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Make Chicken Fried Steak & Gravy - Texas Style!
Healthy? No -- Good? Yes!
Warning: I’m nothing more than an old, Southern cook – no gourmet cooking – rarely very healthy – but can usually fill as many chairs as I’ve got at my table. The reason for filling the chairs is I don’t cook much anymore, can’t cook worth a dern for one person, so just always invite folks to join me.
One of the things I repeatedly get requests for is: "Call me when you’re fixin’ chicken fried steak and gravy!" Now, those of you who are very healthy folks and always eat that way – you’re not gonna be interested in this! Those of you who occasionally fall off the "Healthy Food Wagon" might consider the following as your next adventure into "Once In A While" only meals.
In Texas, chicken fried steak and gravy is fed to one as soon as a couple of teeth are visible! If you can chew it – it’s on your plate. For chicken fried steak I start with a good piece of tenderized round steak and cut it up into serving size pieces. I prepare a bowl of flour to which I’ve added salt, pepper and garlic powder (in an amount comparable to the amount of steak you’re going to dredge in the flour – and you’re going to dredge each piece twice). In truth, if you like your chicken fried steak with a tough, thick batter – well, this recipe will turn out more like a pan fried steak with a light batter.
Here’s how you prepare each piece of steak to put in the frying pan (that has at least a half-inch of saved cooking grease, ie. bacon, etc.) If you don’t have used grease use Crisco – nothing else, just Crisco – my Granny said that and it’s true. It fries meat better than any other oil/shortening I’ve found. Any amount of "used" grease will make your steak brown better and more evenly so even if you only have a little – add it to your Crisco once the Crisco has melted in the pan. The shortening/grease should be very hot but NOT smoking before you put steak in the pan to fry. This is very important to good chicken fried steak: Fry in an IRON skillet – it can be done in other skillets but the iron skillet always produces the best results.
Now, back to the steak – we’ll fix one piece and you do all the rest the same way. Get ‘em all cut, dredged in the flour and ready first -- THEN put them in the pan. I usually have to cook several pans full as I cook so much but you judge how much you’re cooking. Take each piece of steak, hold it under running water and then lay it down in your bowl of flour mixture after you’ve got it good and wet. PRESS the flour mixture into it on both sides. Then, turn the water on again, very gentle flow, and briefly run the same piece of steak back under it. Again, return the steak to the flour mixture and press the flour into both sides. Now, here's the trick to making the batter stay on the steak when you fry it and truly the secret to exceptional chicken fried steak. FLOUR THE SIDES of each piece and press down on the piece of meat so it will seal the batter all around. This is a critical move so make sure each outside edge of each piece of steak is well floured! Set aside until you’re ready to start frying. DO NOT stack up the pieces as they’ll stick together and you’ll have a huge mess! When you’ve got all the meat dredged; put as many pieces in the pan as it will hold – do not crowd them.
Chicken fried steak should be cooked until it’s well done and browned on both sides. As your meat gets done remove from skillet to a container lined with paper towels to drain off excess grease. If you want a softer "crust" put a piece of foil over the top of the container – it’ll keep the meat warm but will soften the crust a bit. If you want a more crusty exterior on your chicken fried steak – put the done pieces in a pan and put them in your oven on a very low or "warm" setting," uncovered, to keep them until you’re prepared to serve. Note: I usually add a bit more salt when I remove each piece of steak from the skillet. That’s all there is to my chicken fried steak – easy, huh?
Chicken fried steak gravy is also known as "cream gravy" and probably goes back to the first Southern woman that ever cooked. Here’s my way of doing it: Pour all but a bit more than a quarter-inch of the grease out of the skillet you cooked the meat in. Don’t put the skillet back on the fire until you do the following: Get your flour canister out and the salt and pepper so you’re ready to go when you begin cooking the gravy. Fill a mixing bowl with a couple of cups of whole milk and add one cup of water to it. If you’re not using whole milk put three cups of milk in your bowl (no water).
Put the skillet on the stove and again let it get really hot but not smoking. Add three heaping tablespoons of regular flour, salt and pepper to taste and stir quickly and constantly until the flower is browned and the mixture begins to thicken (very similar to making a roux). At that point add all the milk from the bowl and stir constantly until the gravy thickens and is bubbling (boiling). Cooking cream gravy a bit after it starts to boil kills any flour taste that might be present. If your gravy gets too thick add a bit more milk. If it's too thin -–remove the pan from the stove while you do this -- add another tablespoon of flour to 1/2 cup water, beat it up until there’s no lumps and add it to your gravy. Return the pan to the stove and again cook until you’ve got bubbles and gravy is the right consistency.
Cream gravy is thicker than most other gravies – runny gravy won’t do so be sure and cook long enough to get a good, moderately thick texture. When you remove the gravy from the pan into a serving bowl add a bit more black pepper – cream gravy is also, often called "pepper gravy."
That’s the way I do it – and about a gazillion other Southern cooks, too! Everyone has their own variation so if you have a friend that adds or subtracts a bit it’s still good chicken fried steak and gravy. This recipe works for nearly any kind of meat you fry (if you fry) including pork chops, pork steaks, sausage (great for breakfast over biscuits – home made of course), fried chicken – the list can go on forever. I, personally, don’t want gravy with fish but I’ve even known folks to fry fish and make gravy from the drippings – your choice!
This recipe has been a staple of good eating in Texas forever – good, yes – healthy, no! Of course, the health experts tell us that all fried foods are on the "no-no" list so guess that’s the ultimate answer. Chicken fried steak and gravy goes well with nearly all vegetables so when you’re making your menu – they all work. Usually I’ll also fix fried potatoes and onions!
Guess my thought is at this age something’s gonna get me eventually and kicking the bucket while eating chicken fried steak and gravy – well, going to meet my Maker with a full stomach and a smile on my face ain’t all bad!