minutes till they are a golden brown. Dry on paper towels.

Tomato sauce
1 ½ lbs ripe fresh tomatoes washed, cored and cut into quarters
2 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon thin sliced fresh garlic
½ cup diced onions A handful of fresh basil leaves.
A sprig of fresh thyme A sprig of fresh oregano or marjoram
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to tasteHeat the oil in the thick pan and add the onions. Sauté for five minutes then add the garlic for another three minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme and oregano and cover. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes till they are broken down and the sauce thickens. Remove the sprigs and blend the sauce with an immersion blender or in the food processor. Add the chopped basil last and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and then it is ready to serve.

Serve on a bed of the sauce and garnish with fresh basil.

To read an excerpt from the book, click here.
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This article is copyright © 2014 

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