Second-Choice Chicken-Fried Steak AND Not-Your-Grandma-June’s Southern Green Beans

2016-04-20 17.46.30RECIPE #236, DAY #303

THREE STARS

ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Chicken Fried Steaks with Creamed Pan Gravy” and “Southern Green Beans” from Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals 2*

TIMING: 30 minutes

DIFFICULTY: Fairly easy, but kitchen experience is helpful for the steaks and gravy

TOOLS: A couple of frying pans with lids and a spatula. A meat mallet is helpful

COOK TYPE: Stovetop

HEALTH: Gravys have such a bad name, and I suppose they are sorta uneccesary, but with broth as the main ingredient and only a couple tablespoons butter and flour to create its body, it’s not really all that bad. The steaks are pan-fried, but in very little fat (for something that’s fried). And, last but not least, the green beans contain bacon. And yet, I am reluctant to say this is a very indulgent meal. It probably won’t kill you, but it is a little heavy.

EXPERIENCE: I really do love chicken fried steak. And I love gravy. And I love banana cream pie (which was part of this recipe trio, originally.)

I am a Southerner now, but I grew up in the North. However, I had a Southern grandpa (from Arkansas) and a Southern great-grandma (from Kentucky). Between the two of them, I grew up with a fairly Southern-influenced cuisine. We always had sweet tea in the fridge. My dad’s signature dessert was banana pudding. And every Christmas Eve we would converge with a gaggle of other relatives at my Grandma June’s for a predictable and scrumptious buffet which always, always included a dish that my mother waited all year for. I can still remember her talking about Grandma June’s Green Beans, which–when we strutted in in our hand-sewn Christmas dresses–would be bubbling away in a cast iron pan on the stove. They had probably been there for hours, judging by the state of them, which was part of why they were good. The other part was the bacon, and when combined with the long cook time, the beans became grassy sponges for the bacon grease and what we might call potlicker.

So I see a recipe for green beans and bacon and I have to try it.

Both these recipes fell short. The chicken-fried steak and gravy were fine, but–when I’m not living out of a suitcase–I have a far better recipe that I use from a Pioneer Woman cookbook. The beans were also fine, but they were nothing like the long-cooked version my Grandma June used to make. These are a fresher, brighter version, and–despite their lack of sponginess, umami, and smokiness–they are pretty good in their own way.

NOTES: I have a thing against soggy bacon. I suppose–should I ever learn to make my grandma’s green beans–I will have to learn to sometimes leave bacon in the sauce. Until then, I always use the grease to flavor the dish and serve the final dish with crispy bacon on the top.

I also have a thing against using way too much flour and liquid for your dipping stations. Almost every cookbook I’ve ever used calls for way too much. And what can you do with flour or egg or milk once you’ve dipped raw meat into it? Absolutely nothing! It has to go in the garbage. So I halved Rachel Ray’s measurements and it was plenty.

***

CHICKEN FRIED STEAK WITH IN-BETWEEN GRAVY

  1. On your work surface, set out a piece of wax paper. On top, lay 1 pound thin-cut round steak or skirt steak. Cover with another piece of wax paper and pound the meat to an even 1/4 inch thick. Then cut it to 4 servings and salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat a large, thick-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Arrange three wide, shallow bowls in a row. Fill the first with 1/4 cup all purpose flour. Fill the second with 2 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons water. Fill the last with 1/4 cup all purpose flour, 3 tablespoons cornmeal, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, combined.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons safflower oil to the pan. Quickly, dip the first steak in the flour and shake off, then in the egg wash, then in the cornmeal mix and shake off. Place in the pan and finish with the other steaks, making sure not to crowd the pan. Brown nicely on each side, then cover the pan and reduce to medium-low. Cook for 10 minutes, making sure to check on them.
  5. Remove steaks to a platter. Leave 2 tablespoons drippings in the pan (or, if there are none, add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter). Whisk in 2 tablespoons all purpose flour and cook until golden brown. Whisk in 1 1/4 cup beef broth until thickened. Add 1/4 cup cream, 1 teaspoon beef bullion paste, and season with salt and pepper. Taste for seasonings and serve over top the steaks.

***

SOUTHERN GREEN BEANS

  1. In a medium skillet, cook 2-3 slices chopped bacon over medium-high. When it is nice and crispy, remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. In the drippings, cook 1 diced or thin-sliced onion until brown. Add 1 pound frozen, chopped green beans and continue to cook until they are hot.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon sugar and cook 2 more minutes. Serve topped with the crisp bacon.

***

Serve together with sweet tea. You could also add baked beans, sweet potatoes, or corn.

*Recipe has been changed from the original.

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