Before it was known as Chicken Fried Steak, this Southern American comfort beef dish went by the name Country Fried Steak. Somewhere during the mid-20th century, people started calling it chicken fried steak because of the way it's prepared — dredged in flour and sizzled in hot oil, just like good old fried chook. Think an American version of veal Milanese. While it’s common in the States, it’s a bit hard to find in Singapore, with the exception of hipster Yankee diners like One Night Only and 28 Hong Kong Street.
Whatever it’s called, this scrumptious artery-clogging treat is usually made up of a cheap cut of steak, pounded to tenderise it, and then coated in flour, eggs and more seasoned flour. Traditionally, Americans use a round steak (the rear leg of the cow), pounded into submission till it’s called a “cube steak”, thanks to the cube-like indentations left by the process. But a modestly priced sirloin or beef tenderloin will do equally well (they’re easier to find in our local supermarkets too).
The oil it is fried in contributes to its gravy, along with milk and flour to yield a deliciously thick, creamy lube for the crunchy-succulent steak. We also added a chicken stock cube to imbue the gravy with more flavour. Serve it with a mound of mashed potatoes.
2 thin sirloin or beef tenderloin steaks, about 100g-120g each
6 tbsp cornstarch
2/3 cup buttermilk, divided into two portions
1 cup plain flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground black pepper
¾ tsp onion powder
¾ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ cayenne pepper
oil for frying
For the gravy:
2 tbsp plain flour
1 cup milk
¼ chicken stock cube
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Pat steaks dry with paper towels. Place one steak between two sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat pounder, rolling pin or a small skillet, pound it out to an even thickness of 1/8 to ¼-inch. Repeat with the second steak.
2. Prepare three wide, shallow dishes. Place the cornstarch in one dish. In another, whisk together egg and 1/3 cup buttermilk. In the last dish, whisk together flour, salt, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, baking powder, and cayenne pepper. Drizzle remaining 1/3 cup of buttermilk into the seasoned flour and rub with your fingertips to form coarse lumps.
3. Work with one steak at a time. Coat the steak well in cornstarch. Lift the steak, shake off excess cornstarch, then transfer to the egg mixture. Coat the steak well in egg mixture, lift it, letting the excess egg drain off, then transfer it to the seasoned buttermilk-flour mixture. Coat the steak well, pressing the seasoned flour all over to help it adhere to the meat. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining steak. Let steaks rest for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, add enough oil so it comes halfway up a skillet. Heat to 180°C or until the oil’s surface starts to shimmer slightly. To tell if the oil is hot enough for frying, throw in a small piece of the seasoned flour, it should bubble up immediately and rise to the surface.
5. Carefully lift one steak and gently slide into the oil. Cook, flipping occasionally, until golden brown and crisp on both sides, about 2 to 4 minutes in total. Transfer steak to a paper towel-lined tray. Repeat with the remaining steak.
6. To make the gravy, transfer 4 tablespoons of the hot oil used to fry the steaks to a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until the mixture turns light brown, about one minute.
7. Slowly whisk in the milk and whisk constantly so you get a smooth consistency. Add the chicken stock cube and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
8. Once the gravy has thickened, remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
9. To serve, place steak on a serving plate and drizzle with the gravy. Serve immediately with mashed potatoes or hash browns.