Chicken fried steak

Random notes… Flu!

Got my flu shot last November but danged if it didn’t work on “Strain A” of the flu, which bit me pretty hard last week, sending me to Pen Bay Medical Center for three days where I foolishly brought all my own meds that were bagged and stored in their pharmacy – they don’t allow you to use your own meds – and where I needed to “manage up” with some of the nursing staff a few times to make sure I was getting what I needed when I need it. The end result was fine – I was in proper shape to return home on Day 3 – but not without a few skirmishes fortunately bereft of bloodshed. They had me pegged pretty well: stubborn, difficult, knowledgeable, expecting competence. A pain in the rear, but always scrupulously polite in being so. Not just polite – friendly.

Pen Bay is a fine facility and I’m glad it’s nearby. Been there a few times for surgeries and other things, but I’m in no rush to go back on saline IV drips and eat their “food.”

Got your flu shot? It may not work.

Influenza is a bad bug. Years ago I did research for a television docudrama about the 1918 worldwide flu pandemic that killed upwards of 20 million people. It’s not a democratic virus; in 1918-1920 it disproportionately took aim at the healthy and strong. The very young, the old, the infirm were largely spared, but those with strong immune systems dropped like flies. Why? Their bodies were flooded with antigens to fight the bug and threw everything seriously out of whack. There are accounts of hale and hearty people feeling a little ill at lunchtime and dropping dead on the sidewalk within an hour or so.

Don’t mess with flu, especially this Strain A we’re now seeing spreading across the landscape. It’s a nasty piece of work.

Enough of the buzz kill. Let’s eat!

••••••••••••••••••••Just look at this for awhile… Chicken Fried Steak with buttermilk biscuits (my pic)

Chicken fried steak – I can’t even…

This dish is especially popular in the South, Midwest, and West, and it’s too bad we don’t see more of it here in Maine, because I’d order it frequently.

The name “Chicken fried steak” confuses some people who’ve never had it… Oh, it’s some kind of fried chicken. Well no, it’s not, it’s cube steak (beef), breaded and dipped in egg and milk and then breaded again and fried – just like some fried chicken. The gravy and biscuits come later, and the whole shebang is wordlessly good. Let’s start with —

Cube steak.

Cube steak is so named because it’s a cut of steak with cube-shaped holes punched through it. It starts with a slice of beef round (either top or bottom round – the bottom being preferably for flavor and tenderness, or a chunk of flank steak), up to about 1/2″ thick, that goes through a a “meat cuber.” My own opinion is, this is the best thing that could ever happen to any “round” cut of beef — which is not a cut I’d recommend for anything else, including hamburger.

Here’s an electric meat cuber. Others are manual, and mounted on a countertop.






The result is meat that’s been “cubed,” and tenderized in the process. Its many perforations make it ideal for chicken fried steak, what with all the holes trapping the flavors of the searing meat and the bread crumb mixture it’s been dredged in. Let’s move onward to the recipe —

Fried goodness beyond language…

Yes, it’s true.

You’ll need for the steaks (for 2 people):
  • 2 cube steaks (supermarkets usually sell 2 to a package)
  • oil (vegetable or canola)
  • about 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • a dab (Tbsp) of butter
  • about 1 cup bread crumbs
  • spices: pepper, cayenne pepper, seasoned salt like Old Bay, paprika (optional)
  • large skillet (we used a #10 iron pan)
For the gravy:
  • about 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups milk
  • extra butter, if needed
  • seasoned salt and pepper
Now do these things:
  • pound the steaks on a cutting board, using a wooden pounder or pestle. Don’t be shy – pound them vigorously on both sides. They will spread, doubling in size, and be thinner when fully pounded.
  • In a shallow bowl, mix the egg and milk together thoroughly with a fork.
  • Put the bread crumbs in another bowl and stir in the spices.
  • Dredge the steaks in the bread crumbs till fully coated. Now soak in the egg-milk mixture, and return to the bread crumb dredge and coat thoroughly. Set aside on a plate. (This is the dry-wet-dry dredging approach – as good as it gets!)
  • Get the oil quite hot in the fry pan. When it seems pretty hot, add the pat of butter.
  • Fry over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes a side. Then set aside on a plate with paper towels. To keep warm, you can put these in a warm (275 or so) oven.
  • Notice that you can use flour instead of bread crumbs for the dredge, but purists would call this county fried steak, not chicken fried steak. 
For the gravy —
  • Make the roux. There should be a tablespoon or two of dripping/oil left in the pan. Sprinkle in the 3 Tbsp. flour, and whisk thoroughly. If you need more grease, add some butter – the mixture shouldn’t look oily/shiny, nor clumpy and pasty, but somewhere in between. Stir this mixture for 3 minutes or so until smooth.
  • Add the milk and spices, and whisk well over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, adding more milk if needed until you have a gravy that’s not too thick.

Serve up the steaks on warm plates, spoon out the gravy, and you’re done! Serve with biscuits, mashies and a veg.

Try it and let me know!


Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.