Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cheap Bastid's Chicken Fried Steak and Pan Gravy

I had the weekend off and it was time to cook some Comfort Food. Friday night I whipped up some Guinea Grinders; Saturday night I did Chicken Fried Steak and Pan Gravy and yesterday I made a big slow cooker full of Chicken and Dumpling Soup.

All 3 of these dinners not only met the Cheap Bastid test but they were really tasty too. I rummaged around in the freezer to see what I had for cooking and pulled out a couple of packages of sirloin. And quite frankly, virtually everything in the freezer was bought on special. I stocked up on sirloin when Stater Bros. had it for $1.99/lb. I won't go out and pick up dead cow or any other meat just because I have a hankering for it unless it's on special. That's the Cheap Bastid Way.

So today we’re going to talk about Chicken Fried Steak. It’s one of the ultimate Southern style comfort foods. I don’t cook it very often because it’s a bit messy but sometimes the mess is worth the effort for the flavor. The flavor is terrific and the steak is tender and tasty. I use real steak rather than cube steak or, as some people do, hamburger. And, with just a bit of practice you can get the breading crispy and golden while cooking your meat to the “doneness” you like—even medium rare.

Cheap Bastid’s Chicken Fried Steak and Pan Gravy
1 ½-2 lb Steak (sirloin or round about ¾-1 inch thick)
1 ½-2 cups flour
1 egg
1/3-1/2 cup cooking oil

Get out a good heavy skillet, cutting board, ½-1 gal. freezer bag, knife and heavy sauce pan—and put on an apron. Cut thawed steak into 2-3 chunks roughly 6 inches square. Put the steak in the freezer bag. Now pound the crap out of the meat using the sauce pan until it’s a uniform thickness of about ½ inch. (Don’t get the meat cut ½ inch thick because the pounding also tenderizes the meat). After I do this step I use a meat mallet to put the “indentations” into the meat which helps further tenderize it but I don’t wallop it, I just mark it. This step also allows you to let go of some of your frustrations by pounding on the steak. You may need to cut the meat after you tenderize it so that the portions are about 6 or 8 inches by about 3 inches.

2 Handed dredging--one for dry and one for wet.

You’re going to “double dredge so get out a couple of bowls or containers which have flat bottoms and are big enough to put the meat into flat. In one bowl dump in your flour (I also like to use some sort of crumb—about 1/3-1/2 cup bread crumbs or just take 10-12 saltines and schmoosh them into little crumbs). Break the egg in the other bowl and add about ¼ cup milk. Then whisk it thoroughly.

Put your skillet on a stove burner, turn the heat to between medium and medium high and let it heat up. Add about 1/4” of oil to the bottom. If it smokes it’s too hot and will instantly burn the breading. Season the meat with salt and pepper. (To me, this works better than seasoning the flour. You have to add to much salt & pepper to the flour to season the meat so just put it right on the meat before you dredge it). Now, you’re going to dredge your meat and lay it in the oil.

Carefully put it in the pan over medium/medium high heat and brown it.

Use 2 hands to dredge your meat—one for dry and one for wet (this is important). With one hand pick up a piece of the meat by an edge and lay it in the flour. Coat it on both sides with the flour. With your other hand lift it out of the flour and put it in the egg/milk mix and coat both sides. Then put it back in the flour still using your “wet hand” and coat both sides of the now wet meat with the flour again. Then gently put the meat into the skillet without flipping the hot oil onto your fingers. Put 2-3 pieces of the steak in the skillet. Make sure that there is space between each piece of meat in the skillet so that it fries rather than steams.

Do it 2-3 batches. As each is done, put on a plate/platter with a double layer of paper towels on it to absorb the oil. Then put the platter into a warm oven (set at 200).

Pan Gravy:
Now that the steak is done, it’s time to do the gravy. Pour oil out of the pan so that you have about ¼-1/3 cup remaining. Put pan back on the burner with the heat on medium-medium low. Add an equal amount of the leftover flour to the oil and start to whisk, whisk, whisk this into a roux. It’s going to take about 5 minutes or so of whisking to make a good roux. When you’ve got your roux made up, slowly add a cup of milk (or half a cup each of milk and chicken broth). Turn your heat up just a skosh and whisk, whisk, whisk until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken. Add some salt and a nice heavy dose of pepper. Add more milk if needed to make the quantity of gravy you want.

Mashed ‘Taters
Now I’m not going to repeat my mashed potato recipe (if you want it, check out Cheap Bastid’s Swiss Steak post). Suffice it to say, that you want mashed ‘taters with your Chicken Fried Steak and Pan Gravy. NO garlic. NO cheese. Just mashed ‘taters. Make sure that you time them so that they’re done about the same time as your gravy—it takes a bit of practice.

Put a mound of Mashed ‘Taters on a plate and add a couple of good hunks of Chicken Fried Steak. Smother the ‘Taters with gravy and put a healthy coat of it on the steak. Salt & pepper to taste and enjoy! Oh man! You’re going to love the stick to your ribs flavor of this dish!

The Cheap Bastid Test: About 1 ½ pounds of sirloin cost me $3 for this recipe. I used maybe $.50 worth of potatoes, $.25 worth of oil and $.10 worth of milk. With the egg and flour, let’s call the whole thing $4.00. We had a hearty, stick to the ribs dinner Saturday night and we’re just about to polish off the left-overs for lunch today. So that comes out to $1 per serving. That’s a terrific value for a Home Cooked, Comfort Food meal!

That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good! Eat Cheap! Be Grateful!

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