Here's how it usually went down in my house: Mom would be away at some meeting, which meant it was Dad's night to cook dinner. Now, he's a mashed potatoes master, but the only meat I ever remember him cooking was cube steak, which he did in a large skillet with copious butter. The steak was relatively tender, if slightly bland. But it wasn't anything a lot of A1 couldn't help.
It's been at least ten years since I've had cube steak, a cheap cut that's usually top round beef which has been run through an electric tenderizer. The meat comes out looking haggard—not a particularly good look. But I wondered if there was a recipe out there that could transform the maligned cut into something a little more refined?
I found my answer in Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food. It takes the flavorings from Salisbury steak, but swaps the ground beef for the cube steak. He recommends sautéing the meat first, then braising it for 25 minutes. The result is absurdly tender, and, thanks to the quick sauce, fairly beefy. I was really surprised by this. Now, I doubt cube steak in any form would impress those who weren't fortunate enough to have it as a child. As for me, this is straight-up nostalgia on a plate—no A1 necessary.
- 4 cube steaks (1/4 pound each), usually top round
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 pound button mushrooms, stems discarded, and thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3/4 cup beef stock
Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat to 250°F. Meanwhile, pour flour, salt, and black pepper onto large plate and mix well. Dredge each cube steak in flour mixture, shaking off excess.
Add one tablespoon each of oil and butter to Dutch oven. Turn heat to medium high. When oil is shimmering, add two cube steaks. Cook for about four minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove cube steaks and set aside on a plate. Repeat process with remaining two cube steaks, adding more oil and butter if necessary.
Carefully pour out any grease left in dutch oven, then add remaining butter and oil. Turn heat to medium-high, and when oil shimmers, add onion, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is caramelized, about three minutes. Add wine. Using wooden spatula, scrap up any browned bits from bottom of pan.
Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and stock. Stir well, then add cube steak, nestling them into sauce as much as possible. Cover dutch oven and place on lower-middle rack of oven. Cook until very tender, about 25 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes.