Sunday 26 February 2017

Texan Delicacies - Chicken Fried Steak

Why am I surprised it's hard to get cheap steak? This is Cambridge, after all. In the end I had to settle for 21 day aged organic rump steak. But why am I looking for the cheapest, chewiest steak? Because I'm about to make that great Texan delicacy - chicken fried steak.

Chicken fried steak is one of those dishes, like biscuits and gravy, that sounds wrong to English ears. Is it a fried chicken steak? What is a chicken steak? What's going on? Well, it's a beef steak, fried like you'd fry chicken. Steak with a crunchy coating.

Oh, says my foodie readership, you mean like wiener schnitzel? Well, yes and no. We're not talking delicate slices of tender baby calf, we're talking cheap, chewy lumps of real cow. Hammered flat with tenderising mallets. Pulverised with a rolling pin. If you've got the kit, stabbed with a thousand tiny blades too.

Ready to go.
The dish comes from the same route as the schnitzel, brought by German and Austrian immigrants in the 19th century. But this is a hard working peasant dish. A cheap lump of meats can make a substantial dish - all that bashing makes it twice the size (and edible too). The coating of egg and flour increases the carbohydrate value of it too.

As ever, I trusted SeriousEats to provide me with a recipe. There's more agreement on how to create this dish than other, more contentious, recipes (I'm looking at you, chili con carne). However I'm sure German settlers didn't fuss around with seasoned flour and buttermilk dips like I did last night.

When it came to side dishes, I tried to stay as traditional as possible. Country gravy - white sauce - isn't optional. It's an integral part of the dish. I chose mash and green beans because that's what I've always had. Although I resisted the temptation to boil the beans close to the point of becoming mush. Keeping a bit of bite was my only concession to European tastes.

And did it all work? Hell yeah. A classic of comfort food cooking. I'll be making this again - especially if I can find some cheap and chewy steak!

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