Chicken-Fried Steak with Cream Gravy
Back in the day, Swiss steak was a supermarket staple. You would pick out a round steak and the butcher would put it through the “Swissing” machine, a contraption that perforated the tough meat to tenderize it. Nowadays, Swiss steaks, sometimes labeled “cube steaks,” are harder to find, but this dish makes the search worthwhile.
- 1 1/2 pounds Swiss steak or cube steak, no more than 1/8 inch thick
- 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 3/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
- 1 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- Canola oil for frying
Cut the steak into 4 equal pieces. Season the steaks with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. In a shallow bowl, combine the 1 1/4 cups flour with 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. In a second shallow bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the milk and the eggs. One at a time, coat the steak pieces with the flour mixture, shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg mixture, coating evenly and allowing the excess to drip off. Return to the flour mixture to coat evenly, again shaking off the excess. Transfer the coated steak pieces to a plate.
Preheat an oven to 200°F. Set a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet and place near the stove. Pour canola oil to a depth of about 1 inch into a large, heavy frying pan (preferably cast iron), and heat over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the steaks and cook until the undersides are golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes, then turn and cook until the other sides are browned, about 1 1/2 minutes more. Transfer to the rack and keep warm in the oven while making the gravy.
Carefully pour the hot fat from the frying pan into a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the pan with paper towels. In a saucepan, heat the remaining 2 cups milk over medium heat to just below a boil and remove from the heat. Return 2 Tbs. of the fat to the pan and heat over medium-low heat. Whisk in the remaining 2 Tbs. flour and let bubble gently for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the hot milk and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking frequently, until lightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a sauceboat. Serve the steaks at once, passing the gravy on the side. Serves 4.
Variation: Be sure to make mashed potatoes (see recipe at left), so you can pour a ridiculous amount of the gravy on top. For a spicy version, heat things up with smoky ground chipotle chile. Add 1/8 tsp. of the ground chile to the steak seasoning and 1/8 tsp. to the gravy.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009).