11 October 2012
Though I don't subscribe to the old Southern saying, "If it ain't fried, it ain't food," I do occasionally indulge. But only if it's worth it. And a properly made chicken fried steak is definitely worth it. Also known simply as CFS among those who really love it, it's the ultimate comfort food in certain parts of the country.
I don't think it deserves its reputation as a greasy, high-fat food. At least not the way I make it. I use organic grassfed beef, all organic ingredients, and shallow-fry it. The oil needs to be good and hot (or you will end up with greasy steaks!), but you can't really get a temperature reading on such a shallow depth of oil; just aim for something less than smoking hot. I add back just 3 tablespoons of the pan drippings for 2 cups of gravy. Sounds pretty healthy to me!
Of course, my Southern grandmother used Crisco, bacon grease or lard for all her frying. But I like to think she'd be on board with my healthed-up versions of her food.
Chicken Fried Steak
(Makes 4 servings)
1 pound top round steak
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt plus more
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper plus more
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup organic canola oil
3 tablespoons pan drippings
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (or replace 2/3 cup with beef broth)
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Cut the round steak into 4 pieces. With the textured side of a meat tenderizer (OXO Good Grips Meat Tenderizer), pound each piece (on a meat-only dishwasher-safe cutting board) until almost double in size and about 1/4 inch thick.
2 In shallow dish combine the flour with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt, coarsely ground black pepper and cayenne. In another shallow dish beat together the egg and milk.
3 Working with one piece at a time, season both sides with salt and pepper, dip into the egg mixture, dip into the flour mixture, dip into the egg mixture again, dip into the flour mixture again. Really press the flour in. This really goops up the hands, so just use one hand and keep one hand clean; you'll need it.
4 When all meat is coated, heat oil to a depth of not more than 1/16 to 1/8 inch. You just need enough oil to cover the pan generously. In my All-Clad Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan, that's 1/2 cup. When the oil is hot, put in two pieces at a time; don't crowd the pan. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, or until well browned and crunchy. With tongs, turn steaks and cook second side for about 3 or 4 minutes. Turn carefully so as not to lose the crust; chicken fried steak is all about the crust.
5 Drain on a paper towel-lined plate (wad up the paper towels; don't just lay them flat on the plate). Repeat. Then proceed to the most important part of chicken fried steak--the cream gravy! Pour off the fat in the skillet, then measure back into the skillet 3 tablespoons of the pan drippings. Use the ingredient list above, but go to my Cream Gravy post for the directions (and a little story about a real pioneer woman, my great grandmother).
6 Plate up the steaks with a generous serving of Mashed Potatoes on the side. Pour the gravy over both. Biscuits and a bowl of collard greens on the side round out this classic Southern meal.