When my oldest daughter was 4 we lived in Washington, DC (yes, this was 26 years ago). When her birthday came along I asked her what she wanted to eat for her special dinner and she answered, chicken fried steak. Huh? I had never heard of it before—and this was before the Internet, so I couldn’t google it or anything. So I just said “OK, Honey!” and went out and got some good old Chinese spare ribs. She thought it was great and that was the last I thought about it for a good 10 years.
Then I went to Texas on business, and imagine my surprise when I saw Chicken Fried Steak on a menu (Texas claims to be the dish’s birthplace). It was a real thing! Of course I ordered it and, yes, it was a very good thing. Since then, whenever either of us sees it on a menu, we order it and enjoy it (sparingly, of course; it’s not the healthiest thing you can eat!). But I had never ventured into making it until recently.
I was in Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest Eco Conference and was hanging out with Tom Phillpot, a native Texan. We were searching for a good restaurant within walking distance (not too many choices) and we got to talking about chicken fried steak (CFS). “That’s it,” I said, “I’m making it as soon as I get home.” For three reasons: 1. Maya and her husband Tony were coming for the weekend, so I could finally make it for her even though it wasn’t her birthday. 2. If I make it myself I could use all organic ingredients. 3. It was about time I figured it out.
And so I did. And it was good. And the leftovers were consumed at breakfast the next morning.
It wasn’t too hard to make, but it was a bit of a production. I’d do it again when the craving strikes. According to Tom, it must be served with mashed potatoes and green beans. I will share my green bean recipe soon—that was yum, too.
A note about the meat: Typically, CFS is made with a cheap cut of beef that is pounded to tenderize it. But I buy my organic meat mostly at the supermarket, and my options are limited. I don’t like fatty meat unless it’s crispy, and the way CFS is cooked, the fat will not crisp-ify, so I bought the good stuff (tenderloin). And it was good!
Chicken Fried Steak
- 6 tenderloin filets
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil (lots)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- More salt and pepper
- Pound the steaks flat. I put the meat between two pieces of parchment paper and then use my pounder and pound away till the meat is not more than a half-inch thick. Season with salt and pepper.
- In one bowl, add the milk and eggs and stir.
- In another bowl, add the flour and more salt and pepper.
- Put about a half-inch of olive oil in a giant cast-iron pan on top of the stove and heat till ready for frying.
- Dip each piece of meat first in the milk mixture, then the flour, then milk, then flour.
- Fry! Fry each piece until both sides are golden brown.
- Put the steaks on a rack in a lightly heated oven until everything else is ready. If you put them on a plate with a paper towel, the bottoms might get soggy.
- Make the gravy.
Chicken Fried Steak Gravy
- Pan drippings
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup milk
- Salt and pepper
- Pour out most of the olive oil until there is just a nice light coating on the bottom of the pan. Make sure you leave all the good stuff—the little bits of flavor.
- In a cup, mix the flour and the chicken broth and stir together. Add to the highly heated pan and stir. The mixture will start to thicken and turn brown.
- Then add the milk and stir until that thickens, too.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, put the CFS on a plate with the mashed potatoes and green beans. I serve the gravy separately so people can add their own at the table.
Photo by goodiesfirst