Friday, April 9, 2010

Chicken Fried Steak with Creamy Mashed Potatoes and Milk Gravy

My mother always told me (at a young and tender age) that the best way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  Decades later, Bless her Soul, my mother was so right!  Hang on to your bottle of Lipitor, and don't even bother to calculate how many Weight Watcher Points are in this dinner-- it's off the charts, I can assure you. 

My husband, being a Midwestern Boy, loves and appreciates his comfort food. Chicken Fried steak is all about comfort and calories, and I can assure you that this is one of the hardest posts I've had to edit. Just looking at the photos I took, makes my mouth water for this sinfully (and very easy) Man-Pleasing Dinner.

I found Ree Drummond's recipe on page 142 of her Debut Cookbook, "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. Ha!  This is one recipe that can't be found on her very successful blog "The Pioneer Woman Cooks."   I've never made this recipe before, so I did a research on several versions before I started to make this.  I really liked the recipe from Cook's Illustrated., that uses buttermilk and adds baking powder and baking soda.  There were a few cooking tips from trust friends at Cook's Illustrated that I incorporated into making this dish. So, let's begin:

I am not about to tenderize my own steaks, because I'm lazy about that, so I buy cube steaks from my trusted butcher shop.  They are very inexpensive, too. I adapted this recipe to make four steaks. To make the batter, you need to prep:

Measure  flour,  salt,  black pepper, and cayenne into a large shallow dish. In a second large shallow dish, beat the egg, baking powder, and baking soda; stir in the buttermilk (the mixture will bubble and foam). Drop the steaks into the flour and shake the pan to coat. Shake excess flour from each steak, then, using tongs, dip the steaks into the egg mixture, turning to coat well and allowing the excess to drip off.

 Coat the steaks with flour again, shake off the excess, and place them on the wire rack.

TIP: I dip the meat with only one hand, which leaves the other one clean. See? This part can be a little messy.
It's time to fry, so here's a tip from Cook's Illustrated:  Getting the initial oil temperature to 375 degrees is key to the success of this recipe. An instant-read thermometer with a high upper range is perfect for checking the temperature; a clip-on candy/deep-fry thermometer is also fine. If your Dutch oven measures 11 inches across, you will need to fry the steaks in two batches. 

Place the steaks (do in two batches, rather than crowding the pan) in the oil and fry, turning once, until deep golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes (oil temperature will drop to around 335 degrees).

These turned out great, if I do say so myself!  Now, Ree doesn't tell you this tip, but Cook's Illustrated does-- keep these warm on a wire rack, set atop a baking sheet in a 200F oven.  That way, air circulates and it won't turn the crust soggy, while you make the gravy.

I don't make gravy often-- in fact, pretty much only at Thanksgiving. But Chicken Fried Steak needs gravy. I did use P-Dub's gravy recipe, from her cookbook.  I like to strain the drippings.  To me, it's easier to catch those tasty bits, but you don't have to dirty your fine sieve if you don't want to.

Without cleaning the pan, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add ¼ cup drippings back to the pan; allow the fat to heat up. Sprinkle about ⅓ cup flour evenly over the fat. Using a whisk, mix the flour with the fat, creating a golden brown paste. This is knows as a "roux", and you want the roux to attain a deep, rich color. If the paste seems more oily the pasty, sprinkle in another tablespoon of flour. Whisk again and check the consistency. After a couple of minutes, the paste will start to turn golden brown. That's when it's ready for the next step. Whisking constantly, pour in 2 cups milk*.
NOTE: *I used part 1% milk and part half 'n half, because I didn't have whole milk. It still works!

Whisk to combine, then let the gravy thicken gradually. If it seems too thick at first, at splashes of milk, as needed—whisking to combine. As you cook and thicken the gravy, be prepared to splash in more milk* if it becomes overly thick.  
NOTE: *I used some chicken stock, in place of additional milk. I think it gives the gravy more depth of flavor. The total cooking process should take 5–10 minutes. Generously season the gravy with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, tasting it as you go along. According to the Pioneer Woman, under seasoned gravy is one of life's great sacrileges.

Now, about those mashed potatoes... I recently discovered a new way to make mashed potatoes that is super easy and clever. Here's how I made garlic mashed potatoes:

I used Russet potatoes, this time (Yukon Golds are my favorite spud of all time). I also added 2 peeled whole cloves of garlic to the milk; we love garlic taters.  Peel the potatoes, wash them... and rather than cooking them in water.... cook them right in milk (or cream)!  Here's, I'm using half 1% milk and some half 'n half.   I don't measure, so here's a visual:

I lightly season the potatoes with kosher salt and pepper-- I'll be adding more seasoning later on.  Cook the potatoes, covered, on medium heat, until fork tender.   Now, this is important... remove some of the cooking liquid and set it aside.

Mash away, baby!  Season, taste, add a little more liquid if necessary. We like ours creamy...a few lumps are okay with us.  Now, why would you reserve some liquid?  Well, I can make these taters before starting the rest of my dishes.  Right before serving these, I simply add the reserved liquid to freshen up the potatoes, make them super creamy... and they are really great! 
There has to be a little "green" on the plate, don't you think?   Green beans would be great, but I only had broccoli in the fridge.

TASTING NOTES:  I think Cook's Illustrated's addition of the baking soda and powder really helped to make this crust become crunchy and perfect.  I used peanut oil, but vegetable oil would work fine.  Flavor-wise, my husband loved this dinner, and I definitely made his stomach and heart feel very loved and happy. 

I'm not big on gravy, but I have to say that this was very flavorful. I think the chicken stock was a good addition.  While my husband doesn't burn off a lot of calories by working cattle on a ranch, he gets enough of a workout pushing the lawn mower up our very steep and grassy  hill!   This is definitely a man-pleasing dinner and I highly recommend it.  I give kudos to  The Pioneer Woman's gravy, -- and little bit of my own improvs on adding chicken stock to the gravy and potatoes. 

The printable recipe is at the very bottom of this post.  Now that I've seen all of these photos, excuse me while I go peel another orange and take a walk up a steep hill...

 Enjoy (in moderation),

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Phoo-D said...

This looks like a man pleaser indeed! I've never made chicken fried steak at home, but I bet it tastes light years better than restaurant versions!

Frieda said...

This is one meal I could gobble up in a hurry ~ thanks for all the great tips, including the one to keep 'em warm! pssst....have you ever tried roasting garlic and putting them in your mashed potatoes....oooohhh...divine! and they are not hard to roast and keep on hand in the freezer!

susan said...

I consider myself a good cook, but have never gotten the hang of making this gravy. If my husband shows up on your doorstep, just feed him and send him home :)

Holly said...

I've already eaten supper tonight and this still looks DeLish!!!

tasteofbeirut said...

One thing I learned too from your post is that midwestern men love their chickenfried steaks! I thought it was only Texans that did! Well, great, i ma glad you did all you did to make your man happy! This look deliciously sinful and I have to admit being off the charts healthwise does not make it any less appealing (once in a while!)

My Carolina Kitchen said...

This is definitely a man's meal, although I've been known to eat a little chicken fried steak from time to time. Comfort food at it's finest.

You did a terrific job. I always try to please my husband too. We've been married forty years and believe me, pleasing works.

TKW said...

Dear Debby,

My proposal of marriage still stands. Now, if I could only do something about that pesky husband of yours.

TKW's Dad

Ed Schenk said...

I learned to love this when I livded in Texas many years ago. I still make it often.

Joanne said...

It's totally fine to throw caution (and calorie counting) to the wind every once in a while. Especially when it's for a dish as mouth-watering as this. Comfort food at its finest.

Kim said...

I like your addition of the baking soda and powder. I think that was some pretty good thinking on your part:D
This meal looks out of this world delicious. I bet your husband was in pig heaven!!

Muneeba said...

I should've tried this recipe while I was still pregnant, then I wouldn't have felt guilty about the calories! MAN, does that ever look good!

Julie said...

I have GOT to make this for my husband! He would think he had gone to heaven :)

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Sometimes, simple traditional goodness is best. That crispy, golden crust and gravy looks just delectable!

Simple Simon said...

Chicken fried steak is one of my favorite breakfasts but alas, not something I order very often. Your rendition looks great!

Lazaro Cooks! said...

Saw your profile on another page. Glad I read your informative and well-written blog. Look forward to following you here. Have a great night. Cheers!

Kate said...

The Kitchen Gnome would absolutely love this meal. Thanks for the tips. I will be making it for him...he does a great deal of hiking and is always hungry! Kindof like having a teenager at home! (Smile!)

Debinhawaii said...

Looks delicious--my Mom makes an awesome chicken-fried steak and it's a great guilty pleasure for sure. You have me drooling now. ;-)

Monica H said...

Oh man, this looks good! I'm not showing this to my husband because he'll want me to make it and I don't like CFS. This is one of his favorite dishes to order out and it's always accompanied by canned greeen beans- I'm glad yours isn't!

Cristie said...

Debby, Your version looks absoluetly wonderful! Really wonderful. Thanks for the tips and post, I'll be using this.

From the Kitchen said...

Ah, chicken fried steak--not just for midwesterners but a southerners delight as well. Don't find it on many menus in Chicagoland but it can be found on my table!


From the Kitchen said...

P.S. My e-mail address is on my blog but you are welcome to stop by my blog. I love comments too!


ilcucchiaiodoro said...

Hello I am Italian, but I love much your kitchen and are are lovely, congratulations!

Chiara "Kika" Assi said...

Once I move to Europe and my boyfriend joins in July I'll def make this for him. It will be a double surprise: both because he loves chicken fried steak and because I'm sure he doesn't expect to be having it in Europe! Thanks for the recipe!

Marguerite said...

Oh I know a whole bunch of Cajun men who would devour this meal in a hurry! Great recipes and post!

Jenny said...

Heck with the men, I'll take some! I know it isn't great for you, but suspect it would be worth it.

Brena said...

I was unable to get the gravy right, either - and it looked like something you might pull out of a polluted lake. LOL I am not a huge fan of chicken fried steak, but my hubby loves it - so I made it for him. He liked it, so that means it was a success. :)

A Feast for the Eyes said...

making gravy takes a little bit of practice. I'm not a HUGE fan of chicken fried steak, but like you, I make it for my husband-- who loves it.

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