I know we are all aware of our need to make healthy choices when we eat. Gone are the days of eating what we want, when we want it. These days, there is no way to turn the other cheek in regards to our health. Some of us have a few pounds to lose, some of us have quite a few pounds to lose. Some of us have no choice but to eat only certain foods. Our health dictates it. Most days we do our best and choose the healthier version of what we’d really like to eat.
Then again, sometimes . . .
. . . we find ourselves eating the least healthy option out there. I have always been an emotional eater. Stress me out and I am more likely to say ”yes” to a supermarket donut in a box or to give in to a craving I know I shouldn’t even consider. If something upsets me, forget it. I eat. My internal recipe box contains the recipes and directions for countless “comfort” foods and my willpower sometimes caves, although less and less these days.
My comfort foods have roots. The foods I love are the foods I ate growing up, the foods I cooked as my own family grew.
fried potatoes (oh, how I love fried potatoes), pancakes (with bacon), stroganoff, lasagna, steak, green chile cheeseburgers with a plateful of chips, cheese enchiladas . . . cinnamon rolls . . .
. . . and Chicken Fried Steak, with mashed potatoes, buttery and delicious. And cream gravy, made in the pan that fried the steak, with little bits of golden brown goodness, giving it lots of flavor.
(uh huh, yeah. like that.)
Did I say chicken fried steak?
You can just smell it, can’t you?
Smells like home.
You need to make some.
Take 2 sleeves of saltine crackers. Put them in a large plastic bag. Close the bag. Take a rolling pin and smash and roll the crackers. They are perfect when you end up with fine crumbs mixed with large, medium and small chunks. Don’t roll until they are all fine crumbs. You will want some chunky pieces, too.
I use pie plates for dredging. They’re perfect.
Next, take about 2 cups of flour (I used unbleached) and mix with garlic powder, pepper, and your choice of seasonings. Whisk together.
Next, take 2-3 eggs, add a splash of milk, and beat together.
I use tenderized round steak for my chicken fried steak. Never cubed steaks.
Cut the round steak into serving-sized pieces.
If tenderized round steak isn’t available, you can tenderize them at home.
Dredge the meat, first into the flour mixture, coating both sides.
Dip into the egg wash.
Last, the cracker crumbs. Press the cracker crumbs into the meat to evenly coat.
Transfer each breaded piece to a cookie sheet. Let rest while heating the oil in the pan(s).
The trick is heating the oil to just over medium heat. Not really medium-high. Just under that. You want the meat to cook before the crackers burn. The next trick is not to turn the meat before it’s time. You will need to carefully and barely lift a corner, not too much – to check for a nice dark, golden brown color before turning. If you turn the meat too soon, the breading will stay in the pan.
Keep warm in the oven while making the gravy.
4 cups milk
heaping 1/3 cup flour
salt & pepper, to taste
Whisk the flour, salt and pepper into the milk. After removing the chicken fried steak from pan, drain off most of the fat, leaving just what won’t pour out. With the heat on medium-high, stir in the milk mixture. Continue to stir and scrape the bottom of the pan until the mixture comes to a boil. Lower heat to low and continue cooking and stirring until gravy thickens.
Let cook for a few minutes, stirring often.
Comfort food, at it’s finest.
Sometimes, you just have to have it.
This recipe makes 6-8 pieces of chicken fried steak.
Some for you and your better half.
Some for sharing with your daughters.
And some for the next day.
Makes a great sandwich, sliced thin, with mustard and a little picante sauce.
Just like my Mom used to make.