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Chicken-Fried Steak: Chicken or Steak?

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Maybe Varmint can share some wisdom here...

Ever since I saw the above-named dish on a Denny's menu, I've wondered: what's in chicken-fried steak? Is it chicken or steak?

As a cuisine-clueless Northerner, I never tried grits or other Southern goodies until I actually visited a region where Southern cooking was served as the norm. (Now I love grits--you can find them at a few places in Chicago). I'm kind of curious as to other Southern specialties. Guide me to the Promised Fridge, Varmint! :biggrin:

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I've wondered: what's in chicken-fried steak? Is it chicken or steak?

Neither.

It's similar to Salisbury steak, except that it's dropped in flour prior to being fried in oil. But there is chicken in chicken fried chicken.

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It's cube steak or round steak pan or deep-fried much like fried chicken, thus the chicken-fried steak. Often served with cream gravy or other gravy. There's also chicken-fried chicken which is boneless chicken cooked in this manner. Essentially this is an almost universal dish with a breaded, pan-fried meat in many cuisines. Chicken-fried steak and chicken are the southern versions.

Edit: Here's a good link: http://southernfood.about.com/library/weekly/aa980222.htm


Edited by ExtraMSG (log)

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Well, everyone beat me to it. You can also have chicken fried pork chops, chicken fried catfish, and chicken fried possum. (just checking to see if you were paying attention). Damn, it's a shame Mrs. Varmint doesn't eat red meat, as I know what I'd be making otherwise. By the way, I like to use buttermilk in my cream gravy, as it gives it a nice tang.

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Ever since I saw the above-named dish on a Denny's menu, I've wondered: what's in chicken-fried steak? Is it chicken or steak?

Try and make sure your first chicken-fried steak isn't at Denny's though. A good one is heavenly (in my opinion) but a bad version will turn you off forever. Got to have good cream gravy with it...

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As I've posted before (everyone here must be sick of seeing it said) my mom used tenderized round steak but instead of just flour, the coating was mostly corn flake crumbs mixed with a little flour and onion flakes, garlic, s & p. I could eat if for dinner every night for a month. :wub:

Too bad her cream gravy always sucked (sorry, Ma, but it did!). :raz:

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The Texas version is usually made from round steak or chuck steak. You whack the crap out of it with a tenderizing mallet then batter and fry it. Supposedly if this isn't done in a cast iron skillet you are guilty of fraud. I favor the technique of soaking the steak in seasoned buttermilk and flouring the steak in a paper bag, just like I do for pan fried chicken. Varmint is right. The buttermilk makes the cream gravy mighty tasty.

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I agree on the Texas version (my grandmother's being the one with which I am most familiar). She used to soak the pounded meat in salted water for an hour or so.

Perhaps a more interesting question is what starch to serve with chicken fried steak. A lot of people have mashed potatoes, but we Kinseys often like white rice.

Leftover chicken fried steak biscuits are mighty nice the next morning, too.

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It's the south: double the starches. Mashed potatoes and biscuits.

Though it sounds like a simple dish, there really is a wide range on how it comes out. To me, it's 90% breading that matters. But you can have a really ripply, crispy, crunchy breading or a rather thin and light breading. I've seen some where they soak in buttermilk, dredge in flour, dredge in egg, then put it in the pan, too, so the outside isn't a starch.

I've also had good CFS that had some of the toughest meat of all time. But the flavor and crust was sooo good. Jubilee in Ft Worth is what comes to mind.

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Everyone has their own ideal for CFS. Come to think of it, there may have been a thread about it many moons ago but I am too lazy to look. A lot of food writers in my part of the world have to do at least one story on their search for the best CFS. I think it is part of the requirements for admission to the club.

For me, the crust has to be thick but really crispy and light. Some folks put some baking powder in the flour. The steak has to be tender. It has to be properly fried so that it is not greasy. Sort of like a well prepared pan fried chicken.

I don't think I have ever encountered any starch but potatoes or biscuits. I wouldn't be surprised to find rice in Louisana or other parts of the south.

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I don't think I have ever encountered any starch but potatoes or biscuits. I wouldn't be surprised to find rice in Louisana or other parts of the south.

Interesting. I don't know why we always did it with rice. Perhaps because it's easier to make? My father's family comes from both East and West Texas, though, and I never got the impression eating it with rice was all that unusual.

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I don't think I have ever encountered any starch but potatoes or biscuits. I wouldn't be surprised to find rice in Louisana or other parts of the south.

Interesting. I don't know why we always did it with rice. Perhaps because it's easier to make? My father's family comes from both East and West Texas, though, and I never got the impression eating it with rice was all that unusual.

I'm from Texas gulf coast rice country and it wasn't unusual (or suprising) when I was growing up to serve it with white rice, good milk gravy smothering it all, a biscuit or roll to sop it all up.

Fried okra was also almost always on the plate when mom would cook it up. Double the starch, double the grease. It's a tradition I carry on today.

And I second the call to not try your first one at a Denny's. Of the chains, Chili's has a passable version.

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Perhaps a more interesting question is what starch to serve with chicken fried steak.  A lot of people have mashed potatoes, but we Kinseys often like white rice.

HERETIC!!!!

Edited to add :raz:


Edited by Mudpuppie (log)

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Some how I missed the rice thing and I grew up on the Gulf Coast, too. However, my mother and assorted grandmother's and aunts never cooked it. We always got it at some cafe or diner type set-up and they always served potatoes. (At least, I haven't run into rice in a cafe or diner.)

As I think of it, that is kind of weird. They were all avid cooks but thought: "It just isn't worth the trouble when Mary down at the Cosy Corner Cafe does such a fine job." "Right, Minnie. Just not worth sloppin' up the kitchen." Then the next weekend they would fry up piles of chicken. :wacko:

Go figure. That gravy would sure go good on some rice, though.

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One of my Uncles owned a Restaurant across from the Train Stop in Austin Texas for over 25 years that catered to Cowboys, Politicians and Rail Road Workers that featured Chicken Fried SteaK, served with Gravy, Grits, Mashed Potatoes or Rice t with Beans and Bisquits, often they were served with a order of eggs

He claimed that his Chicken Fried Steak was enjoyed so much was because he used fresh Top Rounds, Cap Off, that he'd chill down until they were semi-frozen then sliced about 3/8 inch thick and placed between wax paper and pounded tender with a Mallet.

The Beef was placed into a peppered condensed milk marinate until being ordered. He said he requarly sold several hundred orders daily so it never marinated very long.

When the order was received it was floured with a peppered bread flour

Next it was put into a Egg and Fresh Milk wash and finally coated with Fresh Made Bread Crumbs from generally day old bread used because it browned and absorbed the flavors better.

On his stove he had [2] 17 1/2 inch Cast Iron Pans kept ready and rotated as needed with Lard/Crisco Mixture with a fine strainer kept at hand to keep the oil clear and not foamy. He said the oil was kept hot , but just hot enough to cook several orders at a time without burning.

He claimed that since he tried to fry without high heat his Chicken Fried Steaks always were served cooked thru with no color and most important had a Curled Finish when cooked. Appearently a properly cooked Chicken Fried Steak was judged as superior if it was Curled and throughly cooked without any pink color.

Curled ment that the beef was fresh and colorless ment it was cooked the way the customers preferred.

Before serving the Steaks were Salted before being served as he said that if you put any salt before cooking it screwed up the oil, plus it effected the taste as salt accumulated in the oil, and when they scrapped the pans clean the scraps would be to salty for making gravy.

This method of preperation had been used at the Restaurant for many years until he purchased it in 1939, during his years of operation he did his best to provide his customers with what they were accustomed to eat.

His son operated a similar Restaurant in Tucson Arizona also across the street at the train station.

Irwin

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Good chicken-fried steak is delicious.

:biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:

I always thought it was an oxymoron!

I'm jealous, really. I have only horrific memories of chicken fried steak. It was served at least once a week in our school cafeteria.** And on high school band trips, we somehow always ended up eating at restaurants that primarily served chicken-fried foods. On one 18-hour bus trip, the chicken fried eaters among us ended up with food poisoning. Picture a charter bus, its tiny bathroom, and 20+ nauseated high schoolers.... :unsure:

Oh well. Never had a good one. I'm sure it's not the only thing in my life about which that is true.

(**But for some reason, the institutional mashed potatoes and yeast rolls that accompanied the CFS rocked.)


Edited by Mudpuppie (log)

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When CFS goes wrong, it can go horribly wrong.

Do not order CFS here: Robert Del Grande screws up CFS.

They try to use sirloin to make it upscale=>can't chew it. Heavy batter (is there cornmeal in there?) that is saturated in grease.

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I put a half pound on just reading this thread! LOL!

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I have a confession to make.......The first time I ever had CFS was in New York City at the Yellow Rose on the UWS :sad:

I have since learned to appreciate good CFS.

Was it Star Canyon in Dallas that had filet CFS on the menu? What the hell were they thinking?

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Was it Star Canyon in Dallas that had filet CFS on the menu? What the hell were they thinking?

They were thinking "$$$$$$".

It's like substituting, I dunno, tenderloin for brisket in good bbq. There's a reason why it needs to be the lesser cut.

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I embarked upon a CFS quest on a recent racing trip. I think I ate it four times over a five day period. (I'm not in CFS country either!)

The best I had was in Virginia City, NV. Second was at the Black Bear Diner in Shasta City, CA. Worst was at Spiffy's somewhere in Washington (which was very disappointing as I'd heard very good things about Spiffy's desserts and because one of my dog's littermates is named Spiffy ... I reckoned it *had* to be good!).

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I have a confession to make.......The first time I ever had CFS was in New York City at the Yellow Rose on the UWS :sad:

I have since learned to appreciate good CFS.

Was it Star Canyon in Dallas that had filet CFS on the menu? What the hell were they thinking?

My first time was at Gallerani's in Provincetown MA, and it was amazing.

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As a Yankee totally unfettered by nostalgia or fealty to a particular tradition, I make a dish with veal scallopini that I call "chicken fried veal." (Essentially schnitzel but with cornmeal mixed in with the flour, buttermilk instead of milk, and peanut oil for frying.) I just think veal is better than beef for this application. My favorite time of year to make chicken fried veal is at the peak of corn season, so I can serve it with fresh local corn-on-the-cob. And I add mushrooms to the cream gravy. A lot of mushrooms. Too bad morel season and corn season don't coincide.

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