According to Gary Cartwright of his Texas Monthly article in 1983, "I Am The Greatest Cook In The World" ---"People who didn't grow up in Texas believe that chicken-fried steak is a put-on, like those Jackalope trophies you see in roadside souvenir shops. It is even possible, I suppose, for people born and reared in Texas to be suspicious of this ethnic creation---witness that renowned fop, Larry McMurtry, who once wrote that chicken-fried steak looks like an old piece of wood with the paint scraped off. For all I know, McMurtry has never eaten a real CFS; for all I know, McMurtry was born in New Hampshire, the illegitimate son of Noel Coward and Aimee Semple Mcpherson."

1. The meat should be round steak, pounded as if you're training for the boxing ring.
2. Use a cast-iron skillet; if you don't have one, go out to eat.
3. Use only cream gravy on CFS.
Serves: 4

2 pounds beef round steak, sliced 1/2" thick
12 ounces beer
2 cloves garlic
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup masa harina
2 teaspoons cumin seeds -- toasted and ground (or 1 teaspoon ground cumin)
1 teaspoon ground dried red chile (preferably New Mexican or Ancho)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 egg
Oil for deep-frying (corn or canola)

1/4 cup pan drippings
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups evaporated milk
1 cup unsalted beef stock
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper or to taste
Coarse salt to taste

Have the butcher twice-tenderize the steak if possible, or pound it yourself with a notched meat mallet until about 1/3-1/4 inch thick; cut into 4 serving pieces. Arrange steaks in a glass baking dish with the garlic; pour all but 2 tablespoons of the beer over them. Marinate at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Combine flour, masa harina, cumin, chile, salt and organo in a shallow dish. In another dish, mix the egg with the remaining 2 tablespoons beer. In a deep cast-iron skillet, put enough oil to reach about 2-3" up the side and heat to 325 degrees.

Drain the steaks and blot lightly with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Dredge steaks in the flour mixture, then in the egg mixture, then back into the flour mixture, patting well to absorb moisture. Fry steaks in hot oil 7-8 minutes or until they are medium brown. Drain steaks and transfer to a platter; keep warm while preparing gravy.

Pour pan drippings into a fat-separator or through a strainer, and return 1/4 cup to the skillet. Over medium heat, add flour to drippings, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Add milk and stock; simmer until liquid is thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir gravy up from the bottom frequently, scraping up any browned bits. Add pepper and salt to taste (it should have a strong peppery flavor).

Serve steaks and mashed potatoes with gravy spooned over both, a green vegetable (usually green beans), buttermilk biscuits, and big glass of sweet tea.

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Copyright 2001 Carol Stevens, Shaboom's Kitchen, All Rights Reserved