Prep 1 hr 15 mins
Cook 25 mins
In 1986, I was 31 years old, my son was 9, my daughter was one and the Chalfonte was 110 years old. During that time I read in the paper about a woman named Helen Dickerson who had been the head chef in the Magnolia Room at the Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, New Jersey. Miss Helen got her first job at the Chalfonte at the age of 5 picking flowers. She went on to become head chamber maid and then to run the kitchen for over 60 years. Her daughters, Dorothy "Dot" Burton and Lucille Thompson learned from their mother and so the traditional cooking continues. So well-known was Miss Helen that she was once featured on the old Phil Donohue show. Even today long after Miss Helen's death her legacy lives on. This recipe was featured on The Food Network by Tyler Florence of Tyler's Ultimate. The Chalfonte dates back to 1875. One story goes that the founder, Mr. Henry Sawyer, was a Union Civil War hero imprisoned in Richmond and, at the urging of Mrs. Lincoln, was exchanged for Robert E. Lee’s son. I would so love to go there some day, if only to pay homage to Miss Helen. In 1986, Miss Helen had finally been coerced by the owners to put her fabulous recipes on paper. I immediately ordered the cookbook knowing that as Miss Helen was already 76 years old; if I did not acquire her secret kitchen treasures then, they might be lost to me. I've never regretted ordering that cookbook, "I Just Quit Stirrin' When The Tastin's Good". Enjoy!
- 3 lbs chicken, cut-up
- 1 cup flour
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 cups Crisco or 2 cups corn oil
- 1 onion, sliced in rings
- Soak 3 lb. cut-up chicken in salted water (1 tbs. per quart of water) for 1 hour. Pat dry.
- Mix in bag 1 cup flour, salt and pepper to taste, 2 tbs paprika.
- Shake chicken pieces (2 at a time) in flour mixture, covering well.
- Place 2 cups of Crisco or corn oil in large skillet. Heat to medium-medium high temperature and fry chicken until tender, crisp and brown, approximately 20 minutes.
- Turn after first 10 minutes. Test for doneness with fork.
- Before adding chicken, Dot says, "Throw in thickly sliced onion rings when grease is hot -- that's our secret!" Toss the onions in the hot oil and fry until dark brown, about 12 minutes (the browned onions flavor the oil).
- *Dot cuts the chicken in quarters to serve four people.
I actually have not made this but I have stayed at the Chalfonte and eaten it there many times! I grew up visiting in the 1980s and we were actually there in 1986. The Magnolia Room is my favorite restaurant in my favorite hotel in all the world. A wonderful place I hope you have the opportunity to visit someday. Thank you so much for the recipe! I will treasure it as I do my memories of the Chalfonte and Cape May.
Thank you for posting and your story.Not only did all the family love it ,i had your story to tell. Great recipe.