Whenever I see a fresh message from Maxine come to my In Box I get very excited! You’ll see why as you read on:
“Whoever invented the phrase, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” was definitely onto something!
You’ve probably noticed that in the past few posts, I’ve really been pushing cooking from scratch. And I normally refrain from giving marital advice—I’ve been married for almost 43 years and I’m still learning, LOL.
However, this is when the two come together! Because the way to a man’s heart IS through his stomach, and there’s no faster way to get there than chicken fried-country fried-steak. Let’s make that big lug happy tonight! It’s easier than you think. When the meat’s on sale, it’s within a food stamp budget.
I learned to make this from my in-laws. I’ve shared before that they used to run restaurants. Think small-town café, with big breakfasts, homemade pies and chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes at the top of the menu. That kind of place. So, yes, I’m kind of an expert.
Start with the steak. In the meat department, walk right by the cube steak that’s $4 lb. If you are going to pay $4 lb., buy top sirloin on sale—it’s even better. No, wait for a sale on round steak. Where I live, it goes on special for $1.99 to $2.39 lb. every month or so. That’s all cube steak is—round steak that has been tenderized. London broil is a fancy name, but it’s still just round steak.
Here’s how to identify a round steak: a whole one is an oval, about a foot long, and there is a small round bone in the center. It will weigh around 2 lbs., more or less.
It’s a little-known secret, but any store with a fresh meat department that has a meat cutter behind the counter-or hiding in the back room-will perform all kinds of services for you for free. A few weeks ago, I told you about asking to have a frozen turkey cut in half. Well, if you buy a round steak, you can ask them to tenderize it for you, too. So, ring the bell and ask. You want them to give it two passes through the machine.
Breading meat can be messy, but it’s easy and cheap.
Start by cutting the meat into serving size pieces. You can make them small, because they’re going to be a lot bigger after they’re breaded. Just make sure the men and boys get at least two pieces, because I can guarantee they’ll go back for seconds.
First, make a bowl of egg wash. It is simply a beaten egg mixed with ½ to 1 cup of water. I usually put it in a pie pan. Then, spread out two sheets of waxed paper—I usually use a cereal box liner and cut it in half. Put flour on one sheet and dry bread crumbs or cracker crumbs on the other.
Dredge a piece of meat in the flour and shake off the excess flour. Set it aside. Do this to all of the remaining pieces. Then, wash the flour paste off your hands, and dip each piece in egg wash and roll it in bread crumbs, again shaking off the excess. Set aside.
I’ll interrupt here to explain why you set aside the meat after you floured it. You probably discovered your hands were covered in sticky goo from the flour. You’re just going to make a bigger mess if you dip the steak in the egg and crumbs at this point. Wash your hands first, then continue.
Preheat a heavy skillet over MEDIUM heat. An electric skillet set at 325 degrees works well, too. Then, add oil to the pan first, followed by butter or stick margarine. *Don’t put in the butter first, or it will scorch! Arrange the steaks in the pan. Fry until just past golden brown on one side, then flip them. Add a little more oil and butter if you need to. Salt and pepper the cooked side. Continue frying until the second side is done. Remove to a serving platter.
If you weren’t able to get all of your steaks in the pan and need to fry a second round, put the platter of cooked steaks in the oven on warm, then repeat the process. Because they’re so thin, they only take a few minutes to cook.
I’m assuming you started boiling potatoes before you started frying the steaks. Drain the potatoes and mash them. Get the big lug to do it. You can put them in the oven to keep them warm, too.
Now it’s time to make country gravy to go over the steak and mashed potatoes. Awhile back I taught you how to make white sauce and told you that it’s exactly the same method for making gravy. Let’s review it.
Add a little butter to the drippings in the bottom of the pan. You want about 2 tablespoons of fat. Add about the same amount of flour and stir to make a roux. Then pour in 1½ to 2 cups of milk and stir well. Continue stirring and cooking until the gravy is the right consistency. If it’s too thick-pudding gravy-, thin it with milk. If it’s too thin, continue cooking until the milk is reduced and the gravy is the right consistency.
Now, here’s a trick for better-tasting gravy. Add a chicken bouillon cube or, if you have it, about ½ teaspoon of chicken base that comes in a jar. Salt and pepper to taste AFTER you add the bouillon.
That’s it! It almost takes more time to read it than to just DO it!
When my son went out on his own, he had me show him how to make chicken fried steaks and country gravy. Now he invites friends over and impresses them with his “culinary skill,” LOL. Seriously, he has a couple of friends who have moved out of the area, and when he goes to visit, they have him cook chicken fried steak for dinner.
You can bread other foods exactly the same way. Oysters may not be your thing – they aren’t mine, either – but my husband loves them. When oysters were on special around Thanksgiving – people actually put them in stuffing, can you believe that?,-I bought a jar and breaded and fried them for my husband. I also use this technique for eggplant and some Italian dishes. I think this is how you fry okra…but since I don’t eat okra, I can’t be sure.
Now, 3 words about bread crumbs: Don’t buy ’em! Make your own–it’s simple and it’s FREE. It’s how I use up the heels of bread. Let them dry, break into pieces, and make crumbs in your blender. Bread crumbs will keep for months on the shelf if stored in a covered container.
Sometimes I buy round steak when it’s cheap, have it tenderized, and cut it into serving size pieces. Then I wrap them individually in plastic wrap, freeze them, and transfer to a big zippy bag. If you don’t need to cook a whole boatload at once, it’s easy to take out just what you need and thaw it for chicken fried steaks.”
*Mother Connie here: Maxine, it’s good we don’t have your home address because we are now hungry and ready to storm your house and demand dinner! THANK YOU SO MUCH!
Users of Angel Food, EBT cards for SNAP or WIC, food commodities or food pantries can all utilize the lesson you taught us today, Maxine. Those who have not mastered culinary arts yet can certainly plan to put these instructions into practice with no sweat. People who just want to make the most of their grocery budgets will leap to this, as well.
Please, boys and girls, feel free to comment about Maxine’s chicken fried steak on this blog. You are also welcome to send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and make our day, too!
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