Tag Archives: mashed potatoes

CFS: CHICKEN-FRIED STEAK WITH MASHED POTATOES AND CREAM GRAVY

Who doesn’t like CFS (chicken-fried steak)? Our older daughter, Carol, for one.  That is a surprise since she has roots in East Texas and Shreveport (There are credible claims that Shreveport is actually just an extension of East Texas)

She loves steak, but she believes that all that bread stuff just spoils a good piece of meat. I certainly agree with her point of view when some fancy pants restaurant does a chicken-fried rib eye or tenderloin. In that setting, I just want the real thing.

Chicken-fried steak, on the other hand, is a food of the people: a piece of round steak usually tough as a boot unless it is cooked for hours can be turned into a fork-tender delicacy through systematic pounding, breading, and frying. It becomes a distant relative of the more elegant Wiener schnitzel and veal alla Milanese.

Then there are the required accompanying mashed potatoes. They serve as the base for pouring on the cream gravy. In many a roadside diner they come from a box or are  lumpy, having sat for hours in a steam table. Really good mashed potatoes raise the  stakes (No pun intended) to something bordering on ethereal.

Finally, there is the cream gravy. No self-respecting CFS appears on the table without a good lacing of cream gravy. Unfortunately, many versions of cream gravy resemble, in both taste and consistency, library paste. In fact, you could probably use it as such when  it gels on the plate in a white, immobile blob. But again, there are few things as tasty as a well-made gravy studded with bits of crispy crust and a rich flavor from the fond of the cast iron frying pan.

My mother – who had never been to Texas until I was an adult – made a great CFS. She had her own little secrets. She pounded the floured raw meat with a saucer. She used crushed saltine crackers for the breading. And after browning the meat in a hot skillet with plenty of oil, she simmered the steaks for a half-hour or longer until the meat was tender. Then she raised the heat to get a crisp, brown exterior. I’ve never mastered those final steps, so this version relies on thin steak to be tender.

For mashed potatoes, I have used Sarah’s recipe as printed in the San Francisco Chronicle. For the gravy, I have used the decades-old recipe from our family cookbook.

Steamed broccoli with btter makes a good vegetable accompaniment.

RECIPES

Chicken Fried Steak

Ingredients

  • 1 pound round steak, thinly sliced (cubed beef should NOT be considered an acceptable substitute)
  • salt and pepper
  • all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg (I wound up using a double yolked jumbo)
  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers
  • peanut oil for frying

Method

  1. Trim any fat and silver skin from the steak and, if necessary, cut into serving-sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Dredge the pieces of steak on both sides with flour. Using the edge of a small plate or saucer, pound each steak in one direction and then at 90°. Turn over, and repeat the pounding process.
  3. Combine the buttermilk and egg in a pie plate, mixing vigorously to make sure the egg is completely incorporated. Individually, dip each floured steak in the mixture and then transfer to a second pie plate filled with crushed cracker crumbs.
  4. Coat both sides of each steak generously with the cracker crumbs, making sure that the meat is completely covered. Transfer to a drying rack.
  5. When you are ready to cook the steaks, heat the largest cast iron skillet that you have over a medium-high flame. Add about 1 inche of peanut oil (canola is also good) and heat until the oil is shimmering but not smoking. If you have a thermometer, heat to 350°F.
  6. Add enough steaks to fill the pan. Fry for a few minutes on one side until browned, about 5-10 minutes. Then turn and fry on the other side. If you are cooking in batches, transfer to a warming plate in a 170°F oven until all of the meat is cooked. You will also need to keep warm while you make gravy.
  7. Make gravy according to the following directions. Then serve immediately while still warm with mashed potatoes and cream gravy.

Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (about 5-6 medium potatoes), peeled and quartered
  • salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with heavily salted water. Bring to the boil. Then reduce to a brisk simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are pierced easily with a kitchen fork. Overcooked is better than undercooked. Drain.
  2. Transfer to a potato ricer in batches. Rice the potatoes into a medium saucepan. Over low heat, stir the potatoes with a wooden spoon until excess water is boiled out, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Combine the milk and cream in a small pan and heat until they are just at a simmer.
  4. Add the butter to the potatoes and stir until completely incorporated. Stir in the milk/cream mixture slowly while stirring until the desired consistency is reached. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately. If you are serving with chicken-fried steak, you will want to make a well in the middle of each serving to hold some of the gravy.

    Yukon gold potatoes

    Yukon gold potatoes

Cream Gravy

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ cup cream
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • pan drippings from fried steak
  • ¼ cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. In a jar with tight lid (a pint Mason jar works well) combine the milk, cream, chicken stock, and flour. Cover and shake until the ingredients are well mixed. Set aside.
  2. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the cooking oil from the pan used to fry the steak. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping loose any brown bits.
  3. Over medium heat, stir in the milk mixture, shaking it first to make sure it is well mixed.
  4. Stirring constantly, incorporate any loosened brown bits and bring the mixture to a low boil, continuing to cook until the gravy is thickened. If too thick, dilute with a little bit of milk. If too thin, stir in a bit of Wondra flour, stirring vigorously to prevent lumps. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Be sure to make a well in the middle of the heap of mashed potatoes on each plate to get some extra gravy; Put some gravy on top of the steak, too, if you want to feel real down-home.

    A traditional down home plate

    A traditional down home plate

 

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SALLY HURRICANE’S SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that our daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Evan Rich, run a popular restaurant in San Francisco named Rich Table. The food there has been described as “New American” and generally  is based on the current offerings available in the bounteous farmers’ markets of the Bay Area.

But Sarah has roots in the South as well as having two grandmothers who were excellent home cooks. Both grandmothers took pride in their fried chicken. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cream gravy along with home-baked biscuits were staples on the Sunday dining room table at our family farm in East Texas.

That’s also where Sarah got the nickname, Sally Hurricane. As a two-year-old she ran the show. One family photograph shows her wearing her great aunt’s wig borrowed from a wig stand in a back bedroom.

Hurricane Sally

Hurricane Sally

Sally Hurricane has been cooking fried chicken from the recipe in our family cookbook since before she went to culinary school. She has made her version (now revised and considerably improved) for family meals at upscale restaurants in New York City and San Francisco. Inevitably, regardless of the restaurant, when fried chicken and biscuits were the family meal menu, cheers went up from both the front of the house and kitchen staffs.

This week, Sally Hurricane is revealing some treasured family secrets in the food section of the San Francisco Chronicle.  She also gives the recipe for mashed potatoes that she learned when she worked for David Bouley. You might enjoy a preview.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/recipes/article/Sarah-Rich-taps-family-recipe-for-Southern-style-8313792.php?t=e37fe5da3d8cb1714c&cmpid=twitter-premium#photo-10076970

 

 

 

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POTATO-SESAME BREAD

A few weeks ago, I bought a loaf of potato-sesame bread from a baker at the local farmers market. It had a nutty flavor, and the crunch of the sesame seeds gave it a unique bite.  While waiting in line to pay, I heard the baker tell another customer that the bread was the first he learned to bake when he was in a monastery many years ago.

Later I bought another loaf of the same bread. It had lumps of whole potato – not nearly as good as the first loaf. That made me think that I wanted to bake my own version. I looked in vain for a recipe. There were lots of breads made with potato water, some made with potato sourdough starter, some with instant potatoes, and several with potato flour. There were none with mashed potatoes, which sounded to me like a good beginning.

Then I thought, “monastery – bread”. The only connection I could make was the classic baking book by Edward Espe Brown called The Tassajara Bread Book, Shambhala Publications, 1970. I checked my copy, and sure enough there were recipes for sesame bread and potato bread using mashed potatoes. There was no recipe for potato-sesame bread, though that was alright because I had already begun to work out my own version. The recipe follows. It is an easy bread to make, with a fine crumb and a chewy crust from the enrobement of sesame seeds. Since potatoes contain no gluten, I have added gluten powder to promote rising and good texture.

The finished loaves

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-large russet potato, peeled and cubed
  •  water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package (7 grams, ¼ ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon gluten powder
  • 4½ cups bread flour, divided
  • 1 to 2 cups raw sesame seeds 

Method

  • In a medium saucepan over high heat, put the cubed potatoes in plenty of water to cover and bring to a boil. Continue to boil the potatoes until they are done and a sharp fork pierces them easily, about 30 minutes. Do not add salt to the boiling water.
  • When the potatoes are done, drain them, reserving 2 cups of the potato water.  Pass the drained potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill and set aside. There should be about 2 cups of mashed potatoes. Let the potato water cool enough that it is warm but not hot.
  • In a large ceramic bowl, combine 2 cups of potato water with sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then sprinkle the dry yeast on the surface of the mixture and let stand for 5 minutes. Then stir so that the yeast is dissolved.
  • Stir in the salt, melted butter, and gluten until well combined.
  • One cup at a time, stir in 3½ cups of flour, combining thoroughly after each addition.
  • Knead the dough in the bowl for about one minute. Then turn out onto a flat surface covered with the remaining one cup of flour. Knead for about 10 minutes until the extra flour is incorporated and you have a smooth dough. The dough should be sticky. This will make it difficult to work with, but too much flour will make the finished bread too firm and tough.
  • Form the dough into a ball, lightly oil the surface, and place it in a covered clean bowl or bread-proofing box.
  • Let rise in a warm place until the dough is doubled, about 2 hours. Punch down the risen dough and let rise a second time until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • Divide the dough into two equal portions. Shape each into a ball and place in a shallow pan or dish of sesame seeds. Sprinkle additional sesame seeds on the top of each round until completely covered with the seeds, and shape into a rough loaf.
  • Place each shaped, sesame-coated loaf in a well-greased 8½ x 4½ inch bread pan. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for about 30 minutes.
  • In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375° F.
  • Bake the loaves in the middle of the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Test for doneness by thumping the bottom for a clear sound.
  • Turn the finished loaves onto a cooling rack and cool.

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