Me: What would you like for dinner tonight?
Yankee Girl(my wife): Well, we have some egg noodles in there, so maybe something with that? And creamy?
Me: Oh, I was thinking chicken fried stea….
Yankee Girl: OK!! (before the words could clear my lips)
That’s right. She wasn’t even born here and she knows…
There is nothing that screams TEXAS louder than chicken fried steak. Oh I guess you could make a case for chili or BBQ, but I’d have to strongly disagree.
The state of Texas is a gigantic grid of Farm to Market roads. They wind, they intersect, and they connect big cities to small towns, and small towns to what we call holes in the road. If you were to get in your car and meander along these roads, you’d find that every little town from the piney woods, to the hill country, to the West Texas plains has a mom & pop eatery who claim to have the best CFS in the state. And, there’s probably a framed publication on the wall or a t-shirt to serve as testimonial.
Obviously everyone’s can’t be the best, and I surely don’t have the foggiest idea which one is. What I do know is that every Texan has their favorite and that most are willing to drive significantly out of their way to get it. But of course, no matter how good it is…it’s not as good as Mama’s.
Chicken Fried Steak is definitely one of those things where less is more…simpler is better. No fancy seasoning blends and no marinades. It’s just a matter of getting the right piece of meat and giving it the proper cooking technique. Simple seasoning, a crispy crust, and of course cream gravy spiked with copious amounts of black pepper are all you need to achieve Texas on a plate.
For the meat, I think tenderized beef cutlets are the way to go. If you can’t find those, then just get round steak and pound it thin with the tenderizer side of a meat mallet.
Traditionally the gravy is made in the same skillet you used to fry the steaks. I hate to break the rules (wait…no I don’t), but I don’t like doing it that way. For one thing, if you’re frying more than a couple of steaks, then the stuff at the bottom kind of burns…and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that in my gravy. Also, by using separate pans I can have everything ready at the same time, instead of having to keep the meat warm while I make the gravy.
Chicken Fried Steak Serves 4
4 beef cutlets
1/2c whole milk
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp course black pepper
Oil for frying
3 Tbsp Unsalted butter
3 Tbsp Flour
2c whole milk
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Coarse black pepper
For the gravy
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan. Whisk in flour until completely incorporated. Whisk in milk slowly to prevent lumps. Add salt and a hefty amount of black pepper. (It should be peppery) Reduce heat to medium-low and cook stirring frequently.
For the steaks
Fill a cast iron skillet or other frying pot halfway with frying oil and heat to 360 degrees.
Whisk together egg, milk, and buttermilk. In another dish stir together flour, salt, and pepper.
Dredge the cutlet in the flour pressing down firmly with the very tips of your fingers to make sure the flour coats well and the cutlet flattens and gets larger. Shake off excess flour.
Dip the floured cutlet into the milk mixture, then repeat the process in the flour pressing exactly as the first time. Without shaking of too much excess flour, lay cutlet into hot oil. After about 2 minutes carefully turn steak over and cook for another minute or so. Drain on papper towel. Keep warm while the others cook.