I don’t know who this governing body is that keeps sanctioning food holidays, but I understand that Friday marks the observance of National Chicken Fried Steak Day. Or something like that.
I have to say that I find national well-liked food days to be a bit on the goofy, self-congratulatory* side, although I suspect that stance is exactly what got me blackballed from joining the food holiday governing body. Even still, the shame of having missed national burger day, taco day and, yes, even Denver omelette day gnawed at me. So when I got word that chicken fried steak day was a thing, I was eager to exploit it in the name of SideDish.
If ever there was a dish worthy of a culinary bank holiday, it’s chicken fried steak – if for no other reason than it shouldn’t be enjoyed more than once a year by anyone planning on living for a large amount of time. As for this particular variation…let’s just say this isn’t your grandma’s chicken fried steak.
Actually, I take that back. If your grandma is from Argentina, then this basically is your grandma’s chicken fried steak. (I can explain.)
The one problem I seem to encounter all too often with chicken fried steak is the dreaded soggy outer crust. Yuck. The whole point of battering and frying this thing is to hide the fact that you’re using a disposable cut of beef, so if the crust can’t hold its own, you’re in for a sad meal indeed. To get around this, I stole an idea from Argentine milanesa napolitana**, which calls for a dredge of flour-egg-bread crumbs instead of the traditional CFS dredge of flour-egg-flour. It’s an idiot-proof method for getting a crispy exterior that holds up. And that’s important, considering you’re about to cloak this thing in cream gravy. Traditional? Not quite, but your mouth will totally inderstand. Your arteries, on the other hand…
Chicken Fried Steak
4 cube steaks, about 1.5 lbs
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup panko or other bread crumbs
oil for frying
salt and pepper to taste
1.5 cups milk
2 tbsp bacon drippings or butter
2 tbsp flour
salt and coarsely ground black pepper (I use an extra coarse “butcher’s” grind)
1. Using three small casseroles, tupperware or just something shallow and flat bottomed, set up your dredging stations- one with the flour, one with the beaten eggs, one with the bread crumbs. Meanwhile, heat about 1/2″ of oil on just over medium heat and set your oven to as low as it’ll go.
2. Dredge steaks first in flour, shake off the excess, then dip in eggs and finally in the bread crumbs.
3. Fry the steaks one at a time, about 4 minutes per side. Keep the cooked steaks on a wire rack in the warm oven while you fry the others.
4. For the gravy, melt the bacon drippings over medium heat. Stir in your flour and keep stirring for a couple of minutes until you have a smooth, light brown roux. It’s very important that you get a nice, smooth roux – the gravy will just be hot milk with browned flour in it otherwise. Slowly whisk in the milk and keep whisking (drop the heat some if it starts to boil) until it thickens to the consistency of, well, gravy. Takes about 6-8 minutes, start to finish. Add salt, plenty of coarse black pepper and serve.
* I eat burgers all the time, so I don’t know that that’s grounds for a celebration. Now, a monument to burgerdom – something tasteful, like a bust of George Washington eating a burger, carved into the side of a mountain – that I could get on board with.
** Which is essentially a schnitzel, which CFS has its roots in. Circle of life. Well, not for the cattle, I guess.