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no complaints

Recipe: morel-stuffed chicken fried steak

I have entered summer mode even though the atmosphere was several steps behind me for the last few weeks. School is out. People are on vacation. No one answers emails (apparently) and I’m letting the blog cool her heels with a reduced posting schedule of twice a month. I encourage you to get off the computer and mobile devices and engage with a carbon-based world.

Can you believe it kept snowing until last week? Snow in May happens all the time in the mountains, but a winter storm warning for the entire state in late May had all the skiers skiing and all the fair-weather folk losing their goddamned minds. That is springtime in the Rockies. We don’t fight the weather in the mountains, we live with it and enjoy it as much as we can. Some don’t have a choice like the moose who are looking for forage or the hummingbirds who arrived and can’t find flowers.

instead of hiking, we were still skiing

a young moose passing through and making the most of our wild currant bushes

aspens waiting to bud as soon as it warms up

These past few days have actually been springlike, just in time for true summer. The prolonged cold gave us a grace period to transition into summer living – installing a new screen door, tidying the garden in Crested Butte, swapping winter and summer tires, more spring cleaning (we should just agree to call it eternal cleaning, because that’s what it is). Windows are open and fresh mountain air circulates the house. Yuki and Neva receive scoldings from local hummingbirds for standing too close to their feeder. And despite being three weeks late, the flowers are coming and so are the mushrooms.

glacier lily

yuki and neva enjoy the last day of flannel sheets

i have been waiting for this (fun) guy to make an entrance

If there is one thing I eagerly await in spring, it is the arrival of our mountain morels. You must understand my anticipation is not solely stoked by the prospect of finding black morels. It is the whole experience of walking ground that hasn’t been uncovered since last October and witnessing the green blades and buds emerge, hearing birds converse through the leafless forest, smelling the earthy odor as mats of dead leaves drenched in snow melt warm under a high sun. Life. Death. And all of the rest. All at ground level and intimately so, because that’s what morels demand. Think like a morel.

I try to strike a balance between consuming the fresh morels now versus processing them and freezing for later. Jeremy’s favorite morel preparation is basically sautéed morels with steak. It’s easy, delicious, and involves a hunk of meat with good wine. I turned that concept on its ear and came up with something a little less easy, but just as delicious. How does morel-stuffed chicken fried steak sound? It’s like regular chicken fried steak but with a surprise! I break it down into three steps. First, we cook the morels.

morels, bourbon, shallots, butter, salt

chop the morels

minced shallots, diced morels

sauté the shallots in butter, then add the morels

pour the bourbon in when the morel liquid has simmered away

Set the filling aside or if you are making this in advance, you can refrigerate the filling for a couple of days. Same goes for the next part – the cream gravy. If you make it ahead, just reheat it gently over a low flame, stirring, and keep it warm until ready to serve. Start making a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan, stirring in the flour, and stirring the paste over medium-high heat until it turns a rich amber color. Stir the milk in a little at a time. If you add it all at once, you will have big blobs of roux floating in the milk. What we want to achieve is a smooth gravy, so adding a little milk at a time allows you to whisk it into the roux, slowly thinning the thick paste into a uniform liquid. When the milk has been fully incorporated, keep whisking over medium heat until it thickens into a proper gravy.

whole milk, butter, black pepper, salt, flour

whisk milk into the roux a little at a time

when gravy thickens, season with salt and pepper

cream gravy

The last step is a cross between making chicken fried steak and hand pies. Everything about making the chicken fried steak is the same except for that extra step of filling it with morels. I like to have my seasoned flour and egg-buttermilk mixture ready for dredging and dipping before I stuff the steaks.

top sirloin steaks, flour, eggs, black pepper, morel filling, salt, cayenne pepper, buttermilk

mix the flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne together

stir the buttermilk into the beaten eggs

pound the steaks until they are doubled in size

At this point, it’s a good time to heat an inch of vegetable oil in a skillet or frying pan over medium heat. While that’s happening, start stuffing the steaks. Treat the flattened steak like pastry dough with the understanding that meat doesn’t bind together quite the way pastry dough does. I fold the steak over the filling the way you would a hand pie or a calzone, but instead of pinching the edges together, I gently pound the edges together using the meat tenderizer. It works, but you must handle the stuffed steaks carefully when dredging so they don’t accidentally bust open (because that would be a pain and a mess).

place a quarter of the filling on one side with some margin

fold the steak over to cover the filling

gently pound the edges together

carefully dredge in flour then dip in egg

dredge in flour once again

fry until deep golden

This dish is best served hot with a warm ladle of cream gravy on top. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but morel-stuffed chicken fried steak is freaking delicious. It’s a mushroom-lover’s version of chicken fried steak that can be fancied up (justification: the morels) or dressed down (it’s chicken fried steak). Great with a mimosa or a cup of coffee. Your call.

a part of this deliriously amazing breakfast

morels on top just in case you needed more morels

the surprise inside

Morel-Stuffed Chicken Fried Steak
[print recipe]

morel filling
1 tbsp butter
2 medium shallots, minced
1 lb. fresh morel mushrooms, sliced or 1/2-inch dice
1 tbsp bourbon
salt to taste

cream gravy
2 tbsps butter
2 tbsps all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste

chicken fried steak
1 1/2 lbs. sirloin or top sirloin steak, in four pieces
2 cups flour
2 tsps kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
oil for frying

Make the filling: Melt the butter in a sauté pan or frying pan over medium-high heat until bubbling. Sauté the shallots in the butter until translucent, then add the morels and cook. Allow the liquid from the mushrooms to release and evaporate before adding the bourbon. Season with salt to taste. Set aside to cool.

Make the cream gravy: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter begins to bubble and foam, whisk the flour into the butter and continue whisking until the roux turns a deep amber color. Whisk the milk into the hot roux a half cup at a time, incorporating it fully into the mixture. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring with the whisk until the gravy thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and remove from heat (you can reheat it before serving).

Make the chicken fried steak: Flatten each piece of steak with a meat tenderizer until it has doubled in area. Place a quarter of the morel filling in the center of one half of a tenderized steak and fold the other half over as if making a hand pie or a calzone. Lightly pound the overlapping edges of the folded steak to “seal” the filling. Repeat for the rest of the steaks.

Heat an inch of vegetable oil in a skillet or frying pan over medium heat to 350°F. In a shallow bowl, whisk the flour, salt, black pepper, and cayenne together. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs together, then whisk in the buttermilk.

When the oil is ready, carefully (try not to let the steak open up and spill its filling) dredge a filled steak in the flour mixture, then dip it in the egg mixture, then dredge it in the flour mixture again. Set the steak in the hot oil and let it fry. Meanwhile, repeat for the remaining steaks (or you can coat them all at once and fry all at once – it’s up to you). After a few minutes the juices from the steaks will accumulate on the top of each piece. Turn the steaks over and fry until golden, about 4-5 more minutes. Remove from oil to a paper towel-lined cooling rack to drain. Serve with cream gravy. Makes 4 steaks.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

gnocchi with morels and sage sautéed morels and scrambled eggs seared duck breast with morels and asparagus morel bourbon cream sauce

11 nibbles at “no complaints”

  1. Melissa says:

    Kind of dying at what you just did to traditional CFS. Brilliant.

    Also, it should be called eternal cleaning. One of my least favorite things in life, though I try to give myself a perspective check and a reminder to be grateful that I have a beautiful house to clean.

    Also, also, big yes to the remarks about spring. Steve and I often hike/camp at that property (yeah, that one, the whole timber company property) in spring and it’s my favorite season, in a way. I will never get over the smells and sounds and sights when we – earlier than anyone else out there, typically – go in there every March/April and see everything coming back to life. Love.

  2. Kristin says:

    That looks delicious!! And your aspens…that looks like a painting. I probably have loved every aspen shot you’ve shared, but this is really stunning. We’re heading west for some camping later this summer, and I am hoping we get to see some moose while we are hiking.

  3. Jill Hyde says:

    Like I said previously, TPH would go gaga for this CFS. I bet that pounding took a long time! Love this time of year, except for the hail storms. xoxojill

  4. Carole says:

    (Fun) guy. I like how you couldn’t resist.

    The twice a month schedule makes having your blog show up in my email even more of a treat.

    I’ll be in Denver in a few weeks. Do you have any favorite restaurants there that I should check out?

  5. Mary Karen Euler says:

    OK…I’m drooling all over the keyboard. In a good way. Truly. What a de-licious looking CFS!!!

  6. hungry dog says:

    Oh my goodness, looks amazing! I do love morels.

    Enjoy your summer, Jen! I agree, we should all get outside and away from our devices as much as work/life allows. My husband and I are moving to San Diego this week and are excited to get more outdoor time than we’ve had living in Hollywood this past year.

    Have fun and I’ll look forward to your posts whenever they pop up.


  7. Charlie says:

    Hi Jen:
    This looks so good! I will have to do it with other mushrooms though as I can’t get morels here.

    I know it is called chicken “fried” steak, but could it be done in the air-fryer for a healthier version?

    Would you have any idea how long it would have to cook?

  8. jenyu says:

    Melissa – Thanks, Mel! I think eternal cleaning is probably similar to what I consider “adulting” ;) I just know (and have witnessed the results of) far too many people who accumulate tons of crap they don’t need who never throw things out and my mind explodes just wondering how they are still alive in this world. Yeah, spring is pretty amazing. We were just talking about it on our short hike with the pups this morning – nearly everything here in winter goes dormant and it’s invigorating to watch it slowly, but boldly, make its way back every spring. Incredible. xo

    Kristin – Thank you! I spend a lot of time in aspen stands (beautiful ones), so I get plenty of opportunities to admire their beauty. Good luck spotting moose! Just keep a safe distance :)

    Jill – TPH and Dr. Darling, both!

    Carole – So sweet of you, thanks! There are loads of great restaurants in Denver, although I’m no expert since I don’t dine out there much. It also depends on your price range and type of cuisine you seek. Feel free to send an email if you are still looking for recs.

    MK – :)

    hungry dog – As do I! I think they are among my favorite mushrooms to eat. Wow, good luck with the move. I think moving might be at the top of my list of things I hate to do (it’s worse than a root canal, in my opinion).

    Charlie – I don’t have any experience with air fryers, but I don’t see why you couldn’t try it? And since it’s beef, I think you could get away with cooking it until the outside batter is browned because medium rare probably won’t hurt anyone. Good luck and I hope it works!

  9. Kristin says:

    Oh, we definitely prefer our moose at a distance! Last time we camped in the Tetons, there was a moose path directly behind our campsite, and that was a bit unnerving, especially since we had our kids with us.

  10. Amber says:

    Hey Jen!

    I always get e-mails regarding new posts and I have to be honest, I often forget to take a minute and read (due to life rushing around me and requiring attention). However, I find that a positive note in this is that I can binge read in a moment of stillness or at work to de-stress. Thanks for the peace and chuckles.

    My question this time is, what is that covering on your comforter? Is it just to add warmth or is it for ease of cleansing (like a mattress cover) so the comforter doesn’t bunch up or take up room in the washer/dryer? I just realized how brilliant either one of those would be, especially for ease of cleanliness. I know this isn’t subject of the post but I would appreciate the knowledge lol.

    P.S. Husband-guy will love this recipe. Thank you!

  11. jenyu says:

    Amber – Ah! It’s a comforter cover! It’s mostly to protect the comforter. It slips on like a pillow case and we remove it to wash once a week. VERY handy, especially with dogs who like to lounge on the bed ;) We got it from IKEA. They have several designs to choose from! :)

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