Chicken Fried Steak...mmm, mmm. My Daddy would always make the best CFS and my Mom always made the best gravy to go with it. It has taken me many years of burnt steak and burnt grease to finally get this right. And there are times I still get in a hurry frying and char the steak a little bit. But, last night the stars aligned and I cooked it perfectly (just for this post, I'm sure)!
First, cut an trim the fat off of your steak. I use a round steak. I cut my pieces no larger than a deck of cards. They fry much nicer and are easier to batter.
You'll need oil (I use vegetable, but you can also use olive), flour seasoned with salt (I use Lawry's Seasoning Salt) and pepper to taste, and eggs. I start with two eggs, beaten, and I'll add more later if I run out. (I've run out of eggs before with three pieces of steak left, so I usually just flour and fry them.)
Heat the oil on medium-high heat. I only use a couple of tablespoons to start with and then will add more later if needed. To check to see if your oil is hot, throw a pinch of flour in the skillet; if it sizzles and bubbles, your oil is ready.
Time to batter-up! Coat the steak in flour.
Then flour again. For this step, you can substitute crushed saltine crackers. That's what made Daddy's steak "the best". We would crush a sleeve of saltines into small, small pieces and then after the egg, dip them into the crackers instead of flour. Why didn't I do this? Because I didn't have enough time last night! When you do have time, it is well worth it!
Then into the skillet!
Cook until "Golden Brown and Delicious"! This will take a few minutes on each side. You'll know when to flip when you get a nice color on the batter. You can poke the steak with a fork and then check to see if the juices run clear also. To get a really nice non-burnt steak, I tend to turn my heat down a little (to medium) and fry them. You can use your best judgment since all stoves are different!
Remove the steak and drain on a paper towel.
Onto the gravy. If you accidentally burnt the steak or if your oil looks or smells burnt, I would recommend skipping the gravy until next time. Burnt oil does not make a good gravy no matter how well you think you've gotten all of the charred pieces out. I don't want to discourage you, but from experience, it will just frustrate you more when your gravy doesn't turn out or it tastes burnt.
I assess the amount of oil left in the skillet and then add more if needed. (Turn your burner back up to medium-high.) I like to have 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet. Then add a couple of tablespoons of flour to soak up the oil. Constantly stirring, let the flour cook a little (for less than one minute...you don't want it to burn, just enough to get a nice light brown color). You also want to lift all of the good leftover bits off the bottom of the skillet.
I then add chicken broth, about 2 cups. You can add more or less depending on the consistency you like for gravy. To truly check how thick or thin your gravy is, it will need to boil. So bring your gravy up to a boil. Add more liquid if it's too thick or little it reduce some if it's too thin.
This is a good time to taste your gravy, too. If you use chicken broth (even the low sodium kind) you will probably not have to add salt. But, you may like to add a little pepper. I usually do.
My Mom always made really great gravy, but she never used chicken broth. Instead, she would save the water from boiling potatoes and use that for the gravy. (We always had mashed potatoes with chicken fried steak.) I sometimes save potato water to use instead of broth, but we've shattered a couple too many glass measuring cups trying to save the hot liquid. Chicken broth works just as well.
Mmm, delicious! We also had frozen corn from our spring garden and boiled potatoes. I then went back for seconds!
I hope you decide to try your hand at our family favorite!