Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chicken Fried Steak with Southern Style Peppered Milk Gravy

Cube steaks, dredged in seasoned flour, fried in fat and bacon drippings and drizzled with a peppered milk gravy.
Cube steaks, dredged in seasoned flour, fried in fat and bacon drippings and drizzled with a peppered milk gravy.

Chicken Fried Steak

It would be a rare Southerner who does not preserve and use their bacon drippings, and I'd venture a bet that most of us have a jar or grease pot somewhere in our kitchen or fridge. Bacon fat is great for adding flavor to many dishes anytime that you need just a bit of fat, so we Southern cooks save those drippings every time we have the opportunity to fry up a bit of bacon... which of course we try to do as often as possible. We will use some of those drippings here.

Chicken fried steak is definitely a mainstay of the South. It's really just a simple cube steak, dredged in seasoned flour, and topped with a milk gravy that is born out of a simple blond roux made with some kind of fat - butter, and very often, bacon fat - and pan drippings with a bit of flour.

Instead of using water or some type of stock as our gravy base, here we add in milk, or you may also use a combination of both water and milk, to form a creamy smooth gravy. If you start this off with a bit of browned bulk pork sausage and then finish off the gravy, you've got yourself a mighty fine sausage gravy for some homemade biscuits.

Now there are a couple of different ways to finish off these chicken fried steaks. Some folks like to return their steaks back into the gravy after they are browned, but to me that is a whole 'nother meal. I call that a country style steak, or more commonly, simply cube steaks and gravy. Another method is to transfer the browned steaks to a baking dish, pour the gravy on top and bake it in the oven.

Personally, I prefer that my chicken fried steak retain its crunch - so I don't dredge mine in the gravy. Instead, I just spoon some of the gravy over the center of each crispy steak and offer the rest of the gravy at the table. The perfect side for this dish is, of course, homemade mashed potatoes, but you may sure serve it up with some rice, beans or whatever sides you like. True, this one is not exactly for the calorie conscience or perpetual dieter, but certainly a warm and comforting, occasional meal. Here's how to make it.

Get some oil going in a skillet - you'll want about a half cup, depending on the size skillet you're using, plus I like to add in some of that glorious bacon fat for flavor. While the oil is heating, set up a dipping station - just two shallow bowls will do.

In one of them put 2 eggs, 1 cup of buttermilk or whole milk, and about a tablespoon of hot sauce - more if you like. In the other, whisk together 2 cups of flour - I like to use self-rising flour but you may substitute plain all-purpose if that's what you have on hand, adding in some crushed saltine crackers for extra crunch. Add 1-1/2 teaspoons of seasoning salt, some freshly cracked black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder. Once you mix up the flour, scoop out 1/4 cup of the seasoned flour and set aside to use later for the gravy.


Sprinkle cube steaks with Cajun seasoning and use a meat mallet to pound that in. Try to pound the steaks very thin as they do tend to swell a bit as they cook. Season and pound on both sides. Cut the cube steaks into smaller serving sized pieces, or "finger" strips, if you like.


Dredge the cube steaks in the seasoned flour.


Then dip them into the milk and egg wash.


Then back into the flour.


Set aside on a plate while the oil is heating.


Carefully slide the meat into the hot oil, immediately moving it around to make sure it does not stick. You want some oil to get up under the meat right away so that it starts to cook the flour.


Cook the cube steaks in batches - you don't want to overcrowd the skillet, so I usually do three steaks at a time. Cook over a medium to medium high heat until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes per side - how long will depend on the thickness of the steaks.


Place the cooked steaks on a rack and keep warm in the oven, or tent very loosely with foil.


For the gravy, you'll want about 1/4 cup of fat, so remove most of the oil and return only 1/4 cup of fat. For extra richness, I like to add butter to the skillet, then return enough of the oil to equal 1/4 cup fat. Sprinkle in the reserved 1/4 cup of seasoned flour a little at a time.


Use a wooden spoon, scrape up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet and cook until mixture is blended in and smooth, and a very light blond color.


Begin whisking in 1-1/2 cups of milk very quickly.


Until it is incorporated well.


Bring mixture to a boil and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Adjust consistency as needed by adding more milk.


Season gravy with salt and pepper; taste and adjust.


Retrieve the steaks from the oven, place one or two on each plate and spoon a bit of the gravy across the center of the steak.


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Recipe: Chicken Fried Steak with Southern Style Peppered Milk Gravy

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min
Total time: 40 min
Yield: About 4 to 6 servings


Ingredients
  • 6 cube steaks (about 3 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil, plus 2 tablespoons of bacon fat
  • 2 cups self-rising flour, divided
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt (like Lawry's)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Creole or Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama)
  • 1 cup buttermilk or whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, optional
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, along with pan drippings to equal 1/4 cup
  • Reserved 1/4 cup seasoned flour
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups whole milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Instructions

Preheat oven to the lowest setting to hold cooked steaks. Place a rack on top of a baking sheet and set aside. Heat the oil and bacon fat in a cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over medium to medium high, to 350 degrees F.

In a shallow dish, whisk together the flour, seasoning salt, pepper and garlic powder; remove and set aside 1/4 cup of the seasoned flour mixture. In another bowl, beat the 1 cup of milk with the two eggs and hot sauce. Lightly sprinkle the cube steaks with the Cajun seasoning and pound the seasoning in. Cut steaks into smaller serving pieces, if desired.

Dredge the steaks first in the seasoned flour, shaking to remove the excess flour, then dip them into the egg wash, and back into the flour; set aside on a platter while oil is heating. Carefully slide the meat into the hot oil, immediately moving it around to make sure it does not stick. Cook the cube steaks in batches over a medium to medium high heat until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. Place the cooked steaks on the prepared rack and keep warm in the oven.

For the gravy, drain off most the oil. Add butter to skillet and return enough of the oil as needed to equal a total of 1/4 cup of fat. Sprinkle in the reserved 1/4 cup of seasoned flour, and using a wooden spoon, cook and stir constantly, scraping up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Cook until mixture is blended in and a very light blond color.

Begin whisking in 1-1/2 cups of milk very quickly, bring to a boil and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken. Adjust consistency as needed by adding more milk. Season gravy with salt and pepper; taste and adjust. Retrieve the steaks from the oven, place one or two on each plate and spoon a bit of the gravy across the center of the steak. Serve with mashed potatoes and southern green beans.

Cook's Notes: When you add the Cajun seasoning and pound the steaks, be sure to pound them thin as they do tend to swell up as they cook. I like to use self-rising flour because it gives a crunchier crust, but you may substitute plain, all-purpose flour if that is all you have on hand, and mix in 1/2 pack of saltine crackers that have been finely crushed. Don't be tempted to overcook the meat or it will be tough. Length of time will depend on how thick they are, but generally no more than 4 to 5 minutes per side for even the thickest steaks is all that is needed.

Chicken Fried Steak Fingers: Cube steaks may also be cut into 1-inch strips and breaded as steak fingers.

Oven Baked: Bring gravy to a near boil, reduce heat to simmer and place steaks into the gravy, turning to coat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer on medium low for 15 to 20 minutes, turning at least once. May also finish in the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the browned steaks into a casserole dish. Pour gravy on top, cover and bake for about 20 minutes. May also add sauteed onion on top of the steaks before pouring on the gravy, if desired.

Shortcut Gravy: To make a quick gravy, after removing the steaks from the skillet, stir in one can of cream of mushroom soup and 1/2 soup can of water or milk.

Click Here for Tips to Help the Coating Adhere and Not Fall Off

Source: http://deepsouthdish.com

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