Dish of the Week: Chicken-Fried Steak
Triple A's version of CFS is a true Houston classic.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.
This week, we're covering a Texas-bred Southern essential, Chicken-Fried Steak.
Though it really needs no explanation, chicken-fried steak -- or CFS as it is affectionately known -- is a popular Southern dish consisting of thin cuts of tenderized beef that gets coated in flour (and sometimes egg), fried 'til crisp, and smothered with a white pan gravy.
The origin of the dish is a highly debated topic, though the Texas legislature made the 1976 version reported in the Austin American-Statesman official back in 2011 (even though the piece was meant to be a work of fiction -- God bless Texas). According to the story, a short-order cook at Ethel's Home Cooking in Lamesa misunderstood a ticket, reading "chicken, fried steak" as one order instead of two. So he dipped steak into a fried chicken batter and CFS was born. More likely, however, its origins can be attributed to German and Austrian immigrants who introduced Americans to weiner schnitzel in the 19th century.
While the basic methods are the same, there are several different versions of the dish around the state. In East Texas, the steak is often dipped in eggs/milk before being coated in flour. In Central Texas, they make a version similar to schnitzel, using bread crumbs instead of flour. And in the West, a cowboy version of the pan-fried steak is made without egg. Then there those who make a brown pan gravy, but don't even get us started with that.
In true East Texas fashion, this CFS is battered in seasoned flour and a mixture of eggs and milk, resulting in a crisp, craggly crust. For added texture, try incorporating a splash of beer into the egg batter.
Ingredients serves 4 For the steaks: 2 lbs beef bottom round (4 steaks), trimmed 1½ cups all purpose flour 1 tbsp paprika 1 tbsp cayenne 1 tbsp garlic powder 1 tbsp onion powder Kosher salt (about 2 tsp) and cracked black pepper 2 eggs 1 cup milk (or half milk, half dark lager) Cooking oil (peanut/vegetable) or melted Crisco
For the gravy: Pan drippings (about 1/4 cup) 1/3 cup all purpose flour 3 to 4 cups whole milk Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Pound and tenderize meat until just about 1/4 inch thick. In a shallow bowl, mix flour and seasonings. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and milk.
In a cast iron skillet, heat oil or lard to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, dredge the steaks in flour mixture. Dunk into the egg mixture, then dip back into the flour mixture one last time until fully coated.
Add steaks to the skillet, being careful not to overcrowd, and cook until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes until crisp. Remove from skillet and place on paper towels or wire rack. Sprinkle with salt while still hot.
Pour the excess grease out of the skillet, reserving about 1/4 cup to add back in to the pan (or if needed, add more oil/Crisco). Whisk flour into the pan drippings to create a paste. Cook until paste is a deep golden brown, then slowly add in milk, whisking constantly to keep lumps from forming. Season with salt and cracked black pepper and simmer until gravy is smooth and thick, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Serve steak hot smothered in cream gravy (with a side of mashed potatoes for best results).
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