This is some more good Southern eating. If you couldn’t tell, we have remained Southern ever since our return from our Charleston, South Carolina vacation. We have continued to research and read about the South Carolina low country and cook from our Southern cookbooks. Did you notice that I said cookbook(s)? Yes, we started with one and are now up to three Southern cookbooks. With the kind of food we’ve been eating, what could be bad with more cookbooks? Our latest dish was Chicken-Fried Steak With Vidalia Cream Gravy. The pros of the dish: it was delicious with a crispy, fried batter covering a thin layer of steak and was seasoned perfectly thanks to a special dredge that utilizes corn meal, flour, bread crumbs and salt and pepper. The cons: it is a little messy to make because any time you have to dredge steak through a corn meal coating, egg and buttermilk and then more corn meal coating, you are going to have some mess. The other con: not all people are comfortable frying in front of a big pan of super hot oil. If you can get over these two cons, then you will be in for some delicious Southern comfort food that was a big hit at our dinner table the other night.
Again, this recipe comes from the favorite of our new Southern cookbooks, ‘The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook’. Chicken fried steak is a great example of where leaner, tougher and cheaper cuts of beef actually perform better than the fattier, tenderer rib eyes and strips. The steak cooks really fast in the heated oil. I started our dinner with some slices of super fresh heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella cheese drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette and some sea salt.
A big slab of cornbread was right beside the chicken fried steak and gravy. Dessert was the remainder of our red velvet cake from the other day, since it kept very well in the refrigerator. This meal made us proud to be Southern (ok, I know we are not, but I thought I’d slip that in).
For the All-Purpose Fry Dredge:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- A large sprinkling of bread crumbs for quick browning
A couple of notes: this is a double batch from the original recipe in the cookbook. I found that I needed more dredge than originally specified. Also, it is important to find stone-ground cornmeal, which is much lighter and less coarse in consistency than non stone-ground.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper together twice. Stir in the bread crumbs and turn out onto a flat surface and dredge according to recipe instructions making sure to shake off any excess.
For the Chicken-Fried Steak and Vidalia Cream Gravy:
- Peanut oil for frying
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup whole or low-fat buttermilk
- Four 6-ounce beef top round steaks, about 1/2 inch thick (look for meat labeled top round bracciole meat)
- 1 jumbo Vidalia onion (about 12 ounces), trimmed, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- All-purpose dredge
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place an ovenproof platter on the top rack. In a 12-inch skillet or saute pan with a candy thermometer clipped to it, place enough peanut oil into the pan to fill it to half way and heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350 degrees.
Whisk the egg with the buttermilk and pour into a shallow bowl. Place the fry dredge on a wide plate. Working with 1 steak at a time, envelop the steak in a single sheet of plastic wrap and pound several times with a mallet to tenderize. Coat the steak in the dredge and shake off any excess. Dip in the egg wash to coat both sides. Allow the excess to drip off and then coat again in the dredge.
Shake off the excess and place the steak immediately into the hot oil. Fry, checking the temperature of the oil and adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature at 350 degrees, until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain off any excess oil and then transfer to the platter in the oven. Repeat with each steak.
When all the steaks have been fried and are warming in the oven, discard the used oil in the skillet and return the skillet to the burner. Add the onion, the butter and a pinch of salt and saute over medium-high heat until the onion is soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.
In a small bowl, vigorously whisk the flour into the broth until no lumps are left. Pour the broth and the milk into the skillet and add the pepper. Bring to a simmer and simmer gently, stirring, until the gravy has thickened to the consistency of melted ice cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, place the steaks on a dinner plate and ladle a generous amount of gravy over each.
Whoever came up with putting the crispy part of fried chicken onto a steak should be considered a genius. The mellow cream gravy with the onions combined with the well-seasoned coating and the steak made for a delicious main course. So we figure if we continue cooking like this for at least another week, we should get our honorary Southern citizenship papers or at least be allowed to speak with a slight Southern accent. Change it up for your family and try this chicken fried steak and gravy recipe. It is a delicious change of pace. Have any of your vacations inspired you to change it up in your kitchen?