While chili (particularly “Texas Red”, and yes, that means no beans.) is the official state food of Texas, there is little doubt that the unofficial state food of Texas is the chicken fried steak.
I’ve known the wonderful delight of chicken fried steak all my life. While I grew up in California’s wine country, my family and many others were originally dust bowl immigrants from Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Southern cuisine was my staple as a boy, mixed with a strange variety of Italian, Mexican, Hungarian and Asian influences. The restaurants of Northern California don’t serve “country fried steak” they serve chicken fried steak, and that’s the way we like it.
I know that there are some Texans who will rail at me for even hinting that any Californian can produce a real chicken fried steak, but we do, at least it’s done well North of San Francisco, where the population is mostly rural. That being said, this is still a Texan tradition, and I’m passing it on as such, as is only fair, since it moved with our families from Texas, Texoma, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
If you’ve never had, or heard of chicken fried steak, you may wonder exactly what it is. In a nutshell, it’s a steak cooked in the same manner as Southern fried chicken. That is to say it’s breaded and fried in a cast iron skillet with plenty of oil (read Crisco, lard or perhaps, in rare cases, suet) until it’s crisp, juicy and delicious and slathered in gravy, either made from the pan drippings (not my preference, I just don’t like beef gravy) or in Southern White Gravy.
If served for breakfast or brunch, you’ll find it with a side of fried potatoes or hash browns. When served for dinner it will usually be found accompanied with mashed potatoes, also slathered in gravy, and some form of vegetable or other. (This is where your basic green bean or, better yet some fried okra comes into play.)
So, no matter where you hang your hat, kick your feet up, set a spell and make up a bit of Texas for supper tonight. You’ll be glad you did, I assure you.
- 1 to 2 pounds cube steak or round tenderized round steak
- 1 pint buttermilk
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- Vegetable shortening, lard, or vegetable oil, for frying
- Cut steak into serving sized pieces. Marinate overnight (or at least 4 hours) in buttermilk. (This will tenderize the meat without the need of MSG or other tenderizers, as well as adding a wonderful tang.)
- Remove steak from buttermilk. Discard buttermilk. Season steak with salt, garlic salt and pepper. Beat egg and milk together, add baking soda. Season flower with salt, pepper (and whatever else you like in your chicken batter) on a separate plate.
- Dredge steaks in flour, then in milk mixture. Dredge again in flour and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Fry in hot lard or shortening (about 1/2-inch deep) in a hot skillet over medium heat, turning only once until golden brown on both sides. (About 6 minutes per side)
- Serve over a ladle of gravy, top with a little more gravy with mashed potatoes and a nice big portion of anything green.
- Share and Enjoy!
What I would have done differently if I had thought of it at the time:
To be honest, I change this up occasionally depending on my mood. If I’m in the mood for a bit of spice, I’ll add some cayenne pepper to the buttermilk while he steak is soaking and add a bit of hot paprika to the flour. It really just depends. you can pretty much change up the flavors in any way you choose.
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