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Recipe

Extra-Crunchy Chicken-Fried Steak with Cream Gravy

J. Kenji López-Alt

Servings: 4

Once you’ve perfected crispy fried chicken, it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump to Texas-style chicken-fried steak—that is, beef steak that’s fried in the style of fried chicken and served with a creamy, peppery white gravy. The key to great chicken-fried steak is starting with the right cut: you want an inexpensive cut with plenty of beefy flavor, but tenderness isn’t especially important since it will be plenty tender from the pounding and brining. My go-to cut for this is flap meat (also sold as sirloin tips), though bottom round or top sirloin will also work well if you can’t find it.

Ingredients

For the steak

  • 2 Tbs. paprika
  • 2 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb. flap meat (also sold as sirloin tips), cut into four 4-oz.steaks
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • Kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 cups vegetable shortening or peanut oil

For the cream gravy

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated on a Microplane (about 2 tsp.)
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  • Combine the paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and cayenne in a small bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork.
  • Place each steak on a cutting board and score at 1-inch intervals against the grain, cutting 1/4 inch deep into the meat; flip and repeat. One at a time, sandwich each steak between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat pounder or the bottom of a heavy skillet until approximately 1/4 inch thick.
  • Whisk the buttermilk, egg, 1 Tbs. salt, and 2 Tbs. of the spice mixture in a large bowl. Add the steaks and turn to coat. Transfer the contents of the bowl to a gallon-sized zipper-lock freezer bag and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to overnight, flipping the bag occasionally to redistribute the contents and coat the steak evenly.
  • When ready to fry the steaks, make the gravy: Heat the butter in a 10-inch heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over medium-high until foamy. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes (lower the heat if the butter starts to brown). Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed, about 1 minute. Add the milk in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Add the cream, whisking, and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Simmer, whisking, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and plenty of pepper. Keep warm while you fry the steaks.
  • Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, 2 tsp. salt, and the remaining spice mixture in a large bowl. Add 3 Tbs. of the marinade from the zipper-lock bag and work it into the flour with your fingertips. Remove the steaks from the bag, allowing the excess buttermilk to drip off, drop the steaks into the flour mixture, and toss and flip until thoroughly coated, pressing with your hand to get the flour to adhere in a thick layer. Shake the steaks over the bowl to remove excess flour, then transfer to a large plate.
  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 175°F. Heat the shortening or oil to 425°F in a wok or 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, about 6 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature, being careful not to let the fat get any hotter.
  • Carefully lower 2 steaks into the pan. Adjust the heat to maintain the temperature at 325°F for the duration of cooking. Fry the steaks without moving them for 2 minutes, then carefully agitate the steaks with a wire-mesh spider, being careful not to knock off any breading, and cook until the bottom is a deep golden brown, about 4 minutes. Carefully flip the steaks and continue to cook until the second side is golden brown, about 3 minutes longer.
  • Transfer the steaks to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain for 30 seconds, flipping them once, then transfer to a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet and transfer to the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining 2 steaks. Serve with the cream gravy.

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