Monday, December 5, 2011

Chicken Fried Steak... Perhaps...

One thing that can be a problem with experimenting with cooking new foods, is that I don't always know what I'm supposed to be making, so I'm not always sure if I got it right.

For example, a while back I bought some cube steak, expecting it to be cubed chunks of steak for a stew or something like that.  Instead, I got a highly tenderized cut of steak.  I got two packages.  The first, I made into a beef stroganoff.  The other, I put in my freezer with a promise to make chicken fried steak.

I am making good on that promise!

As I said at the time, I have never made chicken fried steak, I have never eaten chicken fried steak, and I don't know what makes a thing chicken fried.  (Really.  Click on the link.  I said all that!)

According to Wikipedia, Chicken Fried Steak, Pan Fried Steak, and Country Fried Steak are all the same thing.  A piece of tenderized cube steak, coated with seasoned flour and pan fried.  Also, Chicken Fried Steak is the unofficial state food of Texas.

Okay, so lets ask Texas. 

According to the Texas State Historical Association, Wikipedia got it right!  One theory states that Chicken Fried Steak is a variation of Wiener Schnitzel.  (Yay Germany!  Germany, by the way, is now beating Russia 61 to 55 in my all time hits from countries that aren't the US total.  Come on, Russia.  Man up.  You can do better!)  Another theory is that a short order cook in Lamesa, Texas, invented the dish by accident in 1911, when he combined two orders into one.  A happy accident, but I've had Wiener Schnitzel, and I believe that theory more.  It seems to me that people are always looking for ways to make inedible food (like really tough cuts of meat) edible, and pounding thin, coating in crispy flavor, and deep frying seems like a good way to do that.

Deep frying.  I did not deep fry my steak.  According to the Texas State Historical Association, there are three ways of making chicken fried steak:

1. East Texas: The steak is dipped in egg and then flour. 
2. Central Texas: The steak is dipped in egg and then bread crumbs.
3. West Texas: The steak is JUST dipped in flour.

I went with my usual choice - the Alton Brown version.  Of course, Alton had you tenderizing your own meat, so I just skipped that part.  To be fair, I can't guarantee this is really chicken fried steak, as I said I had never eaten it before this meal, but whatever it was it was good - and Alton Brown is from Georgia and therefore I trust him to tell me about Southern Food.  Also I trust him for everything having to do with food.  I have considered getting shirts that read W.W.A.D?  (What Would Alton Do?)  Don't steal that or I will punch you.

I think when I make this again (Read: WHEN I make this again.  It was damn good) I will use more oil and get a little closer to deep frying then just pan frying.  This also might be a good time to utilize some of my saved up bacon fat!

Chicken Fried Steak
  •  2 large cube steaks, about 1 lb total (I cut each one in half to make handling it easier)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, butter, or if you're feeling frisky, bacon fat.  Or some "healthy" combination of two choices.
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (I moved my herbs into a pot inside!  Fresh herbs all winter!!)
Preheat oven to 250 degreens.

Season the flour with salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder, and place in a square baking dish or large bowl.  Beat the eggs well in a different baking dish or bowl.  Dredge the meat on both sides in the flour, then dip into the egg, then dredge in the flour again.  Repeat with all the meat.  Place the meat on a plate, and allow it to sit 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.

Place enough of your grease to cover the bottom of a 12 inch pan, and set over medium high heat.  You want to make sure it gets really hot.  Once the grease is hot, add the meat in batches, being careful not to over crowd the pan.  Cook each piece on both sides until golden brown, approximately 4 minutes per side.  Transfer to a sheet pan or baking pan in the oven, and repeat until all the meat is browned.

Add at least one teaspoon more oil to the pan, and reduce the heat to medium.  Add the garlic, and saute about two minutes.  Add 3 tablespoons left over dredging flower, and stir for about 5 more minutes, being careful not to let the garlic burn.  Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth, and whisk until the gravy comes to a boil and begins to thicken.  Add the milk and thyme, and whisk until the gravy coats the back of a spoon - about 5 to 10 minutes.  Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed.  Serve the gravy over the steaks.

I served this with mashed potatoes and cranberries from Thanksgiving.  Yeah, I made this last week...

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