Fork tender Top Sirloin Steak enveloped in a crispy, crunchy, well seasoned breading, hot from the fryer, and covered with a rich and decadent Cream Gravy. Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy is what is on the menu for dinner this weekend.
The origins of Chicken Fried Steak also known as “Country Fried Steak,” can be traced back to the German and Austrian immigrants that came to Texas in the 19th century, bringing their recipes for Wiener Schnitzel from their homeland. Whereas the former Wiener Schnitzel was made from a veal or pork cutlet. The abundance of beef in Texas this helped to develop a twist on an old favorite dish. You can even find the Milanese a cutlet of veal or pork, that is breaded and pan fried in Italy. Named for the city Milan, with the recipe being traced back to Germany and Austria to the north.
My first experience with Chicken Fried Steak was at Ponderosa Steak House when I was a kid. This U.S. chain restaurant was a special treat for my family of 11. I loved how the Beef Cutlet was coated with batter and deep fried, smothered in cream gravy, served with my choice of potato, I always chose mashed potatoes with cream gravy, Texas Toast (a thick slab of white bread, buttered and grilled until golden brown) and of course the meal came with the all you can eat salad bar. I couldn’t wait to have my plate delivered to the table. I’d first eat and savor the Cream Gravy and Texas Toast, then I would drizzle A-1 Steak Sauce over the now naked fried beef cutlet. I enjoyed every bite until my plate was clean and I was full. For some reason I was the only one in my family who ever ordered this dish.
I love the flavor of the Chicken Fried Steak so much I tried to replicated it when I was a teen for our family dinner for 11 people. I used ground beef and created the “steak patties.” I used the same method of coating the hamburger steak patties with egg wash and seasoned flour as I learned to do for Fried Chicken. I then pan fried the whole lot until golden brown and then made Cream Gravy (White Sauce) from the Betty Crocker New Picture Cook Book. As I delivered the “Chicken Fried Steaks” to the table my family took one look at the brown and white platter of fried meat cutlets and gave a moan of disapproval. I was crushed, that was until they tasted them. Everyone like the flavor, my presentation. Not so much. The lesson. Food has to look as good as it taste.
My first encounter with “real” Chicken Fried Steak was at the Dixie Chicken at the Northgate District of Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas in 1985. It was love at first bite for me. Crisp crunchy coating surrounded a tender and perfectly cooked real beef steak. Although I had it in sandwich form, meaning there was no Cream Gravy to top of this Texas Wonder. I savoried every bite and I was hooked.
After 2 years in College Station, my life in Texas took me to San Antonio for 15 years before returning to Michigan. During those San Antonio years my dining experiences with Chicken Fried Steak took flight. There was no shortage of good cafes that offered Homemade Chicken Fried Steak. Each lovingly tenderized, breaded in well seasoned flour, and deep fried before being adorned with a blanket of Cream Gravy. Served with a mashed potatos, side salad with Thousand Island dressing, and a thick slab of Texas Toast. My favorite place for Chicken Fried Steak is at M.K. Davis Restaurant at 1302 N Flores St, San Antonio, TX 78212. Unless you knew this was a restaurant you’d drive right by, because the building back in the day was pretty nondescript. Today they at least have a large sign over the door and a side patio to signify the they are a restaurant. Of course, the 32 oz. ice cold schooners of beer I would enjoy before my meal always helped. Ah….Good memories!
Life brought me full circle back to Michigan in 2001 and needless to say finding real Chicken Fried Steak is like finding a needle in a haystack. Next to impossible. So what is a person to do when you get a craving for real Chicken Fried Steak. Well, make it yourself from scratch, using a quality cut of beef, fresh ingredients, and well tested culinary techniques to execute the best tasting Chicken Fried Steak you’ll ever taste.
First: Let’s start with the cut of beef. Traditionally Top Round or Bottom Round is used for making Chicken Fried Steaks. I prefer the Top Sirloin Steaks, cut at least ¾-inch thick and weighing between 6 to 8 ounces each (170 to 227 g.). Top Sirloin Steaks are tender, well marbled, and have a deeper beef flavor. This cut of beef is economical, costing 2 dollars or more a pound than chuck steaks. Starting with a good steak is key to making the best tasting and tender Chicken Fried Steak. I ask the butcher to run the Top Sirloin Steaks through their professional tenderizer machine 3 times. This futher tenderizes, thins the steaks to be about ½-inch thick, while doubling the circumference. The thickness of the steaks has a direct effect on how much coating to meat will be in the final Chicken Fried Steak. A steak cut thin, 1/4-inch thick and then tenderized by cubing/pounding will make for more coating then meat.
Second: Seasoning the tenderized steaks: I use natural whole buttermilk as a base for the marinade and then infuse it by blending savory onion, garlic, homemade poultry seasoning, kosher salt, freshly ground black peppercorns, and a touch of cayenne into it. The tenderized beef steaks marinate in the season buttermilk bath for 4 hours. This provides added moisture and helps to further tenderize the beef while still maintaining the beefy texture of the steaks. (Note: The recipe for Homemade Poultry Seasoning is on the bottom of the post.)
Third: Dredge the marinated buttermilk sirloin steaks in well seasoned flour. A combination of all purpose flour, cornstarch, kosher salt, and freshly ground black peppercorns. Letting the coated buttermilk sirloins rest for at least 15 minutes before frying will produce a crust coating that will be satisfyingly crispy and crunchy.
Lastly is the Cream Gravy: This is where my culinary training comes in to play. Traditionally the “Cream Gravy” is either made from the pan drippings left after pan frying the Chicken Fried Steaks or a “White Sauce” (Béchamel Sauce) is made to top the glorious Chicken Fried Steaks. My approach is always add more flavor where I can and especially sauces. The recipe for Cream Gravy starts out with Roux. The butter is infused with finely minced onion, garlic, kosher salt, and freshly ground black peppercorns. The aromatic vegetables are sautéed until translucent. Then homemade poultry seasoning and the all purpose flour goes into the pan to form a “Roux.” The roux is cooked out for a minute before the chicken stock is added. This makes a sauce called a “Velouté.” The velouté is brought to a light boil and then the Half & Half (equal parts whole milk and heavy cream) is added to enrich the velouté turning it into a “Supreme Sauce.” The “Cream Gravy” is then slowly simmered at a light boil for a few minutes before it is ready to serve. In the recipe I call for making the Cream Gravy 30 minutes before you fry the Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steaks. The “Cream Gravy” can be kept warm or reheated just before serving over the Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steaks.
Now we’ve gone through the steps to make your own Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steaks with Cream Gravy. It is time to get cooking!
The recipe for the Homemade Poultry Seasoning is on the bottom of the post. This recipe can be doubled and stored in an air-tight container for 2 months. You’ll find it far superior in flavor than what you can buy prepackaged in the stores.
The full instructional video for Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy is at the bottom of this blog post. Follow this link to “LIKE” and “SUBSCRIBE” to my YouTube Channel “Just One Bite, Please?” http://www.youtube.com/c/justonebiteplease/
- Measuring Cups and Spoons/Electronic Scale
- Mixing Bowl
- Cutting Board
- Chefs Knife
- Electric Blender/Emersion Blender Stick
Marinade for Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak: (for 4 servings)
- Measured Grams Ingredients
- 1 cup 180 g. Onion (coarsely chopped)
- 1 Tbsp. 14 g. Garlic (coarsely chopped)
- 1 Tbsp. 21 g. Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp. 2 g. Black Pepper (freshly ground)
- 1-½ tsp. 3 g. Poultry Seasoning (see recipe at the bottom of the post)
- ¼ tsp. ¼ tsp. Cayenne Pepper (grounded)
- 2 cups 480 g. Buttermilk (whole fat, natural)
- 4 pieces Top Sirloin Steak Cutlets – 6 to 8 ounces each (170 to 227 g.) (fat trimmed, and tenderized by the Butcher)
- In a blender combine the onion, garlic, Kosher salt, black pepper, poultry seasoning, ground cayenne, and buttermilk.
- Place the lid on the blender and blend on low speed for 1 minute to incorporate the ingredients.
- Turn the blender to high and blend for 1 minute or until the mixture is smooth.
- Turn the blender off.
- Pour the marinade into a large bowl.
- Add the tenderized Sirloin Steak Cutlets into the marinade. Submerging each one to cover completely.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the bowl into the refrigerator.
- Refrigerate the steaks in the marinate for at least 4 hours before coating with the Seasoned Flour and frying.
- Measured Grams Ingredients
- 2 cups 284 g. All Purpose Flour (King Arthur, Unbleached, Unbromated)
- 1 cup 128 g. Cornstarch
- 2 tsp. 14 g. Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp. 2 g. Black Pepper (freshly ground)
- In a large bowl combine the all purpose flour, cornstarch, kosher salt, and black pepper
- Whisk to combine the ingredients.
- Place the Seasoned Flour mixture into a pie plate and set a side until needed.
- Mixing Bowls
- Measuring Cups & Spoons/Electronic Scale
- Cutting Board
- Chefs Knife
- 1-½ Quart Sauce Pan w/Lid
- Small French Whisk
- Heat Proof Rubber Spatula
Make the Cream Gravy 30 minutes before dredging & frying the Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steaks
- Measured Grams Ingredients
- 5 Tbsp. 71 g. Butter (unsalted)
- 1/4 cup 45 g. Onion (finely minced)
- 1 tsp. 5 g. Garlic (finely minced)
- ½ tsp. 4 g. Kosher Salt
- ½ tsp. 2 g. Black Pepper (freshly ground)
- 1 tsp. 2 g. Poultry Seasoning (see recipe at the bottom of the post)
- 5 Tbsp. 44 g. All Purpose Flour
- 2 cups 473 ml. Chicken Stock
- 1-½ cups 355 ml. Half & Half (equal parts whole milk & heavy cream)
- Place the sauce pan over medium heat.
- Add the butter to the sauce pan and let melt completely.
- Add the onion and garlic to melted butter in the sauce pan and lightly sauté and stir with the rubber spatula.
- Add the kosher salt and black pepper to the sauce pan and sauté for for 2 minutes or until the onions and garlic are translucent.
- Add the poultry seasoning and all purpose flour to the sauce pan, stir to combine, and cook the roux for 1 minute.
- Add the chicken stock and whisk to combine.
- Bring the Cream Gravy mixture to a light boil while whisking the entire time.
- Add the half & half to the boiling mixture and whisk to combine.
- Bring the Cream Gravy back to a light boil, lower the heat to a simmer and simmer for 2 minutes stirring with the rubber spatula from time to time.
- Remove the Cream Gravy from the heat an set aside until needed to top the Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steaks.
- Reheat the Cream Gravy to serve.
- 3 quart Fry Pan
- 6 Cups Vegetable Oil
- Heat-proof Tongs
- Frying Thermometer
- Half Sheet Cooling Rack
- Half Sheet Pan
Dredging and Frying the Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steaks
- Marinated Steak Cutlet
- Seasoned Flour in Pie Plate
- Parchment Lined Sheet Tray
- Remove the marinated steaks from the refrigerator and place on the work surface.
- Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl.
- Working with 1 steak at a time. Lift the steak cutlet from the marinade using tongs or your fingers and let excess liquid drain off.
- Place the drained steak into the the Seasoned Flour mixture and press the steak into the flour. Turn the steak over and press the second side into the Seasoned Flour.
- Cover the top of the steak with the Seasoned Flour and press to adhere. Turn the steak cutlet over and press again to adhere the Season Flour.
- Shake off the excess Seasoned Flour and place the Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak onto a parchment lined sheet tray to rest.
- Continue dredging the remaining Steak Cutlets.
- Let the now dredged Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak Cutlets rest on the parchment lined sheet tray while the oil is heating.
- In a 3 quart Frying Pan add the Vegetable Oil.
- Place the Frying Pan onto medium-high heat and heat the oil to 350°F (177ºC).
- Once the oil has reached 350°F (177ºC) you will be ready to fry the Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steaks.
- Lift 1 of the dredged Steak Cutlets and gently place the into the hot oil away from you.
- Fry the first side for 4 minutes. The edges of the top should start to get light golden brown.
- Using the tongs, gently lift and turn the Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak over and fry for another 4 minutes. Checking to see if the bottom is golden brown.
- Lift and turn the Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak over and fry another 2 minutes. Frying until the exterior has become golden brown and crisp.
- Using the tongs lift the fried Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak from the hot oil, drain the excess oil back into the pan and place on the cooling rack lined sheet tray. (See Note)
- Continue to fry the remaining Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steaks.
- To serve: Place a hot Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak onto a warm plate and spoon the hot Cream Gravy on top. Serve with a small bowl of Cream Gravy on the side. Mashed Potatoes with Cream Gravy, Sautéed Green Beans, Dinner Salad, and Texas Toast are perfect accompaniments for Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak.
Note: Keep the Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steaks warm as your frying the other cutlets by placing them on the cooling rack lined sheet tray into a 200°F (93°C) Pre-heated oven.
Homemade Poultry Seasoning:
- 1 Tbsp. Dried Sage
- 2 tsp. Dried Thyme
- 1-½ tsp. Dried Marjoram
- ½ tsp. Dried Rosemary
- ½ tsp. Ground Nutmeg
- ½ tsp. Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Dried Bay Leaf (crushed)
- Place all the ingredients into a spice grinder and grind until the herbs and spices become a powder.
- Place the ground Poultry Seasoning into a airtight jar and store until needed.