Chicken fried steak is a staple of the south, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love it up here in northern California. The type of steak you choose is important. Cube steak is a tenderized version of top sirloin or top round, run through an electric tenderizer. If you use round steak, use top or bottom round steak, and tenderize it by pounding it with a studded meat mallet or a tenderizing hammer until it’s as thin as possible. It’s such a brawny dish that it can seem unapproachable, but it is one of my favorites at the Burgerhouse in the winter, so don’t be afraid to try this one at home. :) Make it!
FOR THE COUNTRY GRAVY:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, or bacon grease
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk, plus more if needed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE CHICKEN FRIED STEAK:
- 6 round steaks or cube steaks (about 4 oz each)
- Kosher salt
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- Canola or vegetable oil, for frying
To make the gravy, in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk the flour into the butter, then cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture turns a toasty golden brown, 2 or 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and slowly add the 2 1/2 cups milk, whisking constantly, until well combined. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring the heat back up to medium and simmer, stirring constantly, until the gravy thickens to your liking, about 4 minutes, then season with more salt and pepper if needed; adjust the thickness with a little milk if you like. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
If using round steaks, using a studded meat mallet, place one steak on a cutting board and pound the steak to an even thickness of between 1/8 and 1/4 inch. Repeat with all of the steaks.
Season the steaks lightly on both sides with salt and place on a large baking sheet.
In a wide shallow dish or pie pan, whisk together the flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, onion powder, paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper. In a second wide shallow dish, whisk together the eggs and milk. Working with one steak at a time, dredge the steak in the flour, pressing the flour mixture into the steak then shaking off the excess. Dip in the egg, turning to coat then letting the excess drip back into the dish. Then dredge in the flour a second time, pressing it into the steak and gently shaking off the excess. Return the steak to the baking sheet and repeat to coat all the steaks.
Preheat the oven to 200f. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Fill a large, heavy frying pan with enough oil to reach 1/4 to 1/2 inch up the side. Place the pan over medium-high heat and warm the oil until hot but not smoking (350°f on a deep-fry thermometer). In batches, fry the steaks, turning once, until the outsides are crisp and golden brown and the steaks are just cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to the wire rack in the oven and repeat with the remaining steaks.
Re-warm the gravy over low heat, stirring, until hot. Serve the steaks at once, with plenty of gravy over the top.
Sausage Gravy Variation:
To transform the country gravy into sausage gravy—perfect for topping fresh buttermilk biscuits (page 000)—simply sauté 1/4 to 1/2 lb crumbled bulk breakfast sausage, homemade (page 000) or purchased, in the skillet until nicely browned. Add the flour and take it from there! You might need a tad more milk to get the gravy to the consistency you like.