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  1. Tuesday, October 9

    Chicken Fried Steak

    Growing up, one of the dishes that I would always order if it was on a restaurant menu was Chicken Fried Steak. I loved the stuff.

    The last time I had chicken fried steak, however, was before Cate was born. It was at a restaurant in Orange County and it was only okay. So, I must admit, I have kind of shied away from the dish since that night.

    But a few weeks ago I got a hankering and decided to try my hand at making the stuff myself.

    I followed Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe for cooking the steak and Ree Drummond’s recipe for making the gravy. The result? Chicken fried steak in all its rich, delicious glory. For REAL…the fried breading part on this steak was to die for. I’ve never had a desire to fry chicken at home, but after this I am seriously considering it!

    Also, I used a thermometer and followed the directions precisely. I love it when Cook’s Illustrated recipes have a temperature to work with, I feel like success is much more imminent that way. Another ALSO…Nate has an infrared thermometer (science nerd alert!) that worked PERFECTLY for this. The surface of the oil reads the correct temperature and it’s a super fast way to read the temp. Speed is good when you’re frying food.

    Note: this is not a difficult recipe, but it is a bit labor intensive. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya. This might be a good recipe to tackle on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

    Chicken Fried Steak
     
    From Cook’s Illustrated
    Author:
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Chicken
    Ingredients
    • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
    • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 6 cube steaks, pounded to ⅓ inch thickness
    • cooking oil for frying (Jane note: I used canola oil)
    Instructions
    1. Getting the initial oil temperature to 375 degrees is key to the success of this recipe. An instant-read thermometer with a high upper range is perfect for checking the temperature; a clip-on candy/deep-fry thermometer is also fine. If your Dutch oven measures 11 inches across (as ours does), you will need to fry the steaks in two batches.
    2. For the steaks: Measure the flour, 5 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and cayenne into a large shallow dish. In a second large shallow dish, beat the egg, baking powder, and baking soda; stir in the buttermilk (the mixture will bubble and foam).
    3. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper to taste. Dip steaks into the flour, both sides, shaking off excess. Using tongs, dip the steaks into the egg mixture, turning to coat well and allowing the excess to drip off. Coat the steaks with flour again, shake off the excess, and place them on the wire rack.
    4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, set a second wire rack over a second rimmed baking sheet, and place the sheet on the oven rack; heat the oven to 200 degrees. (Jane note: I DID set up this wire rack in the oven, however. I wouldn’t skip this step! You will be cooking the steaks in batches and you want the ones that are already cooked to say hot and crispy throughout the process.) Line a large plate with a double layer of paper towels. Meanwhile, heat 1 inch of oil in a large (11-inch diameter) Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Place three steaks in the oil and fry, turning once, until deep golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes (oil temperature will drop to around 335 degrees). Transfer the steaks to the paper towel-lined plate to drain, then transfer them to the wire rack in the oven. Bring the oil back to 375 degrees and repeat the cooking and draining process (use fresh paper towels) with the three remaining steaks.
    Notes
    Jane note: I just set a small wire rack over a dinner plate. Simple and easy.

    Jane note: the steaks were pretty large, so I believe I had to cook in three batches.

    Chicken Fried Steak Gravy
     
    From Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • ¼ cup of the grease from cooking the steaks
    • ⅓ cup flour
    • 1½ cup whole milk (or whatever milk you have in the fridge)
    • salt and pepper
    Instructions
    1. After all meat is fried, pour off the grease into a heatproof bowl. Without cleaning the pan, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add ¼ cup grease back to the pan. Allow grease to heat up.
    2. Sprinkle ⅓ cup flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk, mix flour with grease, creating a golden-brown paste. Keep cooking until it reaches a deep golden brown color. If paste seems more oily than pasty, sprinkle in another tablespoon of flour and whisk.
    3. Whisking constantly, pour in milk. Cook to thicken the gravy. Be prepared to add more milk if it becomes overly thick. Add salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until gravy is smooth and thick. Be sure to taste to make sure gravy is sufficiently seasoned.

     


  2. Tuesday, November 23

    Thanksgiving Prep: Roux for Perfect Gravy

    Today I made a white roux so that on Thursday we can make gravy. Smooth, delicious, lump-free gravy. Mmmmmm…

    Nate and I used to watch Good Eats. A lot. In fact, we were a little addicted. But we learned a lot from that show! Years ago, an episode called “Gravy Confidential” aired and that’s when I discovered the technique of using roux to thicken gravy. Until that point, I had always used what Alton calls a “slurry,” flour and cold water whisked together. It works fine, but I must admit that gravy made with roux is in fact richer and smoother.

    This is what the roux looks like right after I take it off the stove to cool. It turns a more golden color as it cools and all the bubbles disappear.

    If you want to see the Good Eats episode that changed my gravy life forever, click here for Part 1 and click here for Part 2. Part 1 has lots of introductory information (and, of course, some silliness), but the first 5 minutes of part 2 is where Alton actually makes the roux and is the part I find most helpful.

    So, let’s make some roux! I’m giving you a play-by-play, so it might seem daunting at first glance, but it’s really quite simple to whip up!

    Thanksgiving Prep: Roux for Perfect Gravy
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Thanksgiving
    Ingredients
    • 1 oz butter (2 tablespoons)
    • 1 oz flour (I do 3 tablespoons since {gasp!} I don’t have a kitchen scale. True confessions, people.)
    • Roux made from these measurements will thicken 1 cup of fluid*
    Instructions
    1. Since I know I’m going to be making gravy for a bunch of people on Thursday, and even making my own turkey again next week as per Cate’s request, I decided to make a lot of roux at once. You can put it in the refrigerator for up to one month, and you want it cool or at room temperature when you add it to your hot liquid, so having some on hand in the fridge works perfectly. Today I used 1 cup of butter and 1½ cups of flour to make my roux. This will thicken 8 cups of fluid.
    2. Melt butter (preferably in a saucier, but a regular sauce pan will work, that’s what I have) over medium heat. Have a whisk with lots of wire loops handy and ready to whisk! When the butter is melted and starting to bubble a bit, add the flour all at once and start whisking. Whisk constantly over medium heat until the roux starts to liquify. If you’re cooking a lot of roux like me, this takes a little while…be patient, it will happen! Once it’s liquifying, turn the heat to low and cook for about 3-4 more minutes, whisking occasionally.
    3. The roux and the liquid need to have opposite temperatures, so if your roux is hot, your liquid (broth) needs to be room temp or cool. If your liquid is hot (which mine always is), then the roux needs to be at room temp or cool.
    4. In the video, Alton talks about how gravies thickened with flour will thicken as they cool, so you probably want to have your gravy a bit on the thinner side on the stove so that by the time it reaches the table in the gravy boat, it’s the perfect thickness.
    Notes
    *In terms of the liquid…when it’s Thanksgiving, I always simmer the turkey’s heart, neck and giblets for an hour or two and save that broth, then combine it with the juices from the cooked turkey. If I’m still needing more liquid, I add chicken stock, but I don’t often have to do that. And don’t forget salt and pepper!

    A note on storage: I always just put my finished roux in a bowl or tupperware to store in the fridge. I would then chisel out pieces of roux to add to my hot liquid later. It’s kind of annoying. So this time around I’ve put the roux in a ziploc bag with the air squeezed out and I’m going to cool it in the fridge flat like this. I’m hoping it will be easier to break off pieces…we’ll see!

    Postscript 11/28/10: Storing the roux in these ziploc bags worked GREAT. I knew that each “brick” would thicken appx 4 cups, and it was super easy to break them evenly into fours, so I could estimate accurately how much roux I was putting into the fluid. And it was easy to break and pop out of the bag. Will definitely store the roux like this from now on!