Chi-Fri (chī – frī)

There’s really only one thing a good Texas boy can do after committing a sin, like adding beans to chili.  Seek redemption!  This is a Texas classic:  chicken fried steak and gravy with mashed potatoes, turnip greens and Texas toast.  As you might recall, I used Shiner Bock beer in that chili and although this recipe doesn’t call for beer, Shiner Bock is the common thread that ties these two posts together.

Any decent diner or restaurant in Texas will serve up a good chicken fried steak.  One such restaurant, in Shiner, Texas, was noteworthy.  My family and I had just finished taking a guided tour through the Spoetzl brewery, where they make Shiner Bock, and we stopped off at local restaurant for lunch.  Any time we go back to Texas to visit we look for good smoked beef brisket and chicken fried steak.  As it happened, the restaurant served chicken fried steak.  My wife opted for what the menu referred to as the “ladies portion”.  It was half the cost of the “regular” chicken fried steak.  The server came out with a 14 inch oval platter with mashed potatoes and green beans and a monstrous portion of chicken fried steak that was so large that it hung over the sides of the platter.  We all had a good laugh.  I asked the waitress what the regular chicken fried steak looked like and she pointed to one that was being made for someone else.  It was twice the size of the ladies portion.  Insane!  But that’s Texas for you.  We all shared the chicken fried steak, since the portion was large enough to feed a small army.  It was superb…one of the best I’ve ever had. 

Chicken Fried Steak

I have to say, the chi-fri I made this time around was really good.  The cubed steak was tender and the breading had a good crunch and it clung to steak like a champion!  I’ve included some photos, along with some recipes, but I have to admit that I stopped snapping pictures along the way.  Sometimes it’s best to cherish the simple, beautiful moments in life.

Ingredients:

2 lbs cubed beef steaks (1/4” thick):

This can be 4 steaks at ½ lb each or 8 steaks at ¼ lb each

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 egg

1 Tbs Tabasco sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups cooking oil

For the gravy:

1/4 cup flour

4 cups milk

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Set up a 3-stage dredging station:  steak, flour and buttermilk.

Place the cubed steaks on a plate.

For the dry dredge, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, and salt.  Place the mixture in a large, shallow bowl.

For the wet dip, add buttermilk, egg, Tabasco sauce, and garlic to a large shallow bowl.  Stir to mix.

Dredge each steak in the flour and pat the steaks, to make sure they are completely covered.  Shake off excess flour and dip the steaks in the buttermilk mixture and transfer back to the flour for another coating.  Shake off excess flour.

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet to medium/hot (325°).  Gently lay the steaks in the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Do not crowd the skillet.  Place the finished steaks on a plate lined with paper towels to drain.  

Once all of the steaks are done, drain the oil from the skillet, reserving 1/4 cup of the oil and some of the crunchy bits.

Gravy

Return the skillet to stove at medium/low heat and add the reserved oil. Whisk the ¼ cup flour into the oil.  Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula to break the solids and mix into the gravy.  Stir in the milk and raise the heat to medium.  Whisk the gravy while it simmers and thickens.  This should take about 5 minutes.  Season the gravy with a little salt and pepper.   Pour the finished gravy into a serving bowl and yes, you may lick the spoon!

Turnip Greens

Turnip greens are simply the leafy green tops and stems of turnips.  They are extremely rich in vitamins and minerals.  Giving them a quick sauté will remove much of their bitterness.  Once cooked, they are similar to cooked spinach in texture and taste.  Many people add salt to greens but it’s really not necessary since they are high in sodium.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs olive oil

½ cup onion, julienne cut

4 garlic cloves, smashed

1 cup chicken stock (I used ½ cup ham stock and ½ cup water)

1 Tbs sugar

½ tsp Cajun seasoning

2 slices of thin cut bacon

1 bunch of turnip greens

Directions:

Soak the turnip greens in lots of cold water.  Swish the greens around to remove any sand or dirt.  Rinse the greens and set aside.

Fry the bacon just long enough to produce a little bacon fat.  Don’t overcook the bacon.  Remove the bacon and set aside to cool.  Leave the bacon fat in the pan.

Add the olive oil, onions and garlic to the pan and sauté over medium heat, in a large skillet.  Sauté until the onions are soft.

Chop the bacon into small pieces and add to the skillet

Add the chicken stock, sugar and Cajun seasoning.  Stir for minute to dissolve the sugar.

Rough-chop the greens and add them to the hot skillet.

Stir and cook for a minute or two.  The greens will wilt quickly.   Turn the greens out to a serving bowl.

Serve with hot pepper sauce (green Tabasco peppers in vinegar)

Texas Toast

Texas toast means thick, sliced white bread.  Yes, white bread; none of that healthy whole-grain stuff!  If you want the real Texas chicken fried steak experience you have to do it right!  If you’re particularly health-conscious, eat a bunch of salads and fruit during the week after your Chi Fri and you’ll be OK.

Ingredients:

10 slices of thick-cut white bread

1/2 cup butter, melted

Garlic salt, about 2 Tbs

Directions:

Melt the butter in the microwave for about 20 seconds.  Butter melts very quickly in a microwave so be careful! 

Lay the slices of bread on a work surface, such as a cutting board.

Liberally brush the melted butter on both sides of the bread.  Sprinkle garlic salt on one side of each slice.

Grill the bread in a hot skillet.  After about one minute, rotate the bread in the skillet to brown the bread evenly.  Turn the bread over and grill the other side.  Remove and serve warm.

All-Day-Long Texas Chili (with sincere apologies to my fellow Texans)

I know that if I go to heaven I’ll have to answer for my sins.  I’m just hoping that the good Lord will forgive me for occasionally putting beans in my chili. 

I hope that adding this excellent Texas beer to the mix will tip the scale in my favor. 

But, if I’m not accepted in heaven, I’m sure I’ll fit in just fine with the fiery fiends of hell.  I’ve spent years and years eating spicy chiles and I’m confident that I can take the heat!

It seems like every time I make chili I make it a little bit differently than the last time I made it.  If you know me, that’s to be expected.  I rarely replicate a recipe.  I like the unexpected twists and turns of the path, unexplored.  This time around, I added some dark chocolate and cinnamon.  I’ve added cocoa powder in past recipes but I wasn’t impressed.  This time I used an actual piece of good dark chocolate and the result was amazing!  The flavor was deep and rich and not too spicy.  I have to confess, the beans added a heartwarming earthiness to the overall dish.  This ranks near the top of my chili making experiences.

Chili doesn’t take very long to prepare, unless you plan on adding uncooked beans to it.  I soaked kidney beans and simmered them in a large pot for 4 or 5 hours, until they were fully cooked and soft.  Once the beans were cooked the rest of the process only took about one hour.

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked kidney beans

6 or 7 guajillo chiles

2 Tbs sugar

½ cup water (water from the steamed chiles works)

1 oz dark chocolate bar

2 or 3 cinnamon sticks

2 lbs ground beef

15 oz stewed tomatoes

8 oz tomato paste (1 and ½ cans)

8 oz tomato sauce

2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 Tbs dried oregano

1 ½ Tbs cumin powder

1 ½ Tbs garlic powder

¼ cup cilantro

2 cups water

1 beer (12 oz)

¼ cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Saltine crackers

Directions:

Steam the chiles.  Remove the stems from the chilies and slice them open.  Remove the pith and seeds. Steam the chilies in a little water in a large, covered skillet for 20 to 30 minutes.

Drain the chilies and add them to the blender with a little water.  Pulse until the chilies form a sauce.

Add the chili sauce to a large skillet and simmer at low heat.  Add the sugar and allow the sauce to reduce by one half. 

Grate the chocolate and add it to the sauce. Stir the sauce as the chocolate melts.

Add the cinnamon sticks to the sauce and continue simmering.  Simmer the sauce until it reduces by one third. 

Remove the cinnamon sticks and reserve the thickened sauce in a bowl.

Brown the beef in a skillet.  Keep warm.

In a large pot, add the stewed tomatoes. 

Break the tomatoes into bite sized chunks with a spatula and add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Simmer for a few minutes, while stirring.

Add the onion and jalapeño. Simmer for another 10 minutes and the add the oregano, cumin powder and garlic powder. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cilantro.

Add the browned beef and cooked beans.

Add 2 cups of water and the beer.  Simmer and stir occasionally for 45 minutes at low heat.

Serve in bowls, topped with shredded cheese and saltine crackers, on the side.