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i reckon this recon is over

Recipe: chicken fried steak with cream gravy

Wow, thank you for all of the warm and kind birthday wishes! I hope you had your own happy birthdays as well. It was one heck of a long weekend, but in the best way possible. The recon trip turned into a shooting trip because the leaves flipped like a switch. They are really good this year (I know this because they were pretty crappy last year). The colors are coming in rich and vibrant in the higher elevations because of our late and wet spring (big snowpack) and also due to the current hot days and cold nights that snap those leaves into the reds, golds, and oranges we love. There is plenty of green, but I’ve never seen it change so quickly.

we encountered a lot of road construction on the way out

and early colors off the highways in drive-by (photo) shootings

Our first stop was Crested Butte, a town with which we’ve pretty much fallen in love. My thinking was that it would be early and there wouldn’t be much to shoot. I planned to just take notes as to when peak colors would probably occur and then we would hike and mountain bike the rest of the time there. We did manage a few rides, but most of the time was spent hunting gold. Here are some snappies from the trip (I won’t be able to look at my real photos until later).

approaching storm behind a sunlit stand

rainbow from the storm reflected in an oxbow

enjoying the colors

pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow (it lasted over an hour!)

jeremy’s favorite place for coffee: camp 4

one view from the town of mount crested butte

After a few days in Crested Butte, we moseyed across to Aspen. The two towns are practically within spitting distance of one another, separated by the glorious Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. To get to one from the other by car requires a more circuitous route. Aspen is a completely different vibe from Crested Butte, but we weren’t there for the town – we were there for the surrounding mountains and they delivered with some great colors. Over Independence Pass to Mount Elbert were probably the best stands of aspen I’ve seen this season so far.

sad to see some leaves falling already

sampling an heirloom tomato salad at matsuhisa’s in aspen

excellent color on the slopes of mount elbert

Now it’s time to head home, regroup, and get ready for the next shoot. This was a long weekend birthday recon getaway, but the rest is work. There is no rule that says you can’t love your work though. I get to frolic with snakes, hawks, horses, sheep, foxes, countless chipmunks and squirrels, and cattle. Many of the roads leading to good aspen or views wind their way through Colorado ranch land. It’s not uncommon for me to be shooting in a stand and have a a cow wander past me. I don’t mind their company at all, but the other day my thoughts turned to… chicken fried steak.

steak, salt and pepper, buttermilk, eggs, flour

tenderize the steak

Do you ever think of something you want to make while you’re in the grocery store, but have no idea how to make it or what you need to buy, and then you whip out the smartphone and look up a recipe? I have been doing that more and more lately (well okay, ever since I switched to Verizon from AT&T). So that’s what happened a few weeks ago when I had a hankering, nay, a craving for chicken fried steak. I asked Jeremy to do a search and he began reading off the sources. When he said “Homesick Texan” I shouted from the dairy cases “THAT ONE!” We all know that girl knows her chicken fried steak.

mix salt and pepper with the flour

whisk the buttermilk and eggs together

Again, I don’t own a meat tenderizer. This was the second recipe in a week that called for tenderizing the meat but I just used Marc’s method for tenderizing the pork in the Japanese tonkatsu recipe and it worked wonderfully. I prefer to use the back (dull part) of the knife rather than the sharp part of the blade.

dredge in flour once

dip in egg-buttermilk mixture

a final dredge in the flour

I’ve tried the recipe with the milk-egg mixture and also with the buttermilk-egg mixture and I prefer the buttermilk. It seems to coat better and I like the way it fries up.

fry the steaks and flip over when blood pools on top

drain on a cooling rack or paper towels

But wait, there’s more! Lisa also provides a recipe for cream gravy. This frightened me greatly because gravy is bad enough as it is, but cream gravy sounded doubly bad. Lisa’s cream gravy recipe calls for milk though, not cream, so you don’t have to be as terrified that it will send you up a pant size.

flour, salt and pepper, oil from frying the steaks, milk

make a roux with the oil and flour

You don’t have to use pan drippings, you can use bacon grease or vegetable oil to start the roux – just some sort of fat. When the roux gets dark, whisk the milk in. I find it helps me to whisk in half the milk and let it come to a thick gravy before adding the rest of the milk, otherwise I end up chasing little lumps out with my whisk for several minutes. When it thickens, you have yourself creamy gravy.

thickening the cream gravy

pour over the chicken fried steak

Frying always makes a mess, but this one makes a quick mess and terrific dinner (or breakfast or lunch). It’s disturbing how easy it is to throw together in a pinch which is why you should pair this with some mashed potatoes, collard greens, and a good couple hours of cardio workout.

this is diggin’ in kinda food

Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy
[print recipe]
from Homesick Texan

1 1/2 lbs. top round (sirloin), steak
2 cups flour
2 tsps kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
3 large eggs
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk (buttermilk gives a better crust, based on my experiments)
oil for frying
1 1/2 cups cream gravy

cream gravy
2 tbsps pan drippings, bacon grease or vegetable oil
2 tbsps flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp black pepper
salt to taste

Make the chicken fried steak: Cut steak into four pieces and tenderize with a meat tenderizer or use the back (the unsharp part of the blade) of a chef’s knife until the beef is flattened and nearly doubled in area. Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a wide, shallow bowl. Whisk the eggs and milk (I prefer the buttermilk option) in another wide and shallow bowl. Completely coat each piece of beef in the flour, then dip it into the egg and milk bowl, then coat it in the flour once again. Fill a cast-iron skillet or sauté pan with an inch of oil and heat over medium-high until a flick of the flour sizzles. Place the beef in the oil and let fry until blood begins to pool on the top of each piece. This takes a few minutes. Carefully turn the pieces to fry the other side for about 4-5 minutes more. Remove from the oil and place on a cooling rack to drain. Repeat until all of the steaks are cooked. Keep the rest warm in an oven until ready to serve.

Make the cream gravy: Put the fat and flour together in a hot skillet or saucepan, constantly stirring until it becomes dark. This takes a few minutes. Slowly pour the milk into the pan while whisking it into the roux to break up any lumps. Turn the heat down to medium low and keep stirring until the liquid begins to thicken. This takes a few minutes, but it will happen. Season with pepper and salt to taste. If too thick for your liking, add a little milk to thin it out. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Serve the chicken fried steak with the cream gravy. Serves four.

41 nibbles at “i reckon this recon is over”

  1. joey says:

    Oh yes, yes, and yes! Growing up on the Eastern half of the world I had never heard of chicken fried steak until I was in high school…and since then it has always been so enticing to me! As only breading-coated and fried meat can be :) Saving this recipe and will do soon!

  2. Sally - My Custard Pie says:

    Extraordinary pictures. What a most amazing part of the world to live in. The storm pic is breathtaking.

  3. Linda says:

    When I was a little girl, a loooong time ago – 8-) – my mom used the side of a saucer or dinner plate to tenderize meat. I had never heard of a “meat tenderizer” until I was quite grown, because I thought every one (me included) used the plate/saucer to do it. I do love chicken fried steak, and cream gravy. If you are feeling exceptionally self-destructive, make fried potatoes with that steak, and pour the gravy over them…….yummy!! You’ll need an extra hour of cardio with that! Beautiful pictures, as usual. You have such a wonderful talent. Belated happy birthday!

  4. Magda says:

    You always take the most amazing photographs. I invariably end up staring at each of them for several minutes, wondering how beautiful they must be up close.

  5. Perfecting Pru says:

    I don’t understand how chicken fried steak is actually beef. I’m very confused (but writing this from my sick bed so everything is confusing at the moment!)

  6. Rachael @ Tokyo Terrace says:

    Yum yum yum! And Camp 4 is one of my favorite places for coffee! Every time we are in Crested Butte we make it a point to get there each morning. Now if only they’d open a branch in Tokyo… :)

  7. Debbie says:

    I don’t know which pics I like more…..the ones of the chicken fried steak or the beautiful scenic photos. Breathtaking. I love the one of the approaching storm and how dark the sky is….

  8. Laura says:

    Crested Butte is also my favorite place (so far) in Colorado! I think your beautiful post was very timely. I am thawing a large, grass fed ‘beef tip steak.’ And I think I just might chicken fry it!!

  9. Lisa says:

    Gorgeous! I’ll have to try that Japanese meat-tenderizing method–it seems more refined than wielding a meat hammer.

  10. Alanna says:

    Beautiful! We drove from Canon City up to Aspen a week ago yesterday and the aspens were just starting to turn. What a difference a few days make!

  11. Andrea says:

    Oh my goodness the pictures are gorgeous! Makes me super anxious to visit Colorado and wishing time to move faster!

    I love a good cream gravy. Super peppery, it makes me crave sausage gravy and biscuits.

  12. Manisha says:

    So the cow got it cos the chicken flew the coop? :-D

    Looks delicious! I’m so happy that you found Colorado gold and so much prettiness on your birthday weekend! The best gift ever! Happy Happy again to you!

  13. Andrew says:

    The fact that our autumn consists of palm trees swaying in the wind is one of the few things I don’t like about Southern California… These pictures leave me breathless

  14. Bev says:

    You totally made my day when I saw you tenderizing the steak with the back of a heavy knife–I’ve tried several ways to get the ‘butcher shop’ tenderized effect and now, thanks to you, Jen, I can do it! I’d heard about chicken fried steak and always wondered: “is that chicken or is that beef?” Thanks for clearing it up. Sorry, I have one downer: does anyone still use bacon fat for frying? Ewwww, there are much kinder to the heart kinds of fats out there to choose from. Anyway, love your cookin’–keep it comin’. I’m in the Canadian Rockies and love hearing how your autumn colours are going–pretty much like here except some rain might spoil our party.

  15. Bryan says:

    I am so pleased to have discovered your blog. Thank you for being out there and taking the time to put this together.

    I recently moved to Longmont, CO from Austin, TX and that’s the same way my family has been making chicken fried steak for generations. An interesting variation is to use a ribeye that has been sliced to the same approximate thickness as the tenderized steak, no tenderizing required. We also use the same technique for fried chicken with a few minor differences; we skin the bird, salt it, soak it in the buttermilk overnight, and then use the same buttermilk to produce the egg wash. The rest is about the same. Peanut oil will make for a crispier breading.

    In a nod to Bev, we sometimes buy slab bacon and chicken fry it in bacon fat. It’s decadent and dangerous.

    Thanks for the gorgeous photos. I’m heading to Aspen next week to take some of my own.

  16. Margie says:

    The photo of the license plates threw me over the edge. I am beyond homesick. Send me some of that steak, maybe I can nurse my sickness while I munch.


  17. Mrs Ergül says:

    A rare fried food that I have not tried before! Looks yummy and spot on on the cardio workout!

  18. Rachel says:

    Finally! A wonderfully elegant version of chicken fried steak! Can’t wait to try it this weekend. After a long a*s trail run.

  19. hungryandfrozen says:

    I haven’t read your blog in ages, but it’s as beautiful as ever – can’t get over how gorgeous that rainbow is in the photo.

    You make this recipe sound so simple and straightforward that it’s all I can do to go ahead with my actual dinner plans and not run out to the shop and buy some enormous steak and make it, cream gravy and all.

  20. Mari says:

    Jen, beautiful post (as always.) I love when you take us on your travels.

    And you did Chicken Fried Steak proud! Excellent tutorial ~ that is just the way my mom taught me to cook it, but your step-by-step photos put the technique right over the top. Perfection!

  21. tracy@chinesefood says:

    I am drooling over your post.
    Extraordinary pictures!

  22. vanillasugarblog says:

    i had this once for breakfast; served with hash browns and eggs. if you can believe it.
    basically i was in a food coma for the rest of the day–worth it, totally worth it.
    that glimpse of the rainbow in the water is just stunning.

  23. Mike says:

    My waist line hates you :)

  24. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand says:

    Deep down, I know the world looks beautiful in your pictures because you are a skilled and talented photographer. But there’s part of me that thinks the planet just puts her best foot forward, knowing you’re there.

  25. jenyu says:

    Linda – thanks for the tip (I think)! ;)

    Magda – they are pretty spectacular in person. I think it’s why I love my job so much! hee hee

    Perfecting Pru – oh, I hope you’re better now. It’s steak that is “chicken fried” i.e. fried the same way they fry chicken (hence chicken fried). Does that help?

    Rachael @ Tokyo Terrace – ah yes. I don’t even drink coffee and I love that place (they have GREAT pastries!)

    Laura – totally love the Butte!

    Lisa – thanks for the recipe, hon :)

    Manisha – xxoo

    Andrew – perhaps a visit to Colorado is in order??

    Bev – I don’t use it often, but when I have in the past the flavor is really something else.

    Bryan – welcome to Colorado and thank you for the family chicken fried steak (and fried chicken) tips! Mmmmm! Have a great time in Aspen! It was gorgeous last weekend.

    hungryandfrozen – great to have you back! Yes, it’s dangerously simple to make (and even more dangerously simple to eat!)

    Mari – thank you :)

    vanillasugarblog – I think this would sustain me for a day or two ;)

    Tamar – you are just too kind, my friend. A lot of it is being willing to watch and wait for the great moments! xxoo

  26. April was in CT now CA says:

    I just fainted. (yep, it’s hard to type during a fainting spell) That chicken fried steak looks scrumptious.

    Thank you for sharing pieces of Colorado with us, it’s stunning!!

  27. Spotted Dog Farm says:

    As a recently off the wagon vegetarian I’m totally going to try this. Clark already thanks you.

  28. Bridget says:

    I’ve only made chicken fried steak once, in college. At the time, I thought buttermilk was just that powder – the stuff that you mix with water to make something that is actually buttermilk-like. So obviously the steak was a total flop. Clearly it’s time to try again.

  29. Country Captain Chicken Recipe — Andrea Meyers says:

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  30. Veronica says:

    You are amazing! Thanks for sharing!! You have the best blog hands down!

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  33. Naoko says:

    I made this for dinner tonight and turned out great! I lived in Houston for a few years when I was younger (I now live in Ireland) and miss food like this. Thank you so much for sharing a great recipe.

  34. Lori says:

    The views are spectacular! And the food looks out-of-this-world so good. I can hardly wait to make this; I plan on doing so tomorrow night for dinner.

  35. Evelyn says:

    This looks really yummy. If you know someone in the meat dept, they will sometimes run it thru their tenderizer once or twice…I use cube steaks if I can’t get them to tenderize the steak the sirloin steak.
    I haven’t tried it using the buttermilk, but will not, thank you.

  36. Julie Dechaineux says:

    Why is this called “Chicken fried steak”?

  37. Julie Dechaineux says:

    Why is this called “Chicken fried steak”? It’s beef!

  38. Alyce says:

    I’ve used the saucer and flour method of tenderizing a piece of meat all my life. I’m 87 so I know it really works fine.

  39. Vivian Brown says:

    thanks for this recipe. I’ve been trying for a long time to get this recipe to improve my attempts to cook these steaks correctly and now I know where I’ve failed. Using Buttermilk and also using Corn Starch in my ingredients. My husband and Son will love this better now. The gravy was the worst of my problems. You’ve improved my cooking!

  40. jenyu says:

    Vivian – That’s great to hear :) xo

  41. Christy says:

    I just wanted to say your recipe is a good one I had the good fortune of growing up on it But I did want to tell you that you should get your butcher to tenderize it much easier ? also here is a great white gravy recipe so easy that way when you want the gravy for other things and you don’t have drippings 1/4c flour 1/4c oil 2c milk and just do it like you do regular gravy and just add cold water if it’s too thick it’s great if you want biscuits and gravy real quick you show good pictures

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