Serious Eats: Recipes

Dinner Tonight: Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy

I'm not sure exactly where the urge came from, or even whether I've had chicken fried steak in the past decade, but for some reason a week ago it started to sound really good. For help I turned to Lisa Fain of the Homesick Texan (also our Serious Salsa bureau chief), whose love for the dish is impressive. "While many foods hold sway over my heart, none (except for my beloved refried beans) reigns supreme more than chicken-fried steak." Can't argue with that.

The name comes from the cooking process. Simply, it's breaded and cooked in much the same way you would make fried chicken in a skillet. I have some experience with that. This isn't aggressive deep-fat frying, but the more gentle art of frying over moderate heat in a skillet. Think a lazy afternoon and not the back of a fast food restaurant. It takes longer, but the outside becomes perfectly crisp and crunchy, while the inside remains wonderful juicy. It's an incredible transformation.

The beef is top round, which is pounded very thin with a meat mallet before being dredged and fried. Round is the perfect choice, not because it's terribly tender and flavorful, but precisely because it is neither. Pounding the living daylights out of it and then frying it in oil adds some life to this boring cut. The cream gravy is also another example of remarkably cheap ingredients (flour and milk) transforming into something luscious and decadent. I'll be having this again very soon.

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