Mom’s chicken fried cubed steak memories:
Since my mother grew up in a kosher home, this was a recipe she only made “once in a blue moon,” so to speak. When she made this recipe, it was a real treat. Her greatest joy in life was seeing her family happy. She was the most sacrificial woman I knew! My mother was the type of woman who would have literally died for her children. She loved us that much! True, we could feel a little smothered at times, but there was never any doubt that we were loved by her. Sometimes, we heard it loud and clear. And, she didn’t mince words letting us know the sacrifice involved, and the respect she deserved! She was a very funny woman, even when she was serious. People thought she was cute and funny. When Fran (Fran Drescher) the Nanny’s show came out in the 90’s (1993-1999), my friends I grew up with never let me live it down. They would say things like”did you know that’s how your mother sounds?” No kidding! My mother’s tone and accent, was just like Fran. Oh boy! As a kid I remember wondering if there was something wrong with my mother, because she talked so nasal. But when I learned a famous actress sounded like that, it made all the difference! (Well, sort of, anyway!) My mother was attractive, but not exactly like Fran who looked like a super model. And yes, at times, our home was like living in a sitcom. Whenever we were in a store for example, if I disappeared into a different aisle (heaven forbid), the entire store would soon know my name. “IIIIIrrrrriiiiisss!” Just imagine Fran, the Nanny yelling this, because that’s exactly how it sounded. Of course, I would look around, and say,”I don’t know any Iris.” Until my mother found me, and then I’d get dirty looks for being unkind to my mother. Oh brother! Although hard at the time, what I wouldn’t give to hear her yell, “IIIIIrrrrriiiiisss!” one more time in aisle 7. I do miss her.
In the area of food, I remember she would often make something special and fun like this steak recipe on a winter Sunday when we may have been housebound when, perhaps, traveling on the roads anywhere was difficult. Many times my father would make the suggestion. He’d say, “Charlotte, lets make something fun for the kids to eat.” Of course, he was included in that! After the special meal we had game time, which included games like Rock’em Sock’em Robots®, Battleship, or chess (my father and older brother Alan would play together). If it was a real snowy day, we would delve into Monopoly® or Risk. Whatever we did together, we had fun! My father was all about fun. My mother often wondered if he had had kids just so he could play with them. He was like a big kid himself, and I loved that about him! Even when times were tough, he always found ways to have fun whether with us, family members, friends etc. He found a way. I think my mother loved that about him too, since she grew up in such a serious family.
There were four of us kids in the family. Between my older sister and youngest brother, there was a 13-year difference with Alan and me in between. My youngest brother Lance was still a baby as I’m remembering this particular recipe. Often times, my mother or I would do something special with him, while Alan and Dad played chess. Or “Little Lancel” (as my Bubbie called him), was content to play in his playpen occupying himself with his toys and imagination. He was a jovial little guy! You could tell he was always thinking and planning the next activity, even as a baby. He looked just like a little version of my father–a little teeny Lenny, all squished up. He was cute!
Before game time, my mother and father would put together a dish like this. It was nice for us kids to see the two of them cooking together, since most of the time it was just my mother doing the cooking during the week while we were at school and my father was at work. That’s how it was back then–we had my mother home during the day tending to the house and the family. It brought us a sense of warmth and security to know she was waiting for us at home each day with snacks and then a good meal with the support and love we needed. Discipline was involved, too Oh gosh, we can’t forget that! We hated it as kids but are so thankful for it today! It taught us accountability, respect, and many other valuable tools to get us through life. My mother was so busy raising 4 children, helping a disabled sister and my grandmother, and caring for the home, that she had little time to put up with our shenanigans. She had a mantra, “Behave or die!” That was it. It taught us home values and a lot of discipline. We are strong individuals today, I’m convinced, because of her.
So, here is my mother’s recipe. I hope you enjoy it! It is a good winter weather comfort food and a fun meal. I come from a long line of good cooks. And, thank goodness I have learned to improvise with gluten-free ingredients!
4 beef cutlets (known as cubed steaks)
1 to 2 eggs
1/2 cup of regular milk or almond milk if you have a lactose intolerance
Cooking oil (I use extra virgin olive oil) about 3 – 4 tablespoons
Salt (I use a pinch or so, not much as I try to keep it low sodium)
Start by beating together the eggs and milk and pour it into a shallow pan for dipping. Set aside.
Mix together peppers (white and black) and salt; sprinkle on both sides of the cube steaks.
Pour the flour into another shallow pan. Coat each cubed steak with gluten-free flour; shake off the excess flour. Dip each cubed steak into eggs and milk and then into the flour mixture.
Note: Before dipping the steaks, I have the pan ready with the oil in it. I turn the heat on low for a few moments to prepare the temperature in the pan. (To check the temperature of the pan with the oil to see if it’s ready to cook the steaks, you can drop a drop of water in the oil. If it pops and spatters back at you, it’s ready to cook). As I finish dipping each cubed steak, I place it in the pan ready. You want to be sure to use a large pan cast iron or a heavy skillet is best. I use the organic green pans. They work well. Then turn the heat up to medium.
Note: The oil in the pan should be less than one-half inch deep to try keeping the fat content down!
Carefully place each cube steak in the pan with a fork (long handled is best). Caution: Protect yourself from popping grease as the steaks cook. Fry cube steaks on both sides (approximately 5 to 7 minutes on each side), turning only once until golden brown. Reduce heat to low and let it cook through another few minutes to finish cooking. I don’t recommend covering it, as this can make them too soggy. Then place them on a plate. I don’t place them on a paper towel because the towel tends to pull the cooked flour off the steak. And there isn’t enough oil to be concerned about draining the fat.
Gluten-free Cream Gravy:
So after the steaks are cooked and removed from the pan, pour off the pan drippings, reserving about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Keep any residue from steak droppings in the pan also, as this makes a nice gravy taste. Return the drippings to the pan and heat oil over medium heat until hot.
At that point, sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of gluten-free flour into the hot grease. Stir well and vigorously with a wooden spoon to make a roux (.).
Gradually stir in 1-1/2 cups of milk, stirring constantly with wooden spoon to prevent lumping. Bring to a boil. Stir until gravy reaches the desired thickness you like. Add salt and pepper to taste. After gravy thickens, keep warm on low till you are ready to serve over steaks. If the Gravy becomes too thick while cooking, you can always add more milk to reduce thickness. Or vice versa: if it’s too loose (which it shouldn’t be), you can add more flour. It’s not an exact science, you may have to play with it a little to get the thickness you desire.
I like to serve the cubed steaks with fresh steamed carrots and mashed potatos. For the mashed potatoes I use 2 tablespoons of both almond milk and butter in about 4 russet potatoes. Add just salt and pepper on the carrots to keep the fat lower.
While this was traditionally a southern dish (some fry the steaks in bacon grease; a no-no for high cholesterol), it worked in Boston and now in Seattle too! (: