Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chicken Fried Steak

Nothing says Texas tradition like Chicken Fried Steak. This mouth watering, delectable cutlet was created when German and Austrian immigrants brought their recipes for Wiener Schnitzel with them from their homelands, but substituted the locally available beef for the veal or pork normally used.

I ‘liked’ chicken friend steaks growing up, but I can’t say that I was in love with them until I tasted a real Texas hill country example a few years back. This was at the Blue Bonnet CafĂ© in Marble Falls, Texas, and their CFS was the best I’d ever tasted. It was savory and tangy, with a tight, crisp batter on the steak which seemed to melt in my mouth. It is this particular version that I’ve tried to replicate in the recipe below.

Chicken Fried Steak

4 cubed steaks, or tenderized cutlets of eye of round
1 cup lard or other shortening
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
cup flour
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt

Select the best cubed steaks at your grocer or butcher that you can get.

Look for steaks with as little fat as possible. If you live far away from Texas and her environs, and cubed steaks aren’t available, ask the butcher to cut you some thin cutlets of eye of round, and have him run them through a tenderizer if he has one. Here in Texas and the South butchers have a special cubing machine which puts little cuts all through the steak (creating the ‘cube’ steak) which makes the otherwise tough cut of round steak more tender. You want to use these tough cuts that have been cubed or tenderized, as they stand up better to frying.

Heat your lard or other shortening in a large skillet until it reaches around 375 degrees F. (If you don’t have a quick read thermometer, just go for medium high) Some of you may be a bit put off by my use of lard in cooking, if you aren’t familiar with it. It is merely rendered pork fat, and while it is higher in saturated fats than Crisco or similar vegetable shortening, it has no trans fats, which I believe are worse for you. But, it provides a taste to fried foods that are out of this world! If you ever taste chicken fried in lard, you will know it. It will be some of the best you’ve ever had. The same goes for CFS, so give it a try once in a while, for a special treat. Lard is usually available in the Mexican or sometimes other ethnic sections of the grocery store.

While your lard is heating, prepare your cutlets. Mix the flour with the garlic, paprika and salt and place in a wide bowl.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg and the buttermilk.

Take a cutlet, dredge it in the flour mixture, and then in the buttermilk/egg mixture. Once it is well coated with buttermilk, return it to the flour and turn until it is well coated. Place on a plate. Repeat with the other cutlets.

When the lard is up to temperature, place the cutlets in the pan.  Let cook for a few minutes, long enough for the steaks to release from the pan. Flip the steaks, and allow to cook for a few more minutes. The breading should be a nice golden brown color, but not too dark.

When the steaks are done, drain them on a paper towel on a plate for a minute or two, and then serve immediately.

While they are draining, it would be a good time to make some Buttermilk Gravy to go with them...gravy with chicken fried steaks is a must.  Here we've served the steaks with mashed potatoes and a cheddar drop biscuit. 

Until next time,

Don’t be a chicken...fry up some steaks!


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Buttermilk Gravy

There’s nothing like homemade gravy to spice up your dinner, or should I say, supper--the preferred term here in the south. Some people are intimidated by gravy making.  I used to be too, until I realized the secret was to add everything a little bit at a time, and stir, stir, stir.

Buttermilk Gravy

Browned bits and a little grease left over from frying
1/4 cup flour
1.5 cups buttermilk
Salt and Pepper to taste

The first, and most important step, to making buttermilk gravy is that you need to have fried something first. It doesn’t matter what, as long as it is breaded, but I would recommend Fried Chicken, or better still, Chicken Fried Steak, something with which the gravy goes wonderfully.

After you have completed your fried item, remove most of the grease from the pan. The grease can be made up of Crisco, regular shortening, or even lard (which is what I use to fry chicken fried steaks). When you drain the grease, try to leave most of the little browned bits behind in the skillet. These are what will flavor your gravy.

Now, continue to heat the little bit of grease you have left in the pan, and gently sift in the flour. You’ll want to do just a little bit at a time, watch it brown, and then add more.

Once the flour has browned, add your buttermilk a little at a time, and begin to stir or whisk vigorously.

If you add the milk too fast, you can cool the pan down, and when it heats back up the milk will curdle. If you do it slowly, a little at a time, you will maintain a nice boil, and you will eventually have a nice gravy when you have added all of the milk. At this point it should look like the photo below.

Continue to stir, and add salt and pepper the gravy to taste. Serve immediately.

Until next time,

Good Gravy to ya!