Chicken fried steak (similar to country fried steak) is an American breaded cutlet dish consisting of a piece of beefsteak (tenderized cube steak) coated with seasoned flour and pan-fried. It is sometimes associated with the Southern cuisine of the United States. Despite the name, the dish contains no chicken, but is so-named because the cooking method is similar to that of fried chicken.
Chicken fried steak resembles the Austrian dish Wiener Schnitzel and the Italian-South American dish Milanesa, which is a tenderized veal or pork cutlet, coated with flour, eggs, and bread crumbs, and then fried. It is also similar to the recipe for Scottish collops.
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The precise origins of the dish are unclear, but many sources attribute its development to German and Austrian immigrants to Texas in the 19th century, who brought recipes for Wiener Schnitzel from Europe to the USA. Lamesa, the seat of Dawson County on the Texas South Plains, claims to be the birthplace of chicken fried steak, and hosts an annual celebration accordingly.
The Virginia Housewife, published in 1838 by Mary Randolph, has a recipe for veal cutlets that is one of the earliest recipes for a food like chicken fried steak. The recipe for what we now know as chicken fried steak was included in many regional cookbooks by the late 19th century. The Oxford English Dictionary's earliest attestation of the term "chicken-fried steak" is from a restaurant advertisement in the 19 June 1914 edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper.
A 1943 American cookbook recipe for Wiener Schnitzel includes a white salt and pepper cream gravy.
Chicken fried steak is prepared by taking a thin cut of beefsteak and tenderizing it by pounding, cubing, or forking. It is then either immersed in egg batter and/or dredged in flour to which salt, pepper, and often other seasonings have been added (called breading). After this, the steak is fried in a skillet or, less commonly, deep-fried. Restaurants often call the deep fried version chicken fried and the pan fried type country fried. The frying medium has traditionally been butter, lard, or other shortening, but in recent years, health concerns have led most cooks to substitute the shortening with vegetable oil.
The cuts of steak used for chicken fried steak are usually the less expensive, less desirable ones, such as cube steak, chuck, round steak, and occasionally flank steak. The method may be used for chopped or ground beef, but it is not called chicken fried steak. Chicken fried steak is usually served for lunch or dinner topped with cream gravy and with mashed potatoes, vegetables, and biscuits or Texas toast served on the side. In the Midwest, it is also common to serve chicken fried steak for breakfast, along with toast and hash browns.
The steak can be served on a hamburger bun with cream gravy as a sandwich, cubed and stuffed in a baked potato with the gravy and cheese, or cut into strips and served in a basket with fries and cream gravy, which is then known as "steak fingers".
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A similar dish is sometimes known as "country fried steak" in other parts of the United States, where it is subject to some regional variations. On rare occasions there is a brown gravy, and occasionally the meat is either pan-fried with little oil, or simmered in the gravy. In some areas, "country steak" may refer to Salisbury steak, a chopped or minced beef patty in brown gravy.
There are also dishes similar to chicken fried steak that are made with other meats. One is "chicken-fried chicken" which has appeared on many menus, substituting a boneless chicken breast for the steak. Chicken fried chicken differs from the dish known as "fried chicken" because the meat is removed from the bones, and cooked in the fashion of chicken fried steak, and served with cream gravy.
Another dish similar to chicken fried steak is "chicken fried hamburger" which is made with a ground beef patty and served with cream gravy.
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