Tuesday, February 7, 2012

PW Woman: Chicken Fried Steak

Disclaimer:  I love country (or "chicken") fried steak.  LOVE it.  I was the one who picked this recipe for our cooking club this month.  And if you make this recipe and later need a photo to throw darts at, just let me know and I'll post one here for you to print.  But hopefully this post will save you from disappointment and you can modify the recipe in time!

Country Fried Chicken

Verdict: Not so good, boss
Cook it Again: With serious seasoning adjustments
Cost Factor:  Ok.  Chop steak is the biggest cost.

I am so disappointed with this recipe.  I had been looking forward to it since I picked it, and because I love country fried steak so much, and have so far found PW's recipes to be tasty, I had expectations that this would be delicious.  I was very, very wrong.  These were easy enough to make -- although very messy, of course, because you're cooking with oil and I seem to have an uncanny ability to splatter everywhere regardless of the precautions I take -- but disappointing, and I'm thankful we didn't invite Jim and Marie to dinner (something I actually meant to do and the only reason I didn't is because every time I went to call or text Marie yesterday, I got sidetracked).  Lucky them!  They were spared a dud of a recipe!

Here are my two major issues:

First, if you've ever made chicken cutlets or any other breaded meat, this recipe is very similar.  It calls for an egg/milk mixture and a flour mixture. You take the chop steaks, give them an egg wash, dredge in the flour mix, back to the egg, back to the flour.  Standard, and the double breading is supposed to give the steaks a nice thick crispy crust.  I seasoned the flour exactly as the recipe called, and where it said to add more cayenne if you dare, I did.  But there was no real way to taste the mixture (unless you enjoy eating dry flour, in which case it's my friendly duty to let you know you might want to check out that TLC show about weird obsessions), and unfortunately when I cooked up the steaks, they were bland, bland, bland.  I was very disappointed, because I am used to the flavorful country-fried steaks I get at restaurants (such as Chili's, where that's one of my favorite things on the menu. I know Chili's is not exactly French Laundry, but for a country fried steak, they do a good job!)

(oh and I forgot to take any photos while I was cooking yesterday, sorry about that!)

Second, the meat was not very tender.  I realize that this is not necessarily the fault of the recipe, and might just be Kroger's issue, but I thought that the whole idea of using chop steak was that it is double-tenderized.   It was actually tough in places, and I was not pleased.

So, what would I do differently?

First, I'm going to find a recipe that makes a much more flavorful batter.  You know, like one that has any flavor at all.  (Sorry, Ree.  If you're reading, I don't mean to hurt your feelings, but for as best I could tell the flour could have been plain and would have tasted the same.)

Second, I'll soak the chop steak in buttermilk overnight the night before I plan to cook the steaks, just to get the meat that much more tender. I know they are not supposed to be hamburger steaks in the sense of cutting them with a fork, but ours were too tough.

Third, I'll actually salt and pepper the meat before I do the egg/flour steps.  Our biggest issue with this meal was the lack of any flavor, and I think that this step will help.

The recipe also teaches you how to make a simple gravy and that was actually pretty easy, and -- once we added salt and pepper -- not bad at all.  You drain the grease but for about 1/4 cup, coat it with flour, and make a roux; once it's the right color you stir in milk, and add salt and pepper until you get  to the right consistency and flavor for your gravy preference.  We used a high-sided pan to fry the steaks (Mick's suggestion to help with my oil-splatter tendencies), but that made it very difficult to whisk the gravy well, so Mick ended up taking over the gravy making.  In the future I'll probably just use the regular pan I had in mind so that the gravy step isn't an issue, but it was a good suggestion and I appreciated Mick's advice and his gravy-making help!

All told, I was pretty unhappy when I sat down to eat last night, and although this was not a failure in the sense that we had to pitch it and order pizza, it certainly was not very good.

But there were some good things, which is why this wasn't a complete failure.  (Well, these two plus the fact that, as I said, it wasn't throw-it-away bad.)

1.  CAM and WHM both ate it and enjoyed it.  CAM actually even remarked a few times that she quite liked it, and that's probably because it was completely flavorless.

2.  We also made Pioneer Woman "Perfect au Gratin Potatoes," a recipe we've made and enjoyed before, and they were as delicious as we remembered.  (And this time we didn't light the oven on fire!  Bonus for us!)

My plate, before we added the gravy. Note the big open hole where something green should have been.  Whoops.

It's a lousy photo, I know, but you can at least get the idea of the breading color.  I hope.

CAM and WHM eating their dinners.  The complete lack of anything green on our plates last night was an oversight on my part.  If you're wondering what you're seeing, both kids had their steaks in small pieces and ample gravy, which they both loved. And the potatoes are casserole-y, so they look a bit like scrambled eggs in these photos.

CAM with a too-hot bite.  And this is the photo I managed to get.

WHM being very matter of fact.  Sorry about the elbow on the table. 

Oh well.  The good news is that we still have a few PW recipes left for this month, and now I know how to improve this recipe, so I think it will be better in the future.  I'm probably making the PW lasagna tomorrow night, on the advice of my friend Patricia.  It's gotten rave reviews from her, and she tried it on the rave reviews of a friend, so hopefully we'll be the third on that list!  It's finally getting chilly again, so that's perfect for lasagna, and I'm always up for a twist on my standard recipe.  I'll let you know how it goes!



  1. Sad! I had high hopes for this one. We'll make sure to punch up the seasonings when we try it later this month. Thanks for the heads-up!

  2. Looks so much better than the cereal I gave my kids tonight for dinner! Hey, because I have commitment issues, I think I'm opening my blog up for a week of guest posts starting on Leap Day. Would you be interested in doing one? Let me know. Thanks!

    1. I sent you an email (I think), but yes, I'd love to. Just tell me the details so I don't flub anything major!

  3. I've never even had chicken fried steak. I had never even heard of it until I met Austin. Can we still be friends?

    1. Jackie, I think so. I'll have to check the handbook. Do we have any other major friendship discrepancies to worry about that might be additional strikes against us?

      And don't feel bad -- I hadn't ever heard of it 'til college. We didn't have Chili's or really much by way of chain restaurants on LI (at least out where I lived), and it's definitely not a NY food!

    2. No more major items as far as I know.

      Where I lived was an hour from a "real" city and we didn't have any chains other than fast food chains and even those were limited to a handful of restaurants. When Austin came to stay with me for a summer he wanted to go get something to eat at 9pm and my whole family laughed because nothing was open that late. My exposure to different food other than fast food chain stuff or whatever can be caught, hunted or picked in Northern MN is, shall we say, limited.

      Living in the south helped a little. I guess I didn't really have a choice though - it's not like walleye and wild rice was on any menu down there :)

      I'll keep my eyes peeled on your blog for a good chicken fried steak recipe I can try. Austin would love it and then our friendship could stop suffering. No pressure to find a good one or anything :|

    3. Well I grew up with similarly limited food selections, for what it's worth. My parents have non-adventurous palates, and it's only been in recent years that the eastern end of Long Island had any chain restaurants to speak of, really. But I actually kind-of like that.

      I can't say I've had walleye, but maybe we can trade. You cook us some walleye one day when we live closer than 3 states apart, and I'm happy to help you find a decent CFS recipe for Austin! (And you, too, of course.)

  4. Hmm. I also seriously LOVE chicken fried steak, so I was excited about this pick BUT I have tried to make it several times without success... I think I'll try it with your modifications. Also, I thought about you when I saw this recipe: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/02/25/recipe-the-best-whole-chicken-in-a-crock-pot/

    I made it and made the stock afterwards for PW's corn and cheese chowder and the chicken was SO SO SO good and only around $6!! I have also made her crock pot flank steak fajiatas and I think they were one of the best things I've ever made.

    I hope you really love this month's other recipes!!

    1. Thanks, Amanda! I will definitely try the crockpot chicken -- and I'll be sure to let you know how it goes, too. :)

      As for the other recipes, the only dud was the one I picked. (Which makes me feel relieved and guilty at the same time.) The chowder was delicious, and the MM Favorite Sandwich we definitely enjoyed -- especially as leftovers!