Years ago my mother figured out a way to make a delicious dish involving cubed beef and gravy. We call it "country fried steak" although it might better be described as "smothered steak" or simply cube steak and gravy. It's my mother's favorite food [well, besides fried scallops and prime rib, neither of which I can cook]. I try to make her country fried steak every couple of weeks.
My blogging this recipe is really an attempt to think through the process and have a historical record. I could make it in my sleep. One day, I imagine, years from now, I will think of this and want Michael to make it for me. I will also want rice or biscuits, to put the gravy on. There's really no point in making it unless there is a lot of gravy and in the south, that calls for rice or biscuits or possibly mashed potatoes.
Michael watched me make this tonight. I wanted him to watch and learn, even though he has now gone out with friends and likely won't be home for dinner. When I had finished making the gravy and poured most of it over the meat, he asked for the small amount left in the pan. He got a piece of bread and poured the gravy over the bread and ate it. (I used to love "gravy bread" as a kid. Tickled me to see him doing that.)
I will share with you another secret. I cannot make biscuits that are worth a damn. I know, I know, my Mamaw and Granny Butler and on and on back, they are all flipping around in their graves, horrified that their descendant cannot make a decent biscuit. My biscuits are either hard enough to be used as a construction material or the consistency of chewing gum. Mama TRIED to teach me how to make scrumptious biscuits but I failed miserably at it. I accept that. Pillsbury frozen biscuits ROCK - about 90% as good as what my mother could make from scratch.
Now, if I am feeling energetic, I will chop up an onion and maybe even some fresh mushrooms and saute them in some olive oil and/or butter, and let them get soft. Then I will take them out of the pan and put them aside. I don't always feel that energetic.
Elva's Country Fried Steak
4 pieces of cubed steak, each piece about the size of the palm of your hand
1 onion, diced
1-2 cups mushrooms, chopped
1-2 cans Campbell's beef consomme or 2-4 cups beef stock
1 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Lawrey's seasoned salt
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
About an hour before you plan to cook, take the cubed steaks out of the package and salt and pepper them on both sides. Then let them sit on the kitchen counter for 30-45 minutes. Preheat the oven to either 250 [if you can let the dish cook at least 4 hours] or 275-300 [if you have 2-3 hours before dinner]. Take a large shallow bowl, like a soap bowl, and put into it the flour, and a few shakes of onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, and seasoned salt. Take a spoon and mix it up well. About 5 minutes before you're ready to cook the steak, heat up olive oil or canola oil in a large skillet, to between medium and high. Take each piece of beef and dredge it in the seasoned flour mixture. I usually use my fingers to pat the flour into the meat. Place each piece into the oil. It should fry up and be crispy, about 1-2 minutes on each side. As you finish cooking each piece, put it in a 9x13 pan. Take your onions and mushrooms and put them in between each piece of meat, or wait and add them to the gravy.
Now for the fun part: making the gravy. You should have a couple of tablespoons of oil left in your skillet. I like to also add about 2-4 pats of real butter. Then dump what's left of your flour into the skillet, and stir it around. This is your roux. Cook it on low for a minute or two. Now add in your beef consomme or stock, soy sauce, Sherry, and balsamic vinegar. Keep it on low and keep stirring. Add water and stir it in. Add in extra onion powder and garlic powder. (I like to be heavy-handed with seasonings.) You have to stand there and keep stirring a bit until the gravy looks right.
Pour the gravy over the meat, and try to cover it. Or you can add in the onions and mushrooms to the gravy and then pour the gravy over the steak.
Cover the dish tightly with tinfoil and put it in the oven. Cooking low and slow is best and really brings out the flavors. I made this recipe tonight and mine will cook for 2.5 hours at 275. You can also put it in the crock pot for 4-6 hours on low. The meat should be fork tender when it's done cooking.
Serve with biscuits or rice.