How to make Chicken Fried Steak in your own kitchen…
9:42 AM EDT on April 29, 2013
(Editor's Note: Back in March, Oklahoma Fats taught you how to make an El Reno-style onion burger in your own kitchen. This time around he instructs you on how to make the main entrée of our state meal. Seriously, chicken fried steak is part of our state meal. No wonder we're all so fat.)
Time again for me to teach you how to eat like a real Oklahoman. Pretty simple, really: pretend that corn, potatoes and ketchup are the only vegetables the human body can safely consume.
Ugh, fine. You want to actually cook something? Then let’s get fat. Let’s make chicken fried steaks.
When I meet someone who says he hasn’t ever had a chicken fried steak, I assume he’s a vegetarian or a liar or from California. Or maybe all three. Regardless, chicken fried steak might as well be Oklahoma’s Official State Flower. If anything, most people have seen more of these than they have Rosa Oklahoma, and I think they’re just as beautiful.
Here’s what you need to make your own:
- A pound or so of tenderized round steak
- Some flour
- An egg
- Some milk
- Salt and pepper
- Some vegetable oil
- A spice cabinet
- Mashed potatoes
OK, mashed potatoes are technically an “option,” but let’s be honest -- they’re integral to this dish. You’re going to make chicken fried steak and gravy and not have a pile of mashed potatoes? C’mon, son. C’mon.
Here’s the thing: Mashed potatoes take time. The rest of this, once the prep work is done, actually goes pretty quick. But if you want mashed potatoes, start with them. Peel a couple of pounds of Yukon gold potatoes (Russets if you can’t find Yukon gold), cut into large chunks and put in a medium stockpot with a teaspoon of salt and water to cover by an inch.
Bring to a boil. This takes a while, so now’s a good time to start prepping everything else.
Get out your steak and look at it. It’s not pretty, right? All those holes they punched in it remind you of that girl you went to high school with who was really into piercings and “alternative” bands, but now she’s on Facebook and has 14 kids she’s home-schooling using a book called “Jesus’s Miracles of Science.” But, unlike that girl, the steak has a reason for all its puncture wounds. Round steak is not particularly tender, but it tastes good. They run it through the gauntlet and it breaks up a bunch of connective tissue, rendering it easy to cut and chew.
Better yet, those holes are going to soak up the next few ingredients like a sponge.
So, cut your steak into manageable pieces. I cut a pound of steak into three generous portions. If you want a crazy big steak like at Anne’s Chicken Fry House, you’ll need a giant skillet. And probably a home nurse in a few years.
Take a couple of large, shallow bowls and crack the egg into one of them. Take a fork and whisk that egg up like you’re about to scramble it. Pour 3/4 of a cup of milk on top and then mix it all together. I splashed in some Habanero Tabasco, but any hot sauce will do. Or don’t put any in. I don’t care, unless I have to eat it.
In the other bowl, combine about a cup of flour with a teaspoon of table salt and lots of fresh cracked black pepper. Why fresh? Because pepper loses its flavor over time. That’s why the pepper at most restaurants sitting on the table just tastes like black dust. You want to get spicy with it? I sprinkled on some chili powder I got from a relative who grows his own, but you can use cayenne or toss in some other crazy stuff. It’s just food. Play around. Coriander? Cumin? Maybe something that doesn’t start with C? Go for it. Take a fork and mix it all up until it’s evenly distributed.
Check on those potatoes. Boiling yet? No? OK, back to your steaks.
Dip a steak into the milk/egg mixture and flip it over. Make sure all of it’s been submerged at some point. Then pull it out and put it in the flour mixture. Flip it over, shake it off and put it back in the milk. Then back in the flour. We’re building a crust here. You can do it only once if you want...hell, you can forget the milk and egg and just dip it in flour and spices. It’ll still be good. But that’s not a chicken fried steak.
After you’re done, put that steak on a clean plate and continue with the other steaks. It won’t take too long, but it will get messy after a while. Lots of gooey build-up on fingers and forks. Wash that off when you’re done, because if you let sit all night, it becomes an invincible substance, like Adamantium or the wall around my heart.
Hey, check those potatoes again. Are they boiling? Then turn the heat to low, cover the stock pot and set a timer for 10 minutes.
Your steaks are ready to fry. Get another clean plate and put a few layers of paper towels on top. Then pour some vegetable oil into a cast iron skillet or, as I did, a cast iron stock pot. A skillet is probably easier, but mine needs some serious work, so JUST GET OFF MY BACK ALREADY.
You want enough oil that the bottom of the pan is covered and a little more. You’re not submerging the whole steak in oil, so take it easy.
Put that over medium heat and keep an eye on the oil. When it starts to shimmer, put a steak in there and listen to it sizzle. If you have room, put all three steaks in. If not, settle for two and you’ll get the third steak later. You want to give them all space to cook. Everything you add to the oil drops the temperature of the oil. Better to take your time and do them in batches than end up with pale, gummy crusts.
It doesn’t take long to cook. After two or three minutes, pick one up with a pair of tongs and see if the bottom is golden. It should be. If not, maybe turn the heat up a little and let it keep cooking. If it is golden, flip it over and let the other side cook for about the same about of time. When they’re done, move them to that plate with the paper towels, which will soak up some of the unnecessary excess oil.
Real quick, microwave a couple of tablespoons of butter for your mashed potatoes. Then pull that out and put your steaks in. NO. YOU ARE NOT MICROWAVING YOUR STEAKS. YOU’RE JUST PUTTING THEM SOMEWHERE THAT HOLDS A LITTLE HEAT. DON’T BONE THIS UP, BONER.
Pour the oil out of the skillet and into a glass measuring cup. Get some paper towels and try to find any over-burnt bits still in the skillet. There’s lots of flavor there, but you generally don’t want start your gravy with anything really burnt.
OK, those potatoes are probably done. Get out a paring knife and test a piece. Does it slide right through? Then it’s DTS (down to smash). Does it resist? Maybe you should stop pressuring it, you dick, and let it keep cooking with the lid on for another couple of minutes.
When the potatoes are done, drain the water, return them to the stock pot and smash with a potato masher. Pour in a half cup or so of milk, put it back over the heat and pour in that melted butter. Stir it all up, add in more salt and pepper. (I use garlic salt, because it’s right there. It’s right there, man.) Put the lid back on and keep it at low, low heat.
It’s gravy time. Put a quarter cup of the oil you cooked the steaks in back into the skillet and get it going over medium-low heat. Once it’s going again, start sprinkling flour on top and whisking it together. I’m cheap, so I just reused the rest of the flour with the spices. You might need a little more flour -- maybe another couple of tablespoons -- and you just whisk it with the oil. If you’re not reusing the other flour, get out some more spices. A bit of salt, some chili powder, definitely more pepper.
Want to get crazy? When you add back the oil, drop in a spoonful of that bacon fat you saved the last time you made bacon. If you tell me you don’t save your bacon fat, then I don’t know, man. I don’t know what to do with you. Maybe counseling? Think about it. Maybe this recipe thing is just a ruse and this is really an intervention. We care about you. I have a letter about how your bacon-wasting ways have hurt me.
The flour is going to cook in the oil and go from white to pale yellow to a light brown. Just splash in a half cup of milk and it will all come together pretty quickly into a ball of glue. Add another cup of milk and keep stirring. It’ll break up and the whisking should smooth things out. It’ll warm up and start to look suspiciously like gravy.
Get a spoon and taste it. Is it bland? Well, add some more salt or pepper. Too thick? Add in some more milk.
The steaks are warm. The mashed potatoes are warm. Gravy should be pretty hot. Put all this mess together on a plate and eat it. If you’re nice, make a plate for somebody else and sit down at a table like you’re a human being with manners.
I didn’t. I ate mine like a goddamn animal because I was hungry. But I have high hopes for you.