When I read “The legacy that wasn’t: wonton soup” by T. Susan Chang (an excerpt from A Spoonful of Promises) it really struck home. Susan was also attempting to learn about her heritage through food. She was attempting to recreate something purely from sensory memory. As adults, we have learned to rely on external cues for teaching – books, visuals, you name it. Very few of us have the talent to go back into our memories and create a dish that still stirs up the emotions that carried it forward into today. I am likely guilty of that myself.
While I have been digging through the “big green box” of recipes, I realized that most of what I remember my mom cooking didn’t come out of that box. What I loved – no, it was more than love, it was unadulterated bliss – was her fried chicken and equally, her chicken-fried steak. So when I called my mom to get the recipe, she laughed in my face. Seriously.
She then repeated the following recipe to me:
Chicken Fried Steak
Cube steaks (1 per person) – pounded (she got hers pre-pounded from the butcher)
Put into seasoned flour and coat – use whatever seasonings you like
Fry in a pan with enough oil to keep from sticking – flipping once to brown both sides.
Serve with country gravy and mashed potatoes.
She even said she likely bought the gravy as a packet. LOL!
So, I took it upon myself to make this for dinner that night. Fortunately, I was a step ahead of her and had already gotten my pounded chuck roast steaks the day before and had them brining in buttermilk with a heavy dose of cayenne pepper. I then removed them and put them into a self-sealing bag full of AP flour combined with loads of paprika, salt and pepper and some rosemary. I heavily coated them and then fried them up to a deep brown. I like the crispies the best! I then placed them on a rimmed baking sheet in a warm oven while I made gravy. I used about 2.5-3 cups of beef stock to deglaze the pan. I added more salt and pepper and some flour, which I had in a side bowl that I added a ladleful of stock to it to thin it out. I then whisked the whole thing until it reduced to a thickness that I liked. I made mashed russet potatoes with butter and cream. The whole damn thing was awesome and super easy to make!
I even ate it for breakfast the next day. Thanks Mom!!