Scattering a pile of cats eating the leftovers tossed out the farmhouse door I slam banged dusty and barefooted as Rowdy the old sheepdog through the screen door singing Herman's Hermits' Henry the eighth I am!
, maybe all of eleven years old, and Grandma halted me in mid verse somewhere between And every one was an Henry (Henry!)
and She wouldn't have a Willy or a Sam (no Sam!)
. 'ceptin' I would sing and the second verse is worse than the first!
and of course each verse had
to be louder until Rowdy howled and Bessie and Dot the cows would look 'round behind themselves from drinking water out of the tank (which is nothing more than a big ole
hole in the ground filled up with water 'n catfish) to see what all the commotion was, stare momentarily at each other exchanging some kind of secret cow code communication as far as I could tell, with their three out of four chews of the cud, swat a few flies away with a flick-flap of the tail and reminisce for a while about the time they found me in the ditch after I'd tossed myself out of the backend of Dad's pick up truck along with a bale of hay while he lurched and bumped along changing gears across the pasture feeding them.
As I invaded her kitchen she asked me with a hopeful enthusiasm, Lo would you like to learn how to cook a mess a Chicken Fried Steak? Always game to try something new I asked her Is it made out of chicken? Oh I had no complaints about cows but it was those chickens I was wary of; always running around before I could count them and wondering what ever did they mean by ' don't count the chickens before they hatch' ...why this whole idea was more intriguing than counting chickens or the King's wives!
Grandma made her Chicken Fried Steak with round steak but it can be substituted with cubed steak. She tenderized hers with a mallet then dipped in a mixture of egg and milk, dredged it in seasoned flour, then fried it in hot oil until the coating was browned and crispy, similar to fried chicken. She served it up family style on a hot platter along with milk gravy made from the drippings and dregs left in the pan. Add to this a pile of fried green tomatoes and okra, with mashed potatoes and buttermilk biscuits with pear preserves all the while warshing it down with great sweaty glasses of sweet tea. Why we had food that tasted so good that if we put it on top of our heads our tongue'd slap our brains out tryin' to get it!
Here is her basic recipe. Grandma's top secret was to dip and dredge the meat no less than three times !
1 Tenderized Round Steak
(you can save some time and effort by asking the butcher to trim the fat and run it through the tenderizer)
4 cube steaks
½ C Milk
All Purpose Flour
Cooking oil or melted Crisco
½ Teaspon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Ground black pepper
¼ Teaspoon Paprika
Beat together the egg and milk and set aside. Mix together the salt, black pepper, paprika and any other spices you might enjoy and sprinkle on both sides of beef cutlets.
Dredge the cutlets in the flour shaking off the excess. Then dip each cutlet in the egg and milk mixture, then back in the flour. (You're going to get your hands messy here, so take your rings off.)Dredge and dip three times then set cutlets aside on a piece of waxed paper.
Heat the cooking oil in a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Oil should be about a half-inch deep in the pan. Check the temperature with a drop of water; if it pops and spits and splatters back at you, it's ready:)
With a long-handled fork, carefully place each cutlet into the hot oil. Protect yourself (and your kitchen) from the popping grease that results. Fry cutlets on both sides, turning once, until golden brown. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 4 or 5 minutes until cutlets are done through. Drain cutlets on paper towels.
After the cutlets are removed from the pan, pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of oil, keeping as many as possible of the browned bits in the pan. Heat the oil over medium heat until hot.
Sprinkle 3 tablespoons flour (use the left-over flour from the chicken fried steak recipe (waste not -- want not said Grandma!) in the hot oil. Stir with a wooden spoon, quickly, to brown the flour.
Gradually stir in add ¾ cup milk and ¾ cup water, mixed together, stirring constantly with the wooden spoon and mashing out any lumps. Lower heat, and gravy will begin to thicken. Continue cooking and stirring a few minutes until gravy reaches desired thickness. Add more salt and pepper according to your taste. Gravy making is an inexact science and for a few hints about the art of making it read pan gravy. Cream gravy is supposed to be thick, but if it's too thick, add more milk or water until you like it.
Grandma would tell cousin Greg to say a blessing and as often as not to get us girl cousins to giggling he would say:
Amen! We would chorus and chow down. Yummy!