Pounded Chicken Fried Steak with Bacon Tasso White Gravy

Quality chicken fried steak is almost impossible not to like.  It is similar to doughnuts in this way because while a few annoying people may claim not to like these foods, the rest of us know that they are critically out of tune with their own taste buds or their higher cortical functions responsible for recognition of taste, beauty, love, and truth have been successfully scrubbed clean by health food propagandists.  Dangerous stuff.

When made correctly, it is crispy, flavorful, tender, and unique.   We know of no exact origin of this fried favorite, but it is almost certainly adapted from the German/Austrian tradition of fried pork wiener schnitzel.   Wiener schnitzel is a most righteous dish as well, but has a completely different attitude than this featured crowd-pleaser.  The best renditions will be served with white gravy right on top and hopefully a piece of grilled texas toast nearby. Because of its popularity, it has many cheap, processed, frozen versions.  These are not worth the calories and give chicken fried steak a bad rap. These are easy to recognize by their suspicious uniformity in roundness and flatness. You know you’re dealing with a true specimen when it seems to wave and roll like the hills of its Bavarian origins.  

I recommend using beef round steaks cut across the grain.  This is what I serve in my restaurant, the Acadian Superette.  You can definitely buy pre-cut pieces of beef. I’ve used round steak, seven steak, and even chuck roast.  If you pound them out really thin, it will be good. I cut my round steaks across the grain between ⅓ and ½ inch and about 5 inches across.  I pound the hell out of them with a meat tenderizing hammer and get them as thin as possible without making holes. They will literally spread out to almost to almost ten inches.  I then marinate them in seasoned buttermilk, coat with plain all purpose flour and fry.

I suggest trying this bacon and tasso white gravy.  It is my cajun contribution to the dish. The most basic white gravies are often the best and consist of:

  1. A fat
  2. White flour
  3. Milk
  4. Black pepper

Simple is often best, but most white gravies will include a sausage sans casing.  My version is similar but the fat is bacon grease and rather than sausage, I include tasso and bacon.  The bacon contribution is obvious, smoke, salt, texture. The Tasso gives a bit more smoke, a more chewy texture, and does not contaminate the  gravy with that unwelcome fennel flavor found in many sausage gravy variants.

For the bacon and tasson white gravy:

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons all purpose flour

6 pieces of bacon

⅓ pound of tasso cut to ¼ inch cubes

½ cup diced onion

3 cloves of finely diced or shaved garlic

2 cups whole milk

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

– Fry the bacon is skillet until crispy, leave the hot bacon grease in the skillet, remove bacon and set aside

– Throw in tasso and fry until it begins to brown just a little bit

– Immediately throw in onion and garlic and stir well

– When the moisture from the onions begins to dissipate, add the flour and stir constantly until it starts to turn a light cafe au lait color, you do not want to make a dark roux here

– When the light color is achieved, slowly pour in milk while stirring constantly until the whole concoction starts to thicken to the consistency of applesauce or thin pudding(or desired consistency). This may take about two or three minutes.  You may think you have done something wrong at first because it will appear very thin, just keep stirring, have faith, and it will rapidly start to thicken.

– When desired consistency is achieved, add salt, black pepper, cayenne, and the crispy bacon that was set aside

For the Chicken fried steak:

4-5 round steaks cut across the grain, cut between ⅓ to ½ inch, each about 5 inches across, these need to be vigorously pounded very thin until they have widened to almost double the original width.  If they are too thick, the thick portions will taste very dry and tough after frying.

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups buttermilk(if you don’t have buttermilk, just add 2 teaspoons of vinegar to 2 cups of whole milk)

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder

4 cups vegetable, peanut, canola oil or lard

– Add all seasonings to the buttermilk

– Place the pounded steaks into a container or ziplock bag and completely immerse in the seasoned buttermilk for at least 4 hours in a refrigerator.  You can marinate for up to three days with no problems.

– Remove the marinated stakes from the marinade, dredge in plain white all purpose flour

– Drop directly into deep fryer or black iron skillet with at least two inches of oil.  Fry at 365 degrees for about 8 minutes or until the flour has turned a peanut butter brown.

Serve with the bacon tasso white gravy on top.  Bon appetit!