I rarely buy beef because it is one of the most costly meat proteins to raise ecologically. It takes a huge amount of resources to produce a pound of beef vs pork, chicken, or goat. That being said, when I saw a package of thinly sliced top sirloin for almost half off, it practically jumped into my cart. Immediately I thought chicken fried steak.
If there is anyone left that still does not understand, it is not chicken, it is steak prepared in the method of fried chicken. In other words, battered and fried. The batter may be thick or thin, the fry may be deep or shallow depending usually on what your mother did if this was on her menu.
My own Southern mother did not make it often but I have written about an offshoot I grew up with that was referred to as steak and gravy. It was not until recently that I considered it’s relation to chicken fried steak. It was breaded but once and fried but then cooked with onions and water for an hour or so to produce a thin gravy. I wrote about my version with pork.
The first thing to do is clean up the steak. All fat and connecting tissue must be cut away for tenderness. The fat can be rendered to fry the meat or saved to put into the next braise for flavor. I give it to the dogs as a treat. Once trimmed of fat and connective tissue, take the checkered side of a meat mallet and go to town. This cut is not a tender one but quite flavorful. You are looking for a very thin piece when done so the meat will be cooked before the breading is burned.
The breading is a standard 3 step process. Coat well in seasoned flour, dip into an egg and buttermilk wash and back to the flour for a final coat. The first dredge is most important. The flour needs to be pressed well into every crevice. Press the meat down all over, turn steak and repeat. Do it all again before dipping into the wet station.
Deep frying is the best method to cook a chicken fried steak but it is something I rarely do. Using that much oil only makes sense to me if it is done often. Otherwise, keeping used oil to use again before it becomes rancid just doesn’t happen in my kitchen. Shallow fry it is then. A neutral vegetable oil is traditional, but I use olive oil for everything. Pour less than ½ inch of oil into a skillet and heat over medium high heat until a pinch of flour sizzles. Carefully lay in steak away from your body to avoid splash burns and let it cook a few minutes until it is a nice golden brown. Turn the meat and turn down flame to medium until the second side is browned and remove to a drip rack or a plate with paper towels.
While the first piece of meat is cooking, prepare the next piece. If serving multiple people, put pieces on a baking sheet in a 250° oven to stay warm or less formally for me, just hand it off to be eaten. The issue with that is the first person to eat doesn’t get the pan gravy.
When all of the meat is done, pour off all but a tablespoon or so of oil and sprinkle in a tablespoon or so of dredge flour. Mix flour and oil to a creamy texture and scrape up the fond from the pan. Season with salt & pepper then cook a minute or two on low heat to cook out the raw flour taste. Slowly pour in whole milk whisking all the while to make your gravy. This batch as seen in the photo was too thick and needed more milk but I was hungry and just didn’t care that much if it was a bit sludgy.
Great with mashed potatoes or coleslaw. I just wolfed it down wondering why I don’t make this more often.
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