I think we've already established that Mary Mac's Tea Room by John Ferrell is a wealth of stick-to-your-ribs, hearty Southern recipes. But I'm pretty sure that this recipe for Country Fried Steak and Gravy is the most serious plate of food in the entire book, and should only be tackled by those those who feel no guilt when met with a deep fried steak topped with a gravy made from meat drippings and plenty of butter.
The CFS, as it is affectionately known, is made from the inexpensive cube steak, which is dredged in seasoned flour and then shallow fried in your choice of vegetable oil or butter. I chose to let calories be damned and went with butter figuring that the gravy would be much tastier that way. Once the steaks are fried on both sides they are transferred to a baking dish and topped with a roux-based gravy heavy with onions and browned bits from the steaks. The steaks bake under the gravy for about 15 minutes and the onions caramelize slightly on top.
While the steaks that come out of the oven are well done to say the least, they are still moist thanks to the butter-heavy onion gravy, by far my favorite part of the dish. Some sort of starch (mashed potatoes are preferable) is a must for this dish since it would be a crime to waste even a little bit of the gravy.
- 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 (4-ounce) cube steaks
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil or 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 3 cups warm water
Mix the 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the 1/3 teaspoon pepper in a bowl; dredge the cube steaks in the flour mixture, shaking gently to remove any excess flour. In a medium skillet, heat he vegetable oil or melt the butter over medium heat. Brown the steaks for 3 minutes on each side and transfer to a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, reserving the drippings in the skillet for the gravy.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the 3 tablespoons of flour, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Stir to coat the onion. Slowly add the water, whisking until smooth. Bring the gravy to a boil and stir until thickened. Pour the gravy over the steaks in the baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Serve the steaks in the gravy with steamed rice or whipped potatoes.