As the west was being settled, and cattle driven to market, chicken fried steak was a staple on the range. The tough cuts of meat were pounded within an inch of their lives with hammers or the edges of those big cast iron pans, with flour, salt and a lot of pepper pounded right into the meat. The pans were heated with whatever fat ‘Cookie’ had available, the meat (cutlets) were tossed in, when they were brown they were turned over and then slapped on the tin plates the cowboys had and got a spoonful of beans. That was dinner.
In Europe, particularly in Austria and the Austrian Alps, this was refined a bit. Instead of tough cuts of meat, fine veal cutlets were used, dipped in flour, then beaten eggs then in seasoned flour, gently sautéed until golden brown, and served with a few squeezes of lemon juice and called Schnitzel (or Weiner Schnitzel if from the city of Weins).
Here we have a cross between the two with a decided tilt towards the American West but using a slightly better cut of meat! The trick is quick cooking so the oil must be hot (but not smoking); a quick browning, turn to finish and off it comes so have all the sides ready when you start this. You might want to put the cutlets on paper towels to drain and cover loosely to keep warm while making the gravy or – drain and serve immediately with lemon wedges to taste. I like the lemon wedges (not being a big gravy fan) as it also helps cut the greasiness!
Either way – its a quick and easy meal! Just watch for splatters (so an apron is a really good idea)!
Chicken Fried Steak
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 ½ pounds beef steak, about 1/2″ thick, tenderized
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (In a pinch I’ve used finely crushed crackers and the results are delicious)
- Vegetable oil for frying
In a large, shallow bowl, combine the eggs, salt, garlic powder and milk and set aside. Place the flour and breadcrumbs in two separate plates. Pour enough vegetable oil in a large frying pan to be about 1” deep and place over medium high heat. Cut the steak in 4 – 6 equal pieces.
Dredge each piece of meat in the flour then the egg mixture, then finally through the breadcrumbs. When the oil is preheated to medium high, place each piece of steak into the hot oil (steak should immediately sizzle when it is dipped into the oil). Test by dropping in a few crumbs; if they sizzle, the oil is hot (about 375). Cover and cook breaded steak on each side for approximately 6 minutes or until it is a golden brown. Drain on a triple thickness of kitchen roll. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.
Creamy White Gravy
- 4 tablespoons of pan drippings or vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons plain flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons chicken soup base or bouillon granules
- Salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste
Heat drippings or oil in a frying pan to medium. Sprinkle flour over hot oil one tablespoon at a time, whisking well until a smooth paste is formed. Combine milk and water in a medium size jug. Now, whisking constantly, slowly add milk mixture and then the soup base or bouillon. Bring the mixture to a slow boil (adjusting temperature if necessary), continuing to whisk constantly and cook for 1 – 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. Gravy should be coat the back of a spoon when done. If not, simmer, uncovered to reduce for a thicker consistency or, add more milk or water for a thinner consistency.