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!