Country Fried Steak- Southern Food Challenge 3

I never said this was going to be pretty. There are no glamour shots in this post. It is impossible to make country fried steak look like anything but a big plate of brown. While country fried steak is doubtless very tasty, a feast for the eyes it is not. I think that may be a significant part of why country fried steak has never been in heavy rotation in my kitchen. (That and the “country”, “fried”, and  “steak” parts.) My gene pool is neck-deep in artists so I’m practically genetically hardwired to “first, eat with your eyes.”

 

 

Growing up, I don’t actually remember ever eating country fried steak. After I got married, I started making it occasionally, because despite the fact that he introduced me to kimchi and tom yum soup and sushi and cioppino, I married a guy who occasionally craves things his mother or grandmother cooked. His culinary guilty pleasures tend to contain trans-fats. His mom could give Paula Deen a run for her money in butter usage; she makes a mean tuna noodle casserole; she sometimes country-fries things; She’s not afraid of Crisco. So for love, I learned to fry. Sometimes.

When I started looking for actual recipes for country fried steak, I discovered that there  are a couple of significant variations: I have always dredged, pan-fried and then covered and cooked the meat in a sort of self-made brown gravy. A lot of recipes almost deep fry the meat, then make a cream or milk gravy separately and  pour it over the top when it is served, very much like a weiner schnitzel. It’s interesting then that that version has its roots in Texas with its significant influx of German immigrants in the early 19th century.

There is also some variation in the name: is it “country-fried” or “chicken-fried”? None less than John T. Edge of  Southern Foodways Alliance weighed in in the NY Times Diner’s Journal saying that “Country fried steak is, usually, battered and fried beef, smothered in gravy and simmered until solid crust and liquid gravy fuse. It’s a pan-Southern dish.”

Anyway, getting back to the issue of aesthetics: I used red onions. It was the best I could do.

 

Country Fried Steak

a general outline


Tenderized beef round steaks, about 1 per person

1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned (to taste) with

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

pinch of cayenne

1 large onion, thinly sliced

Oil for frying

Milk , about a cup to dredge the meat and 1/2 cup for the gravy

water or broth to surround but not cover the meat

dash Worchestershire sauce

 

 

In a heavy skillet, slowly saute’ the sliced onions in about 1 tablespoon of the oil until they are a sweet softly wilted tangle. Remove from the  pan and hold for later.

Meanwhile, dip each piece of meat into the milk, then dredge it in the seasoned flour. Cover the meat completely, but dust off any extra that isn’t well adhered. As each piece is covered, set it aside on a plate for 10 minutes or so before frying them. The flour will begin to absorb the milk and juice from the meat and will get a bit of a crust.

Once the onions are cooked and the meat is all dredged, add a couple more tablespoons of oil to the pan and heat it until it shimmers slightly. Lay the meat in the pan and fry until both sides are golden brown. Scatter the onions back over the pan, pour in the 1/2 cup of milk, enough water or broth to surround but not cover the meat, and that splash of Worchestershire sauce. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover the pan with a heavy lid and keep the heat on low for about 15 minutes until the meat is very tender and the gravy has thickened.

 


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7 thoughts on “Country Fried Steak- Southern Food Challenge 3

  1. I have never put it into words, but, you’re right. We do eat first with our eyes. I can remember Mama commenting/apologizing that our meal was too white or yellow. This looks so tasty. Not saying I’m going to go out and make this, but you actually make it sound doable. I always thought it was more complicated.

    Looking forward to the next installment 🙂

  2. Mmmm…that looks really tasty. I’ve only had it in restaurants or cafeterias and they’re always have the usually white gravy poured on top (and not too generously), but yours looks much more appetizing. Yum!

  3. Hey, the picture is not that ugly! My husband loves onions, and that pan full of onions made his mouth water!

    Growing up one of the staples in his home was liver and onions, but he says “Cook me some of those country fried stakes please”!

    Penny

  4. Yum. Nana used to make the prettiest meals when we visited her and Mom always did too. Plus they tasted great. I call this country fried when it is fried with no liquid added. Then if I add water to the pan after they are fried, covered, and simmered then I call it smothered steak. I have never used onions. I will next time. Last night I made four palm size venison fried steaks served with wok fried potato cubes and garlic stir fried uncut green beans. Nice.
    I can almost smell your cooking, your descriptions are so great.
    Love ya.

    • Venison country fried steak sounds great! You could do it as a version of Polish hunter’s stew called bigas with mushrooms, sauerkraut, onions, and paprika too. Fusion cooking, you know 😉

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