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Archive for the ‘buttermilk’

Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy 0

Posted on August 18, 2015 by Sahar

Few foods scream “TEXAS” louder than Chicken Fried Steak. Along with Chili (The Official State Dish of Texas), few things cause more arguments amongst friends and rivals over whose is the best.

By the way, Chicken Fried Steak is the Official State Dish of Oklahoma. Go figure.

The origins of Chicken Fried Steak are a little murky, but conventional wisdom generally believes German immigrants to Texas in the early- to mid- 19th Century invented Chicken Fried Steak as a way to not only enjoy something similar to the Viennese/German dish Wienerschnitzel (traditionally a breaded and fried veal cutlet), but also to make tough cuts of beef palatable. (As we know, bovine back then weren’t the chemically enhanced behemoths we know and eat today; they were just as hardscrabble as the land and the people living on it.)

Another story is that it was accidentally invented by a short order cook in Lamesa, Texas, in 1911. When a waitress turned in an order for “chicken, fried steak”, the cook, Jimmy Don Perkins, misread it. He dipped the steak in the fried chicken batter, and a legend was born.

One of my favorite food writers, Robb Walsh, describes 3 different types of Chicken Fried Steak in his book, Texas Eats:  1) The Southern/East Texas version is dipped in egg and then flour, similar to the way Southern fried chicken is prepared; 2) Central Texas’s version is made with bread crumbs rather than flour, much like Weinerschnitzel; 3) A West Texas version that is made without dipping the meat in egg; this is related to what cowboys called pan-fried steak.

Robb Walsh also talks about the three most common ways people mess up a Chicken Fried Steak: 1) Over- or Under-seasoning  – “If you use a salty seasoned flour for the batter, the steaks end up too salty. Underseasoning is just as bad. Even the batter on a perfectly cooked steak can taste pasty if it isn’t seasoned”; 2) Too much tenderizing – The ratio of batter to meat is crucial, and it’s determined by the thickness of the meat. If you pound the meat too flat, the steak is all batter and the steak is overcooked by the time the crust is done [this also leads to the meat shrinking in the crust].” ; and, 3) Overheating the oil – To cook a Chicken Fried Steak so the crust is golden and the meat is cooked trough, it is critical to keep the temperature of the oil at around 350F.


My recipe is much like the Southern/East Texas Version. It’s what I grew up eating and the one that most people know.


A few notes:

1.  The best cut of meat for a chicken fried steak is going to be round steak. It’s a flavorful, lean, and relatively cheap cut of beef. You can buy it in the grocery already tenderized (where it may also be called “cube steak”). If you buy it un-tenderized, you’ll need to do it yourself with a tenderizing mallet. It looks like a square hammer with spikes on each end of the mallet’s head. You very likely have one in the recesses of your knife drawer.

2.  It’s best to have everything at room temperature before you start. This way, everything cooks at the same speed and there will be less chance of the meat being cooked improperly.

3.  You don’t want to have too much breading on your steak. If you have too much breading, it’ll take too long for it to cook all the way through and the steak will overcook and shrink.

4.  Correct fat temperature is important when frying. If the oil is too cool, the breading will soak up the oil and you end up with a greasy steak. If it’s too hot, the coating will burn before the meat is cooked. The fat but come to a full sizzle when you put the steaks in.  Proper frying temperatures help seal the coating and keep as much of the oil out as possible while still cooking everything evenly.

5.  This goes for overcrowding the skillet, too. Don’t do it. The oil temperature will drop too much and the steaks won’t cook properly.

6.  Purists will be appalled, but if you like, you can substitute chicken (Chicken Fried Chicken) or pork (Chicken Fried Pork) in place of the beef.

7.  Speaking of appalled purists, I genreally do my frying in an electric skillet. It’s much easier for me to control the temperature of the oil. Purists, however, will insist on using a cast iron skillet. It’s up to you.

8.  You have to have gravy. Period. There are no exceptions to this rule.



The Ingredients

Peanut Oil, Vegetable Oil, Shortening, or Lard for frying

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. salt

1 tbsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste


Clockwise from top left: salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder

1 1/2 c. buttermilk

2 large eggs

6 ea. 6 – 8 oz. tenderized round steaks


1.  Mix together the flour and spices in a large, shallow bowl or on a large plate.  Set aside.


The spices waiting to be mixed into the flour.


Done. Be sure to mix as thoroughly as possible; especially if your spices (esp. the cayenne) are a little lumpy.

Beat together the buttermilk and eggs in a large bowl.  Set aside.


Eggs and buttermilk batter. Be sure that you beat the eggs thoroughly so the whites are completely broken down and incorporated.

2.  Take each steak and dip it first in the flour and lightly coat.  Be sure to shake off any excess.


The first dip. This will help the batter adhere to the steak.

Next, dip the steak in the batter and coat completely. Take the steak out of the batter and allow the extra liquid to dip off.


Make sure the steak is completely submerged in the batter.

Dip the steak back into the flour and evenly coat all over.  You want to be sure there aren’t any wet spots.


Nicely coated.

Shake off any excess flour.  Lay the steaks out in a single layer on a rack. (This will help allow air circulation around the steaks and help keep them fairly dry.)


The steaks on a rack. If there are any wet spots, be sure to sprinkle a little flour on them.

3.  Have a 1″ depth of fat in a large skillet. Heat the fat to 375F, or until flour sprinkled in the oil immediately sizzles (but doesn’t burn) or a drop of water will make the oil pop (be careful of oil spatter).

4.  Once the oil has heated to the correct temperature, take the steaks, no more than 2 at a time, for 5 – 7 minutes total, turning once.  The temperature will immediately drop once you put in the steaks, so be sure to adjust the temperature as necessary to keep the fat at 350F.  (This is the optimal temperature to cook the steaks without making the batter soggy or overcooking the batter before the meat is done.)


Don’t overcrowd the pan. The temperature of the oil will drop too far and will result in a soggy, greasy steak.


After flipping. You only want to flip once to maintain the crust.

Take the finished steaks out of the oil and either place back on the rack to drain (my preferred method) or place on paper towels to drain.

After each batch is done, raise the heat back up to 375F before adding the next batch. Again, after adding the steaks to the fat, be sure to keep the temperature at 350F.


Well, hello.

After the steaks are done, carefully drain off all but 1/4 c. of the drippings and saving any cracklings that may be in the skillet and make the gravy.


A note on the gravy: A good gravy can enhance your Chicken Fried Steak and a bad gravy can ruin it. You want a thick, creamy texture (but not pasty), a deep flavor (there are few things worse than a lumpy, bland, pasty gravy), and just the right amount of seasoning (over-salting is a common mistake).

Making good gravy is something that takes patience and practice. If you make this recipe for the first time and are a little unsure, just serve it on the side. You’ll do better next time.


Cream Gravy

1/4 c. pan dripping (if you have some nice cracklings too, great)

1/4 c. flour

2 c. whole milk, room temperature or warm

1 tbsp. black pepper

1 tsp. salt, or to taste



The drained skillet. I left some of the browned flour in with the fat. Just be sure that anything you leave in the skillet isn’t burnt.

1.  Heat the pan drippings over medium heat (about 350F if you’re using an electric skillet).  Add the flour and make a roux.  You’re looking for something between a blonde- and peanut butter- colored roux.


Adding the flour.


Making the roux. You don’t want the roux too dark because the darker the flour, the less thickening strength it will have.

2.  Whisk in the milk and cook the gravy until it smooths out and thickens. Whisk in the salt and pepper.  Taste for seasoning.  If you want a thinner gravy, add a bit more milk.


Whisking in the milk. Be sure to whisk constantly at this point so the roux and milk are completely incorporated.


A nice, smooth, not-too-thick not-too-thin cream gravy.

3.  Serve over (or next to) the Chicken Fried Steak and whatever else is on the plate.


The classic serving suggestion: Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Greens (in this case, Kale).


Now I’m hungry.




Three Dressings 0

Posted on July 30, 2014 by Sahar

Ranch, Blue Cheese, Thousand Island.  Three dressings that have been ubiquitous  on the American Dinner Table for decades.  Of course, being American, these dressings have been adapted to serve other purposes than just coating lettuce.  They are used for dipping vegetables, marinating, as a sandwich ingredient, and for mitigating the heat of Buffalo Wings.

Each one of these has an origin story that shows off, even in some small way, American ingenuity, taste, and not a little desperation.

Ranch Dressing was created on the true-life Hidden Valley Ranch (a dude ranch) near Santa Barbara, CA.  The originator, Steve Henson, was said to have come up with the original recipe while working as an electrical contractor in Alaska.  When he and his wife opened their dude ranch in the early 1950’s, they served the dressing to guests and it became a hit.  They began selling kits to guests to take home and make their own dressing (just add buttermilk).  The Hensons managed to build a small empire on their dressing, eventually selling their company to Clorox in the early 1970’s (the company still owns the brand).

Thousand Island Dressing has a slightly more murky history.  One story is that Oscar (Oscar of the Waldorf) Tschirky introduced the dressing to patrons of the Waldorf Hotel in New York via his boss, George Boldt, who was served the dressing while on a boat tour in the Thousand Islands in upstate New York.  It was said the chef on board basically threw together a salad dressing with whatever he had on hand, and it became a hit.  Another story, probably the more likely one, is that Sophia LaLonde, the wife of the fishing guide at the Herald House on the Thousand Islands, came up with the recipe in or around 1911 to serve at the hotel and shore dinners there.  The Broadway actress May Irwin enjoyed the dressing so much she asked for the recipe.  Mrs. LaLonde obliged, and Ms. Irwin took it back to New York and gave the recipe to Mr. Boldt so the kitchen could prepare it for her.  Once the Waldorf began offering the dressing to its patrons, the dressing became popular throughout the country.  The Holiday House Hotel in the Thousand Islands still sells the original recipe dressing at the hotel and online.

Blue Cheese Dressing has a very murky origin story.  It has been suggested that it originated in France, but that’s highly unlikely.  The French prefer lighter vinaigrette-style dressing on their salad; it’s doubtful that putting cheese in their salads would even occur to the French.  Blue cheese has been in America since at least the Revolution where that well-noted Francophile, Thomas Jefferson, enjoyed it at his dinner table.  The first recorded evidence of Blue Cheese Dressing as we’ve come to know it (Then known as Roquefort Dressing) was in Edgewater Hotel Salad Book in 1928.  An earlier version of the dressing appears in the Fannie Farmer’s 1918 Cookbook.  By the 1930’s the dressing had spread in popularity not only through Fannie Farmer, but also through Irma Rombauer’s ubiquitous book, The Joy of Cooking.

(some historical information from,,

A few notes:

1.  All three of these recipes can easily be made vegan.

For the Ranch:  Omit the sour cream; substitute vegan mayonnaise and plain soy milk.

For the Blue Cheese:  Omit the sour cream and cheese; substitute vegan mayonnaise and plain soy milk; use crumbled hard

tofu to get the texture of the cheese; add tahini and apple cider vinegar (start with just a small

amount and add to taste).  If you have some nutritional yeast, you can also use that for additional cheesy flavor.

For the Thousand Island:  Substitute the mayonnaise for vegan mayonnaise.

2.  If you can find it (and it’s getting easier to), use “country style” buttermilk.  The flavor and thickness make so much difference in the finished dressing.

3.  If you must use dried herbs in the Ranch Dressing, use 1/2 the amount of the fresh in the recipe.  The dressing will need to  sit for an hour for the herbs to infuse their flavor.

4.  For the Blue Cheese Dressing, I used Amish Blue.  I have used gorgonzola, roquefort, and Stilton in the past.  Extravagant, but delicious.   You can use any type of blue cheese you like – as your cheese department and budget will allow.

5.  For the Thousand Island, I usually add more than 1 teaspoon of horseradish depending on what I’ll use it for (i.e. Reubens). So, adjust according to your taste.

6.  You can substitute low-fat yogurt for some or all of the sour cream.  If you must.

7.  All of these dressings will last up to a week.  If they begin to separate, just give them a stir.  The Blue Cheese Dressing, will, however, thin out considerably as it sits.  Just add more mayonnaise and sour cream to thicken.

Now, I will say, these are my versions of these dressings (and, no doubt, many others have made these same adjustments).  You can certainly add, subtract, and/or change ingredients.  For example, the original Thousand Island Dressing uses finely chopped egg in the recipe; I don’t. The original Ranch Dressing is made with buttermilk only; I’ve added mayonnaise.  I’ve added lemon juice to the Blue Cheese Dressing. I, like many, have also added bacon from time to time (it’s excellent on burgers when you feel like indulging).

Sometimes, I like to go all ’70’s and use an Iceberg wedge when I serve any of these dressings.  A dear, late friend of mine, Chef Roger Mollett, used to say, “Iceberg is the polyester of lettuce”.  He’s right, you know.

Uniquely American. From top clockwise: Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, Ranch

Uniquely American. From top clockwise: Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, Ranch


All of these dressings are made the same way:

1.  Add the ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly.

2.  Let sit for at least an hour, taste and adjust for seasoning.

3. Serve with salad or other food of your choice.


The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Salt, Pepper, Garlic

Salt, Pepper, Garlic

Ranch Dressing

1 c. mayonnaise

1/4 c. sour cream

1/4 c. buttermilk

1 clove garlic, very finely minced

1 tbsp. chives or scallion tops, very thinly sliced

If you don't have chives, thinly sliced scallion tops work as well.

If you don’t have chives, thinly sliced scallion tops work as well.

2 tbsp. dill, finely minced

Fresh dill is what really makes this dressing so delicious.

Fresh dill is what really makes this dressing so delicious.

1/4 c. parsley, finely minced

You can use either curly or flat-leaf parsley.

You can use either curly or flat-leaf parsley.

1 tsp. lemon juice

Salt & pepper to taste

Everything in the bowl.

Everything in the bowl.

Mixing. The buttermilk will be stubborn and not want to incorporate at first. But, trust me, it all comes together.

Mixing. The buttermilk will be stubborn and not want to incorporate at first. But, trust me, it all comes together.

Not pretty. But it's damn indulgent.

Not pretty. But it’s damn indulgent.




The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Blue Cheese Dressing

1 c. mayonnaise

1/2 c. sour cream

1 1/2 c. blue cheese, crumbled

I used Amish Blue for this example. You can use any blue cheese you like.

I used Amish Blue for this example. You can use any blue cheese you like.

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. black pepper

Buttermilk, as needed

Mixing in the blue cheese. It's a lot. If you have to cruble your blue cheese (as opposed to buying it already crumbled), leave the pieces different sizes.  It makes for a more interesting texture.

Mixing in the blue cheese. It’s a lot.
If you have to crumble your blue cheese (as opposed to buying it already crumbled), leave the pieces different sizes. It makes for a more interesting texture.

Mixing in the pepper and lemon juice.

Mixing in the pepper and lemon juice.

My favorite.

My favorite.




The Ingredients

The Ingredients


Thousand Island Dressing

1 c. mayonnaise

1/4 c. ketchup

1 tbsp. onion, very finely minced

1 1/2 tbsp. sweet relish

1 1/2 tbsp. dill relish

1 tsp. horseradish

From top right, clockwise:

From top right, clockwise: minced onion (I had some scallion, so I used that), dill relish, sweet relish, horseradish, pepper, salt

1 tsp. lemon juice

Salt & Pepper to taste



Sweet-tart goodness

Sweet-tart goodness

The best way to test a dressing – any dressing – is to use some of the greens you’ll be serving it with to better gauge the flavors and how they taste together.

Testing the Thousand Island Dressing.

Testing the Thousand Island Dressing.

Plus, as well know, when you’re adjusting recipes standing up in the kitchen, the calories don’t count. Plus, hey, it’s lettuce.





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