Gosh, how I was looking forward to this state. Everything is bigger in Texas, right? Ten gallon hats, belt buckles, and flavor—all bigger and better in Texas.
My husband is a huge Dallas Cowboys fan so in our pre-kid life, we went to Dallas to see a game. We visited the Cowboys stadium, Rangers stadium, the stockyards, the Texas Book Depository, the set of Dallas (I still don’t know who shot JR)… And I nearly fell into a food coma while we were there from eating so much. The food was delicious and there was a lot of it. So when I pulled Texas last week, I did a little happy dance.
The problem with Texas is that there were TOO many choices of what to make. Do we have steak? Do we go the Tex Mex route? Do we eat it all? What to do, what to do… We’ve had Tex Mex before at our favorite Mexican restaurant (I won’t tell you what it is because the wait there is long enough). We also eat steak on a regular basis, so there really wasn’t a reason to have steak with so many other options—we’ll save that for the states where there are no other options. The purpose of this challenge was to try new things, so I made an executive decision and decided to make Chicken-Fried Steak with Country Gravy. The picture made it look very appealing and very southern with all that gravy on top.
The first order of business was finding the steak for the chicken-fried steak. Apparently you can’t just fry up a ribeye (who knew). And also, there’s really no chicken involved at all other than the chicken stock in the gravy. It’s called chicken-fried because it’s fried like you would fry a chicken cutlet. (This should have clued me in to the fact that CHICKEN should be fried and maybe STEAK should NOT be fried, otherwise we would start calling chicken steak-fried chicken. But I’m a glutton for punishment and I’m gonna fry this steak, damn it.) The recipe called for cube steak which I had never heard of. At first I thought it meant cubes of steak like I use for beef stew, but nope, there is actually cube steak. It looks a little like hamburger meat molded into the shape of a steak. This is because cube steak is actually just round steaks tenderized into oblivion. But it was cheap—much cheaper than the steak we usually buy, so Yay!
The best part of this recipe was that I managed to whip it up in about 35 minutes. I was even able to make mashed potatoes while the steaks were frying and managed not to light anything on fire, so that’s a bonus. The meat got dredged in a flour mixture with smoked paprika and cayenne (yay spices! Go Texas!), an egg wash, and then back in the flour. I was expecting some sort of breadcrumb or cornmeal coating, to really crisp up the outside, but there was none. The steaks were then fried and the gravy made from the drippings in the pan. I felt like a real southern cook making this gravy, so I went ahead and dove into the cornbread while watching it bubble. Here’s a picture of that bubbling goodness:
Watching this gravy bubble, I really thought I had scored a winner…Winner, winner, chicken-fried steak dinner! The cooking was the best part of the recipe. Yes, I said that. Me, the most pathetic little cook in the Northern Hemisphere (there’s someone in Australia nodding their heads—they’re the worst in the Southern Hemisphere). The worst part of this recipe is that no one liked it. Complaints ranged from “it’s not crispy enough (which I agreed with)” to “it has no flavor (which I did not agree with)” and “There’s too much fat (I guess that’s why it was so cheap)”. While the plated food actually looked like the picture from the website, the taste was not what we were expecting at all:
I would have described it more like steak-um meat fried in a spicy flour coating…which I guess it almost was. The gravy had a lot flavor, though, and tasted yummy mixed with the mashed potatoes with onion garlic salt…that nobody even noticed 🙁 . They were too busy making faces about the steak. The meal got an unenthusiastic 5 stars out of 10. A fail in my book. I reread the recipe when I finished cleaning up, wondering how a billion Texans could be wrong and think this was the best meal ever. I must have gone wrong somewhere in my execution. It did say that if you overcrowded the meat, it would steam them instead of frying. However, I only put two pieces at a time in the pan and they definitely were frying, so I’m not sure if that was where the problem lies or not. Here’s the recipe. Try it for yourself and tell me what you think:
4 cube steaks
1 cup of flour
1 tsp of onion powder
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tsp of smoked paprika
1 cup of chicken broth
1 cup of whole milk
1/4 cup of flour
Mix together flour and spices. Whisk egg in separate bowl. Dredge meat in flour mixture, egg wash, and then back in flour mixture. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet pan over medium heat. Once that heats up, drop meat pieces into pan without overcrowding (obviously where I went wrong). Cook 3-4 minutes on each side. Transfer to plate and then add 2 tbsp of butter to the drippings in the skillet. As that starts to melt, add the 1/4 cup of flour. Whisk until golden. Add the chicken stock and heat until it thickens. Add 1 cup of milk and cook until it starts to bubble. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with gravy over steaks immediately.