A Culinary Legacy – Chicken Fried Steak

I know, I know, wrong flag for a Lowcountry website but there is a really good reason. I’ve mentioned before that Chef J and his family hail from Texas. This is something he is very proud of. Over the years, we’ve bought him countless Lone Star gifts (coffee mugs, cycling jerseys, t-shirts, etc.) all of which were met with great enthusiasm. When we got married, he was working for large catering company in Atlanta. He lamented the fact that he had no cultural heritage to really celebrate at our wedding. He’d seen so many amazing Italian, Indian, Greek and Jewish weddings with awesome traditions and he wanted something that celebrated his heritage. So he got a brand new pair of black cowboy boots to wear with his tuxedo. He looked great and very, very Texan.

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Pound steaks as thin as you can (or start with cubed steak)

Since none of the family lives in Texas anymore, I’ve started trying to plan a Texas Independence Day celebration each year. This is the holiday that celebrates the day that the Republic of Texas declared its independence from Mexico. So on March 2, you can bet we eat SOMETHING reminiscent of Texas. One year it was Frito Pie, but this year, it will be our favorite Texas meal, Chicken Fried Steak.

2
Set up your assembly line

Chef J’s mom hails from Oklahoma and makes amazing Chicken Fried Steak and I’m guessing she learned from her mom before her (JeanJean). In the early years Chef J and I were together, this was always my request for my birthday dinner. Sheryl doesn’t make it all that often and frankly, it’s not something you want to have all the time. First of all, it lessens the “specialness” of it if you eat it all the time. Second, it’s not exactly the most heart healthy meal on the planet. And finally, it’s a bit of a mess to prepare.

 

3
Dredge, dunk, dredge, rest.

You are going to start by pounding your meat with a tenderizer causing your kitchen to look like a crime scene what with all the spatter. Then you are going to make an assembly line of wet and dry ingredients that will ultimately cover you and your kitchen in a thick layer of paste. And then you are going to fry all of that breaded meaty goodness in a big spattering fry pan (cast iron if you have it). But trust me, it’ll be worth the clean up.

I’ve tried several different recipes over the years (Homesick Texan, Texas Monthly, Pioneer Woman) and have come up with sort of my own mish-mash of everything. All recipes involve a dredge (in seasoned flour), a drench (in milk and eggs), and another dredge in the seasoned flour. It’s just a matter of coming up with the flavors you want in your steak.

4
Whisk flour into 1/4 C pan drippings until smooth and nutty smelling. Add milk, salt and lots of pepper.

The best part of chicken fried steak for me is always the peppery cream gravy. We ALWAYS serve chicken fried steak and gravy with mashed potatoes and green beans. Chef J will have it no other way. And if you can throw a hot buttermilk biscuit on the plate as well? Well, that’s even better.

I hope you find that this amazing meal is worth a messy kitchen. It is comfort food at its very best.

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Texas sized plate of love

Chicken Fried Steak

For Steaks

  • 2 – 2 1/2 lbs top round steak (or cube steak which is what both of my boys told me they preferred in the future)
  • 1 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 2 t coarse kosher salt
  • 2 t black pepper
  • 1 t paprika
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • splash of Worchestershire sauce
  • Canola oil (and maybe a little bacon grease) for frying

For Cream Gravy

  • 1/4 C reserved cooking oil
  • 1/3 C all purpose flour
  • 2 C whole milk, room temperature
  • salt and pepper to taste (be generous)

If using top round steak, pound with a meat tenderizer until flat and doubled in size. Cut into as many pieces as you like (we’ve been known to make steak fingers which is what I’ve done here). If using cube steak, you are ready to go.

Combine flour, 1 t salt, 1 t pepper, paprika and cayenne in a shallow dish and mix well. Whisk together buttermilk, Worcherstershire sauce and eggs in another shallow dish. Sprinkle steaks with remaining salt and pepper. Dredge steaks in seasoned flour and dust off excess flour. Dunk in egg mixture and allow excess to drip off. Then dredge back in flour mixture. Set on wire rack to set while you coat remaining steaks. When coated, stick the whole rack in the refrigerator to set a bit more. While they are resting, you can clean up a  little and heat your oil.

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil (or oil mixed with bacon grease) in a cast iron skillet (or an electric skillet) to about 325F. Preheat oven to 225F. Cook steaks two or three at a time in skillet about 3 minutes per side (you’ll see red juices on the top) or until deeply golden brown.  Remove steaks to a wire rack set over paper towels to drain and then hold in oven until all are cooked and gravy is prepared.

Strain leftover oil so that any burned bits of batter are removed. Return 1/4 C of the reserved cooking oil to the hot pan and whisk in flour. Stir flour constantly until medium brown and nutty smelling. If it looks a little greasy, whisk in more flour. Gradually add milk, whisking well after each addition. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, for about 10 minutes until a nice thick gravy is formed. Taste and then add salt and black pepper to taste. Remember an underseasoned gravy is just nasty – so be generous with your pepper especially.

Serve steaks stacked up on a mound of mashed potatoes and covered in a healthy (well really very unhealthy) amount of cream gravy. Maybe serve with a buttermilk biscuit too. Add a side of green beans to alleviate some of the guilt and then tuck in to a heaping helping of Texas love.

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Yes, wrong beer with this meal but the perfect bite nonetheless.
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