Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chicken Fried Steak and Gravy

I'm going to be honest, I didn't think I'd be able to ever eat this favorite meal from my childhood again once I got the news that gluten and I didn't get along. Since marrying, I had converted my husband as well (especially since it meant mashed potatoes :)  ), and I thought I had better find *some* way to get this back into rotation. By some stroke of grace, I got it right on the first try. I admit it helps that I know my way around the kitchen pretty well and am very familiar with this particular recipe, but I still had my doubts. So much of what wheat based flours do well is due to their gluten content. I had too many fond memories of going to breakfast with my dad before class started when I was college and us both eating our chicken fried steak with gravy, eggs, hashbrowns and the only real way to eat breakfast, hot sauce. With him no longer around those memories are even more precious, and every time I take a bite of this, as simple as it seems, I am reminded of him and how much I miss him.
My way to make this is pretty simple. I wish I had taken step by step pictures for you-I may still the next time I make it-as I think when it comes to anything that has a roux involved, you are better off seeing. For now, here's what I did to make it safe for me to eat:
Start with your steak. I used good ol' Ebersole Cattle Compant beef minute steaks. Pounded them just a little. You don't want to do too much here as they are already tenderized. I just like them nice and thin. (At this point I already had potatoes boiling for the mash. Just drain, mash, add lots of butter, salt, pepper and sour cream and voila, you've got our mashed potatoes.)
Next you need your dredging station. I first season the steaks with just a little all purpose seasoning, or if shooting from the hip, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic. I first want to dip the steak in a seasoned flour blend-a good all purpose flour (gluten ap's work, too). The GF blend I am using now I really like. When I made this, though, I hadn't stumbled upon it and instead used a 3 part blend-1 part corn masa flour, 1 part rice flour and 1 part starchy flour like tapioca or potato. Blend them well and add some seasoning-salt, pepper, paprika, garlic, maybe a little sugar and definitely a little cayenne.
After that initial flour dredge, you'll need some wet. I went with an egg blended with a few tablespoons of milk. If you like your stuff spicy, you can sneak some hot pepper sauce in here. I didn't, as the kids had to eat this, too, but had it just been Dad and I, hot sauce gets inserted wherever I can find to sneak it in. Mind you, I DO NOT use hot sauce just for the heat. The heat is nice, but it is really the flavor that I like, which is why I have preferences on what I use. I like the smokey ones that do not taste as much of vinegar. I think heating something up to just heat it up is silly. There should be taste points being won there, not being burned off your tongue, you know?
So, once through the flour blend, once through the egg blend, THEN back through the flour blend. Now you're ready for the frying part. I fry in a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven. Here we are pan frying, just like they do in the South, so frying pan it is. You want around 1/2 inch or so of oil in the pan-I love to use coconut oil for this, but use whatever you do for your other higher temp frying. Bring the oil up to heat-it should be shimmering or water should dance on top of the oil if you drop in just a few drops, then add your steaks, being careful not to crowd. For me, this means only 1-2 at a time. Fry one side until crispy and golden brown, and then the other, being careful not to burn. That means you need to be right there with it. If it seems like they are burning fast, your oil is too hot, and you may need to take down the temp or just take the pan off the fire for a bit to let it cool. It happens-don't worry. Better to take your time than to burn through them.
As you take them out of the skillet place them on a towel lined baking sheet or a cooling rack over a baking sheet and put them in a warm oven to keep them crisp until it is time to eat. With the GF flours you must be gentle with them-this flour does not form bonds with your meat the way a glutinous flour will.
Fry all your steak, then move on to the gravy. Drain all but a couple tablespoons of the frying oil out of the pan, being careful to try to reserve as many of the drippings-the little bits of the steak and coating-in the pan. Turn your heat back down to low, as your pan should be plenty hot at this point, and add flour-GF all purpose blend worked well here, too. I use the leftover dredging flour for this. I hate to waste anything, and it is already seasoned. Don't just dump a bunch in, but start by adding 1/4 c then 1 tablespoon at a time until the flour soaks up all the oil. Here you want to cook the flour a little. Too many people rush in and get a flour-y tasting gravy. Yuck. Stir it around in the pan a bit until you can smell it starting to cook and it starts to turn brown. This is where the magic happens. Starting adding milk in a slow, steady stream, and whisking it in with the flour in the pan. What should be happening is a roux is being formed-the flour, nice and hot, starts to blend with the milk and thicken. As the milk heats up, the flour mix will continue to thicken the gravy. You just keep adding milk to keep it at what consistency you want. Once you reach that consistency, taste and add seasoning. For this gravy I use salt, black pepper and cayenne, with a real emphasis on the black pepper. Black pepper gravy is a mainstay with chicken fried anything. Once you've got that gravy tasting great, you race with your potatoes, steaks and gravy to the table and devour while everything is nice, fresh and hot. We serve green beans with ours, and they mix in so well with the gravy that covers everything else on the plate.
And all without any gluten-based flours. YUM-O!

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