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What is Chicken Fried Steak? Is Brown Gravy a Travesty?

I remember seeing the Last Picture Show - the best quote was "chicken fry me a steak, and try to use meat this time."

To me, that says that the method of frying, like fried chicken, defines a CFS. Not the gravy.

But I don't really care that much, so I'm open to other opinions.

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  1. depending on where u are theres typically two kinds of gravy...

    white pepper gravy
    or
    brown onion gravy

    afaik its always supposed to be fried
    whether its chicken fried steak or chicken fried chicken...

    1. It's just the Texas version of Wienerschnitzel - with tenderized beef.

      http://www.texascooking.com/features/...
      "What goes with your CFS? Tradition says creamed potatoes and cream gravy."

      However the Mexican equivalent, milanesa, is normally served with fries

      6 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        Paulj, calling it Texas Schnitzel is the easiest way to describe CFS to Germans, but, as we know, es ist nicht zusammen total. Schnitzel is coated with egg and bread crumbs; CFS is coated with egg and flour. As you know, Wiener Schnitzel has NO Soss. Many people serve cream gravy with CFS, but my Norwegian mother made pan gravy (and just breaded the cutlet in flour without the egg before she fried it in her cast-iron skillet in melted Crisco) and served it with boiled potatoes. Norwegians (and north Germans too) eat lots of boiled potatoes and make fried potatoes out of all those left-over boiled ones.

        I live in Mexico and you're right about the Milanesa, but it is usually served without sauce/gravy. The cut my mother used was thicker than the Mexican Milanesa. They tend to cut all meat very thin here, even such cuts as rib eye that we would normally cut much thicker.

        1. re: RevImmigrant

          Recipes for schnitzel I've looked at all include egg and flour for the coating but many do not use breadcrumbs.

          1. re: huiray

            Looking at English or German speaking sites?
            Btw Paniermehl means breadcrumbs....:-)

          2. re: RevImmigrant

            Why is Milanesa always served with fries? Always may be an exaggeration, but Chicago Mexican restaurants always did that, even though they didn't serve fries with anything else. I haven't seen Milanesa on Seattle taqueria menus.

            1. re: RevImmigrant

              Rev - gotta be thin or it'll curl and break the breading. Interesting, once I had a Salvadoran version of Milanesa (in the US) that was served on a bed of fries drenched in lardy mushy refried beans in lieu of gravy. mmm.

          3. Nice link there, paulj. Describes and summarizes the CFS process.

            White gravy is paramount.
            There is no other in a 300 mile radius from Dallas.

            True aficionados go to places where they use cast iron skillets
            instead of deep fryer.
            Cooking one steak at a time
            then making the gravy, using pan crunchies.

            There are lots of cheap gravies
            But a true CFS'er
            Will find the establishment that does pan white cream gravy.

            8 Replies
            1. re: FoodFuser

              You are so right, this is the traditional way they did it from a chuckwagon.

              1. re: igorm

                Haven't seen the fryolator (or what ever it is called) hanging off the side of a chuckwagon - right next to the coffee grinder? :)

                1. re: FoodFuser

                  The best CFS I ever had was in San Angelo, Texas and was served with a smoky pan white cream gravy and crunchy well-cooked french fries ... Here's a great story I read about CFS in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

                  1. re: hawkeyeui93

                    Where? (We have a daughter down there now getting her gpa up so she can transfer.)

                    1. re: shanagain

                      Wish I could remember the name .... It was on Beauregard Avenue just out of downtown, but not quite to Zentner's Steak House [not Zentner's Daughter on Knickerbocker]. The other decent one that I can recall is Western Sky Restaurant on North Chadbourne, which I am confident is still there. If you know someone with a membership to Bentwood Country Club, the chef there used to make a really good CFS in the early-2000's. FYI: I found that the best Tex-Mex in San Angelo is Armenta's Cafe on South Oakes. It is not much to look at and parking is scarce, but the food is quite good.

                      1. re: hawkeyeui93

                        Thanks, I'm sick to death of the Cork & Pig (even though it's pretty darned good, it's just every.darned.visit).

                      2. re: shanagain

                        Shanagain: I finally remembered the name .... Harlow's [and it may no longer be there].

                  2. Cream gravy!

                    IMO brown gravy (with CFS) is generally served in restaurants which use a lot of premade products.

                    The dish is about the method of cooking the meat, but I have never seen it served without gravy.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: meatn3

                      If it's made from scratch, a milk based sauce using some of the frying fat makes a lot of sense. You fry the meat, keep it warm, and in the mean time make the sauce, without taking the time to cook a dark roux, and without a jar of dark homemade beef stock. Plus there's already the Southern tradition of making a milk based sausage gravy for biscuits (except, why not use red-eye gravy?)

                      I agree, if the restaurant serves brown gravy on the CFS, it probably is the same gravy that is used on their roast beef sandwich and meatloaf.

                      1. re: paulj

                        In the eastern US, you're more likely to see it billed as "country fried steak" and served with brown, rather than white, gravy. Then again, it isn't nearly as popular where I live as in Texas and other parts of the south and west..

                        The further a food is made from its place of origin, the more liberties people tend to take with it. I was raised near Boston, and what passes for New England clam chowder in other parts of the country barely resembles the dish I grew up with.

                    2. It HAS to be white gravy! Mashed potatoes or fries are interchangable.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: PotatoHouse

                        But can they put the gravy on the fries?

                        1. re: paulj

                          Oh, yes! As I remember, in west Texas CFS is usually served with fries, and one either pours gravy over the fries or genteely dips the fries in the gravy.

                          1. re: Plano Rose

                            What will they think of next, cheese curds?

                      2. My dear mother used to make the most delicious chicken fried steak! She took pieces of round steak and pounded the heck out of them. Then she would dredge them in flour and fry in some kind of fat. It seems like when I was really young she fried them in bacon grease but stopped doing that later on. Then she would add flour to the drippings and cook a bit then added whole milk to make the gravy to serve over the cfs and mashed potatoes. I would give anything to have some right now!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Rheta

                          Sausage cream gravy works too, as long as it's white. I 've never had brown gravy on CFS, and I don't want to.

                          1. re: Rheta

                            Absolutely Rheta! Chicken fried steak has to have a white gravy. Ours was always milk gravy, but cream is probably just as/more good ;-) My grandmother used to cook hers in bacon renderings in a big cast iron chicken skillet (same one that always had the buttermilk fried chicken done in it), and then made the milk gravy in the pan with all those yummilicious crumblies. Sometimes she put some of the bacon crumbles from the rendering in also. Mmmmmmmmmm And homemade smashed taters alongside. YUM

                            ...and, after reading some of the following posts about browning the flour for the roux ... I must admit with some chagrin that our "flour" for the roux was actually just leftover breading from the meat. Sift out the major chunkies and cook it up in the pan drippings. I'm suspecting this isn't the typical method ... but Gramma would've whacked me if I'd thrown it out and used "fresh" flour! LOL

                          2. When my mom makes chicken fried steak, she makes a brown gravy. Definitely not premade...so I think it's to each it's own. I personally would rather have packaged gravy on a real CFS than to have to choke down the frozen CFS from the grocery freezer. So gross lol.

                              1. re: cutipie721

                                Well, I can only speak for my own experience, which is based on a family from rural Missouri, where food, at least, tends to have a Southern influence...but chicken fried steak is served with mashed potatoes and a white cream gravy. Period. Brown gravy just sounds sooooo wrong. And sliced tomatoes on the side. My mom, who was NOT a terrific cook (and didn't like doing it), made the most amazing cream gravy. Give that woman a cast-iron skillet full of grease (almost any kind...bacon, chicken, pork), and she could make gravy that you would happily eat off of a two-by-four. Chicken fried steak was fried in bacon grease (we had a canister in our set that said "grease" and all the bacon fat got poured into it), and you made your gravy with what was left in the pan.

                                1. re: tonifi

                                  I'm from the North (California) and recently made a sausage gravy following a recipe on this site. There was so little fat rendered from the sausage that I added bacon fat and the gravy was great. I'm thinking that the bacon fat is the secret.

                                  A white milk gravy is so easy, I can see why a brown gravy would not be the 1st option. Why do the extra work?

                              2. I love me some CFS. I have not gotten around to making it yet, but I will dip and bread and dip and bread the pounded steak, and I will fry it and make sure there's enough drippin's in the pan, and then I will stir in the seasoned flour. And I will stir that flour until it gets good and tan, because the only white sauce I ever want is white sauce, and to me that ain't gravy. It doesn't have to be DARK brown, but I insist that my gravy and my potatoes should be different colors.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  But what liquid do you use? Milk to make cream gravy is what's traditional in Texas. Of course you have to cook the flour good, but if you then poor in beef bullion or stock, you ain't making traditional CFS gravy.

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    Is it possible that long residence in Pasadena
                                    has deflected your gravy from that found in Nashville?

                                    Each to their own as to browning of roux
                                    and eventual look of their gravy.

                                    OKC/Dallas when we stare at that perfect browned floured round
                                    we envision a ladled ribbon of cream gravy.
                                    Same ribbon as Cumberland.

                                    1. re: FoodFuser

                                      @agoodbite: I always use milk for the gravy. A water or stock-based gravy on either CFS or biscuits is a gross abomination. When Roscoe's, our neighborhood chicken & waffles joint, served me yeast rolls and see-through "gravy" instead of the biscuits and gravy I'd ordered, I knew we would never be friends again.

                                      @FoodFuser: Yes, the gravy in Nashville tends to be pale as the moon. I was pre-deflected from this by my Midwestern upbringing, wherein the taste (and appearance) of properly browned flour is deemed essential to any gravy worth eating. My brother, who has lived in Nashville since 1972, feels the same way about it, only more strongly - he refuses to order B&G when he eats out because he knows it's going to be that white stuff. I'll eat it if that's all there is.

                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                        There is always each Monger's best rule to the roux.

                                        White cream gravy is really just a comfort food
                                        as drapes down the middle of CFS perfectly fried.

                                        I hard brown the flour for the right poultry meals
                                        but for CFS, I love that white stripe.

                                        The bowl of mashed taters
                                        anointed so whitely
                                        have no color contrast
                                        yet offer smooth ecstacy.

                                        1. re: FoodFuser

                                          My "white" gravy is not deep brown, merely tawny. Pale as the HARVEST moon … only not so orange.

                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            Will, I believe we're both Illinoisians and I used to make my "white" gravy the same way. You've got to toast the flour a bit to make gravy. Nowadays (relatively speaking, I haven't made CFS in at least 3 years) I can make a white "white" gravy, though something about the process just doesn't sit right with me.

                                            1. re: JungMann

                                              The taste of cooked but unbrowned flour is what you want in a white sauce, as in creamed potatoes and peas (one of my oldtime favorite summer sides). But it does NOT say "gravy" to me nor, I suspect, to you. A very slightly bitter but toasty and savory component makes the difference. Toasting the flour in different fats - pork, chicken, butter, beef - modifies the flavor in very interesting ways. We have one venerable diner in the LA area that has won my heart partly by its practice of making different gravies to accompany the appropriate meat entrées, rather than having just one or two for everything.

                                  2. White country gravy for sure. Made with pan drippings, browned flour, milk, and plenty of black pepper. Nothing else goes with CFS.

                                    Old school CFS is fried in lard. But if you have to use shortening or oil, adding a few tablespoons of chicken fat is the ticket to best flavor. (That's the family's secret ingredient- don't tell 'em I told ya...)

                                    Now if brown onion gravy were offered, I might just have some on the mashed potatoes or fries. If I was in the mood. But never, ever on the steak!

                                    To me, without the white gravy it isn't chicken fried steak. I'd call it schnitzel and squeeze some lemon over it.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                      I see we are in agreement that good "white" gravy must be made with browned flour. That's what makes it gravy instead of bechamel …

                                    2. I ate chicken fried steak at least once a week from the time I got my first toof until I went away to college.

                                      Round steak, pounded with the back of a large butcher knife to tenderize it, then dredged in an egg and milk wash and floured.

                                      Gravy was flour browned in the pan drippings, then milk.

                                      Mashed potatoes on the side.

                                      It's my favorite comfort food, (though no one does it like my mom did). It's even listed as such on my profile page.

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: DoobieWah

                                        Doobs, then there is the contrversy of smothered in gravy, or dipped. I'm a dipped guy. I have not heard of the butcher knife method of tenderizing, but sounds great. Mom used the metal meat (edit) mallet/tenderizer for pounding, I still have it. Here's hers and now my way of doing it. Round steak of course, pounded first with the coarse side, and then with the smaller side. Flour mixed with salt and pepper is then pounded in, and if there isn't small bits of meat and flour flying around, it isn't pounded enough. I double dip with flour in the egg and milk, and fry quickly in hot oil, turning when the red juice appears, done shortly afterward. The gravy is just as you described it.

                                        1. re: James Cristinian

                                          My mom always used the edge of one of our cheap dimestore jadeite glass plates to tenderize and flour round steak. That's the glassware that's now priced like fine china in the antique malls! But it's what she had, and it worked.

                                          1. re: James Cristinian

                                            So is that considered a white or a brown gravy?

                                            I mean, it wasn't a smooth brown "sauce" like I think the term "brown gravy" is being used here, but it certainly wasn't "white", either. It WAS milk based however.

                                            I've had lots of chicken fried steaks with "white" gravy, but I assure you that gravy was served over deep fried cfs, and not pan fried like my mama's.

                                            I would say mama's was white gravy based on the ingredients, but not necessarily the color. What do you think?

                                            1. re: DoobieWah

                                              Yes, it is made exactly like a white gravy, the pan fried one I make, but it is not white in color. Must be all the little burnt pieces of goodness that are leftover and mixed in. To be honest, the wife usually make it, when we have it, which isn't often anymore. I have difficulty finding a cut of meat I like. Most of the top and bottom round steak I see has too much fat, or is cut way too thin. I had a butcher tell me they just don't sell regular round steak like they did in the past, what they do with it, I don't know. What do use use?

                                              1. re: James Cristinian

                                                Hope this isn't a misfire, but: it's NOT made exactly like a white or milk gravy. Roux and stock constitute brown gravy. Finishing it w/ cream or topmilk does not a milk gravy make; it makes a brown gravy finished with cream or topmilk. :P
                                                My butcher sells a round roast, top round. It's tubular and resembles a tenderloin. I like to have him cut off 1" pieces and then I come home and pound HELL out of them with a toothy mallet. They end up the size of a dinner plate. Gee, I wonder why this is my go-to meal for making up after a hassle w/ Mr.?

                                                1. re: mamachef

                                                  Did anyone mention fishing a roux/stock gravy with milk or cream? I may've missed it, but it seems that James and Doobie are discussing good old "white" or "cream" gravy, which is just roux from flour and drippings plus milk.

                                                  1. re: shanagain

                                                    Not to argue with mamachef above, I've read her and know she is a far better cook than I am, but what I make and you describe is what we call a cream gravy, made with pan drippings, flour, and milk. It does take on a brown color while cooking, just like Homesick Texan describes.

                                                    http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/200...

                                            2. re: James Cristinian

                                              Come to think of it, my mom also pounded in the flour. Forgot about that step!

                                              1. re: Rheta

                                                Yes, and as I mentioned above, if there isn't small pieces of meat and flour flying around, more pounding is needed.

                                          2. White gravy is definitely the classic accompaniment to CFS, and if it's good, richly-flavored, browned-roux (not too browned) gravy, I can get behind it. I love regionalism, and classicism, but then.....there's personal taste. And I prefer a very creamy brown gravy, which problem I solve by going half-and-half, making a stock-based gravy finished w/ a decent amount of cream or topmilk for richness and creamy contrast.

                                            1. I guess it's a schnitzel with beef, or what they call a "milanesa" in Argentina (escalopa in other parts of S America). In fact when teaching English, I say that "escalopa" in American English is "chicken fried steak". I don't know what they'd call it in other English speaking countries.

                                              31 Replies
                                              1. re: Wawsanham

                                                I'm remembering the item we knew as Mystery Meat that was served about once a week in the chow hall where I ate on Elmendorf AFB in the '60s. It was a sort of prefab combination of CFS and Salisbury steak: chopped and re-formed patty with an industrial-grade breading, dropped frozen onto the flat grill and fried. The breading was technically edible, the meat rather better. A good dollop of the equally-fake gravy (brown and opaque) helped a lot. The official name? I do not remember. If you do, please share. Thank you.

                                                1. re: Will Owen

                                                  That sounds like a "poor-relation" of chicken fried steak--which really shouldn't be a patty. It sounds like a breaded salisbury steak.

                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                    Breaded Veal Cutlets? I do regret to say that I once saw a Sysco Box delivered to a restaurant that was labeled "Breaded Meat Patties." Maybe that's it. It is truly a mystery, though.

                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                      At youthful apogee of calorie ingestment (age 19)
                                                      In a household prevailed from all foods from the freezer
                                                      I discovered the relative Beauty of Breaded Veal Patties.

                                                      For retail consumption, they came in a box of four.
                                                      Oven baked, with broiled cheese and Duke's mayonnaise
                                                      This young calorie buck was deep deep in heaven.

                                                      It has been a good road
                                                      with each step that was trode

                                                      To arrive at a place where you know CFS,
                                                      and also it's gravy.

                                                        1. re: FoodFuser

                                                          "For retail consumption, they came in a box of four." For military consumption, they came in cases of several hundred. At least they were cooked individually, unlike so many things that got dumped by the gallon into those giant steam kettles.

                                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                                            I seek the absolvence of young-buck adolescence
                                                            with huge calorie requirements.

                                                            16 ounce box, as I remember,
                                                            made not for kettle, but broiler.
                                                            May I posit, "twas Swanson's,
                                                            since it came in a blue box?

                                                            I gotta admit
                                                            that we all really loved it.

                                                            Later I combed for the real CFS.

                                                    2. re: Wawsanham

                                                      " I don't know what they'd call it in other English speaking countries."
                                                      -------
                                                      Pan-fried steak.
                                                      Country fried steak.
                                                      ...and that's just for the U.S. of A., let alone other English-speaking countries.
                                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_...

                                                      You're welcome.

                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiener_S...
                                                        The Schnitzel article has a long list of national variations on the thin, breaded and fried piece of meat. While veal is the prototypical Viennese meat, beef, pork, chicken, and turkey are widely used in other parts of the world. The USA may be unique in giving special status to the beef version.

                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          Indeed.

                                                          Especially since veal is "young beef", the number of iterations and other names expands to include simple Wiener Schnitzel in other English-speaking countries - Canada, Australia, etc. - although schnitzel wouldn't usually be served with that kind of white or off-white sauce that folks here strongly associate with CFS. Nor would Scottish collops. (e.g. http://www.rampantscotland.com/recipe... ) OTOH, even the "escalopa" and "milanesa" that the poster refers to (and translates for his/her students as CFS) [See, for example, http://www.weareneverfull.com/beef-mi... ] do not have the sauce that CFS is associated with *in Texas* and really the issue concerns a way of preparing the meat, which IS analogous to or very similar to "scallopine", "escalope", "wienerschnitzel", "collop", etc.

                                                          Still, in response to Wawsanham's post, there are other names for the fried beef item called "Chicken fried steak", even within the USA.

                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                            Hey, guys, keep it simple.

                                                            The CFS down here in the Southern Plains
                                                            is the place where the moniker came from.

                                                            Check your maps for that stripe of I-35
                                                            that ties OKC south down to Dallas.

                                                            We know our taxonomy
                                                            of this pan fried variety
                                                            and we just keep things simple
                                                            as "Chicken Fried Steak".

                                                            1. re: FoodFuser

                                                              Yet because of the range of options perhaps Wawsanham might consider if he/she wishes to continue translating "escalopa" and "milanesa" for his/her students as CFS.

                                                            2. re: huiray

                                                              surely there must be a German name for this Texas style schnitzel. Rahmschnitzel (cream schnitzel) doesn't quite fit because most recipes include mushrooms. Or just
                                                              Weiß Schnitzel?

                                                                1. re: RUK

                                                                  I only get a crude sense of the debate from Google translator, but it appears that the 'no gravy on Wiener Schnitzel' police are as vocal as the 'white gravy on CFS' police. That's part of why I was careful to not include 'wiener' in my name suggestions.

                                                                  There was a thread that centered on whether it was possible to get CFS with the gravy on the side, so it wouldn't mess with the crust on the meat.
                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/625876

                                                                  In your second thread, one poster (near the end) claimed that if you bread the meat it should not have a sauce, and conversely, if you include a sauce, it should not be breaded.

                                                                  It would be interesting to debate the correct breading for CFS, and how it compares with a good WS. Could it be that the white gravy is more important when the coating on the meat is simply seasoned flour, and less so when it approaches the independent crisp layer that is ideal for WS?

                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    I am in the white gravy on the side camp, all you have to do is ask, although sometimes the restaurant will screw up and pour it on, or worse, sometimes I forget to ask for it on the side. I just take my lumps and scrape off as much as possible, I'm not going to send it back no matter who messed up. Then there are those who insist that a good chicken fried steak can stand up to gravy poured on it. I only eat good chicken fried steak and want my gravy on the side. Indeed, I usually do not make gravy with the excellent CFS I make (recipie above), and generally only eat a small amount of gravy, unless it is exceptional. Yes, gravy quality varies as much as the meat. The only proper breading for chicken fried steak is flour. There is a Polish restaurant down the street that does an excellent wiener schnitzel, no gravy at all. I know, it's not a tradional Polish dish, these folks just came here, but my grandparents came over with a bunch of other Poles in the 1890's. Did they cook either, not sure, I never had the pleasure of meeting them.

                                                                    1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                      Here's the brunch menu from one highly regarded 'Modern American' restaurant in Chicago: http://www.perennialchicago.com/pdfs/...
                                                                      They serve sirloin CFS with mushroom gravy & grits. ;-)

                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                        They serve mushroom gravy because they are in Chicago, and have no clue how it is really made. It's like trying to get a good hot dog or Chicago style pizza here in Texas.

                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                          The grits are with ham and eggs and kale; smashed potatoes with the CFS.

                                                                          Other items on that brunch menu use kielbasa and sauerkraut, which remind me of Chicago's German and Polish roots. their use of a mushroom gravy reminds me of German Jäger-Schnitzel.

                                                                          For this German dish, see the Berghoff menu
                                                                          http://www.theberghoff.com/menus/dinn...

                                                                          There was a lot of migration from the South to Chicago, but I think they brought soul food rather than Texas-German ideas. Change the kale to collard greens, and that grits entry has a 'soul' inspiration.

                                                                          One of the best CFSs that I've had was at a Bob Evans in Illinois.
                                                                          http://www.bobevans.com/Menu/Category...
                                                                          What stood out (after some 20 years) was that the meat and breading was very hot and crisp, so that the contrast between gravy and steak was optiomal - at least for the first half of the meal.

                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                            I had cfs at Bob Evans in Ohio and you're right, it was pretty good.

                                                                            1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                              Was it called Chicken Fried Steak or Country Fried Steak?

                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                The Bob Evans menu has:
                                                                                COUNTRY-FRIED STEAK
                                                                                Tender beef lightly breaded and fried, then topped with creamy country gravy. Served with mashed potatoes and green beans

                                                                                In my mind they are the same, so I don't pay much attention as to which name is being used.

                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                    Come to think of it, I think they did call it Country-Fried and I think I got a small bowl of gravy on the side.

                                                                                    With apologies to Bob Dylan:

                                                                                    White gravy, brown gravy
                                                                                    What do I care
                                                                                    Tan gravy, gray gravy
                                                                                    Call me for dinner, honey, I'll be there

                                                                                    Saddle me up my big white goose
                                                                                    Tie me on her and turn her loose
                                                                                    Oh me, oh my
                                                                                    Love that country fried

                                                                          2. re: James Cristinian

                                                                            The slightly mushy breading is what makes it taste so good. Gravy on the side is not in the true spirit of the dish. Anyone who debates about gravy on the side, the meat standing up to gravy, etc.. is most certainly not a born and bred Texan, where this lovely dish is said to hail from. There are no gravy on the side camps with native Texans.

                                                                        2. re: RUK

                                                                          Paprika sauce? Ketchup? Maggi? Those people are crazy. I couldn't read any more.

                                                                    2. re: paulj

                                                                      On the TV science fiction series Babylon 5 there was an episode when the character G'Kar from the planet Narn entertained a compatriot of his for lunch and served something which his dining companion exclaimed in wonderment over, asking how G'Kar had managed to get this serving of one of their native foodstuffs from their native planet. G'Kar replied that what they were eating was actually Swedish Meatballs from the planet Earth, and that he thought every civilization had very similar renditions of that same dish.
                                                                      :-)

                                                                      (No, I am not making this up. You ought to be able to look it up.)

                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                        they are called roopo balls

                                                                        unlike sheldon cooper i actually like B5

                                                                        1. re: srsone

                                                                          Aha, thanks. I couldn't remember what they were called on Narn.

                                                                          That little vignette struck me, and I've obviously remembered it over all these years. With regards to the current topic, the way of making the meat for CFS (even if it is beef - whether "older beef" or "younger beef" = veal) has so many equivalents all over the world on Earth. Then, the sauce or gravy that accompanies it varies too - even if the CFS purists might get upset if it is not a particular kind of white sauce, or if it is not placed ON the meat but alongside or separately, or if it is called something else.
                                                                          ;-)

                                                                          1. re: srsone

                                                                            Oh, wait a minute, they are Roopo Balls on Centauri Prime; but are Breen on Narn.
                                                                            http://babylon5.wikia.com/wiki/Swedis...
                                                                            :-)

                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                              ok...i only remember the roopo balls part......mainly cuz it sounds funnier than it is...

                                                                              havent watched b5 in a while....probably need to watch it again....

                                                                  2. White gravy, always. Served w/ mashed potatoes. First introduced to this dish in 1981 @ University of Texas at Austin.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. I do agree. I want a good steak, with very little connective tissue, and one in oil, that has fried chicken.

                                                                      As for gravy, I am much more a fan of "real" beef gravy, rather than the more traditional "white gravy. Though from the Deep South, and having traveled much of the country, looking for great CFS, I still prefer a brown beef gravy, personally.

                                                                      The ultimate was "Chick Steak" from the Hub in Meridian, MS, and the next best was from Hensley's Family Restaurant, El Reno, OK. Both, however, are long gone, but not forgotten.

                                                                      Hunt

                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                        Hunt,

                                                                        I never in a million years would have thought that I would see Hensley's referenced on Chowhound! My Grandmother, "Nene" and I would stop here on the way to "the city." We would indulge in the beef stew, a delicious roll, and pie. Then browse the gift shop that never seemed to have anything new! It was an unspoken rule in our family to never order a CFS in a restaurant so I never had a Hensley's CFS.

                                                                        The Hensley family has opened up a higher-end restaurant up the road a bit right off I-40 in Yukon. I think it is named Hensley's Top Shelf Grill. I haven't made it over there to eat as it just doesn't seem to have the right appeal.

                                                                        1. re: Mattkn

                                                                          I have tried to track down the history and provenance of Hensley's, but have not been able to get much info, which surprises me, but such is life. Maybe my boolean needs a bit of polish?

                                                                          In my "all time best CFS," they were a strong #2, with The Hub in Hattiesburg, MS #1. Now, both are gone.

                                                                          Over all those decades, I have had some good iterations, but none to compare. However, I have also not lived in CFS areas in many years, so that might well account for not finding some really great ones.

                                                                          Phoenix has some fair to good +, but nothing to even approach the "great" ones of my past. Luckily, I have a good "food memory," so I can still test other establishments, but then pine for the lost ones.

                                                                          The next time that we drive through the El Reno/Yukon Area, I will search them out, and maybe relive old memories. We used to make the trip from Denver to New Orleans, about twice per year, and Hensley's Family Restaurant was a definite "must do," regardless of what time we hit El Reno. They were great, and in many respects. While they were known for their pies, I cannot recall ever having had room for even a tiny slice. They were probably great too, but I would not know.

                                                                          Thank you for the info, and I only need to plan a road trip - maybe JUST for CFS?

                                                                          Hunt

                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                            maybe there oughta be a cross-regional road-trip board. this sorta thing comes up so often. But I suppose General Topics could handle it.

                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                              I agree with you. Dishes like CFS, while regional, do cross many borders, whether geographical, or on CH.

                                                                              Some years ago, my wife and I did a semi-cross-country fried shrimp and gumbo trip, but a CFS trip would be worthwhile. Load up the car, gather the maps and CH recs., and just drive about. Maybe the Food Network would be interested?

                                                                              On various boards, I do see road trip questions, and many do cross normally considered borders. I envy those folk.

                                                                              Hunt

                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                yes but I think those posters usu. double post on the respective region boards.

                                                                                I s'pose the Mods do have to draw a line somewhere.

                                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                                  I do agree as to the validity of the particular boards, and General Chowhound seems to be a good one here, for CFS.

                                                                                  While there are regional aspects with the dish, those are often geographical, where the dish is served in many places, and in several forms.

                                                                                  Were we in a Texas board, then there would probably be some general guidelines for the dish. As we are not, the regional characteristics are a bit weaker. The "we always did it this way... " might not hold that much water (or gravy), as different regions might well do things differently.

                                                                                  As I alluded to, elsewhere in this thread, it's akin to saying "BBQ MUST be ____," when it depends. Are we talking about Carolina BBQ (if so, please specify the exact location), or Central Texas BBQ, or Memphis, or Kansas City, or... well, fill in the blank ______.

                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                    I've ssen the CFS disussion, don't remember if it was the Houston or Texas board, but the arguement was pretty much gravy on the side or on the meat. I'm an on the side guy, but the gravy on the meat camp argues that a truly great steak can stand up to the gravy and retain it's crispness. Looking at a post of yours below on doneness, yes it remains moist when gray, but when making my own I prefer a little pink in it. On the BBQ, we also have East Texas BBQ down here, with a sweet sauce generally on the side, while Central Texas often has no sauce offered at all.

                                                                            2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                              When you were in Denver, did you ever try a little place with a man's name (Joe's, Jim's) in or near Wheatridge, a little below street with car dealers and a big antique mall. It was a Mexican restaurant that served Mexican food and breakfast including cfs, that I thoroughly enjoyed.

                                                                              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                Wow, that does not ring any bells with me. Neither the names listed, nor the location and descriptions do anything for me. We only lived in Denver from 1980, until late 1998, so if before, or after, we'd have missed it.

                                                                                Sorry,

                                                                                Hunt

                                                                            3. re: Mattkn

                                                                              from Hensley's top shelf grill menu
                                                                              "Chicken Fried Steak

                                                                              Hand breaded Cut of our Top Shelf Sirloin pan fried with Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, Vegetables du Jour and smothered in Cream Gravy. Traditional 4 oz $9 Top Shelf 8 oz $14"

                                                                          2. White strip of white gravy
                                                                            in balance longitudinally
                                                                            along the steak's spine.

                                                                            Presentation is everything.

                                                                            Of course, more white gravy on the side,
                                                                            in a big bowl.
                                                                            To give further lather
                                                                            to the mound of mashed 'taters.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                              I count this as one of your most eloquent posts ever!

                                                                              :-D

                                                                              CFS is one of the most wonderful comfort meals there is!

                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                  Food replicators on Babylon 5
                                                                                  could certainly serve up
                                                                                  and distribute the gravy.

                                                                              1. OK - here's my synopsis of all the replies:

                                                                                1) White gravy people are crazily absolute in their opinion that there is no other way ("only white gravy" a true CFS can only have white gravy" "it is not a CFS w/o white gravy."

                                                                                2) Brown gravy people are sheepishly apologetic that they like it...they just state that's it their preference. They need to step up to the plate.

                                                                                3) White and brown gravy are highly variable.

                                                                                4) White gravy is bechamel with many derivatives. Some people brown the flour more.

                                                                                5) Brown gravy is basically a veloute, but sometimes with darker stocks. And many derivatives.

                                                                                6) Great white gravy is awesome.

                                                                                7) Great brown gravy is aweome.

                                                                                8) It would be wonderful to order a CFS with great white gravy and mashed potatoes with great brown gravy. And several cocktails and an order of peach cobbler for dessert.

                                                                                9) Not all people like Babylon 5.

                                                                                10) CFS inspires good Haiku.

                                                                                11) Globally, people pound up cheap cuts of beef and maybe fry it and serve it in all sorts of ways, gravy on the side, on it, breaded with gravy, not breaded. All are legitimate for those who make them.

                                                                                12 Replies
                                                                                1. re: rudeboy

                                                                                  Who doesn't like Babylon 5?

                                                                                  White gravy for me, although is more off-white that white at its lightest. I was getting the impression that white and brown gravy were all on the same continuum depending on the amount the flour is browned.

                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                      Hi Ray,
                                                                                      I wouldn't give too much credence to what Smelly Shelly says.

                                                                                      Actually, the B5 question was rhetorical. I'm a Farscape and light gravy kind of guy.

                                                                                    2. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                      chocolatetartguy, your observation is correct. It appears that many people consider "brown gravy" to be the translucent kind, made without flour or milk; I consider that to be A brown gravy, but not THE brown gravy. When my mom made brown gravy it was cream gravy made with browned flour. As I've mentioned, my sausage gravy is not made dark-brown flour, but flour cooked to a blonde color. Maybe I should just call it BEIGE gravy; would that work?

                                                                                      1. re: rudeboy

                                                                                        I appreciate your review. There are truths there.

                                                                                        Thus this haiku:

                                                                                        Pounded beef, given flour
                                                                                        Hot cast iron, prepared
                                                                                        Gravy: the complement comes after.

                                                                                        While mine exceeds to the white
                                                                                        I accede to the brown.
                                                                                        Heck, it's just gravy.

                                                                                        I'd say much more important
                                                                                        is our Magnanimity
                                                                                        In steak as in gravy

                                                                                        And most in allowance
                                                                                        that ain't steak nor gravy
                                                                                        But day's gift of existence.

                                                                                        1. re: rudeboy

                                                                                          In the end, it should be about the dining experience. The best CFS that I have ever had was as The Hub, Meridian, MS, and they served a brown gravy. Is that the norm in some other states? Obviously not, but then they managed to rank # 1 with me.

                                                                                          Now ,I am a simple man, in that I only care about taste, and less about some sort of "historical accuracy. I only care about what tastes great, and am not doing my doctorate on food history.

                                                                                          Also, I have never seen "Babylon 5," so do not know, nor do I care about how they might have done CFS.Maybe they were onto something, and I just missed it. Still, if the taste is great, who am I to argue?

                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                            No, no, they had something called "Breen" on one planet, something called "Roopo Balls" on another planet, both of which turned out to be the same as "Swedish Meatballs" on yet another planet. It was a riff on how some things are basically the same, just called different names in different places. :-)

                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                              Obviously, that substantiates Steven Hawken’s theory of worm holes in the space/time continuum.

                                                                                              Thanks for that, and now I know.

                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                Stephen Hawking...

                                                                                                And actually all it proves is that the whole Universe loves a tasty appetizer made from meat.

                                                                                                ;-)

                                                                                              2. re: huiray

                                                                                                In Anthropology, that's called parallel evolution. Similar need, similar solution.

                                                                                          2. I live in Wisconsin, however, my family is all from Texas/Kentucky/Oklahoma.
                                                                                            Chicken fried steak comes with white gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, and biscuits.

                                                                                            I flatten round steaks and marinate in milk, paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper(fresh ground) overnight. I pat the steaks dry and dip in flour, shake off the excess, then egg ( shake off excess again), then a mixture of crushed ritz crackers, flour, and all the aforementioned spices. I heat a cast iron skillet with a few tablespoons of canola oil over medium high head, and when it shimmers, I add the steaks. Cook till golden on both sides, then remove the steaks. Brown a tablespoon or so of flour, and add milk. Cook until it thickens, season to taste (like any milk gravy). This is a very authentic steak, and I will miss it a lot now that I don't eat meat.

                                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Olliegator

                                                                                              "...I will miss it a lot now that I don't eat meat."

                                                                                              Don't eat no meat!?!?

                                                                                              That's OK, you can use lamb!

                                                                                              1. re: DoobieWah

                                                                                                I probably will "sneak" it when I visit my Grandma, as there will be nothing else I can eat. She puts meat in everything except the cucumber/tomato/vinegar salad. Seriously....even the potatoes.

                                                                                                1. re: Olliegator

                                                                                                  Is grandma a level-5 vegan? Unless she is, just roll with the punches.

                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                    My grandma could give Miss Paula Deen a run for her money in butter consumption.

                                                                                                    Case in point:
                                                                                                    Grandma's fried cabbage

                                                                                                    1 head of cabbage, sliced into ribbons
                                                                                                    1 stick of butter
                                                                                                    Electric skillet

                                                                                                    Place cabbage and butter into skillet (on high). Cover and cook until butter is gone and cabbage is crispy. Salt and pepper to taste.

                                                                                                    Oh so bad, but oh so good.

                                                                                                    1. re: Olliegator

                                                                                                      Growing up in the Deep South, and at a time, before the "food police," I understand both butter, and lard. Though we were poor, butter was always on our table, and not the variations of it, like margarine. It had to be real butter, and from a local dairy too.

                                                                                                      Lard was used, in lieu of Crisco, or similar, and that was all there was to it.

                                                                                                      As for the gravy with CFS, I have a strong feeling that there were some regional variations. In ____, it had to be white. In other locations, it could be beef-based, and no one asked.

                                                                                                      Rather like BBQ, it depends on whether one is in Texas, North, or South Carolina (depending on whether that is East or West N, or S Carolina), or maybe Kansas City. Each has its own version, and each claims that their's is true, but then just talk to someone from a different geographical area.

                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                        I suppose that is true. My family hails from Texas, I was born in Deleware. My mother and I re-located to Wisconsin, and my dad's side of the family is all in Kentucky. I am used to bbq and cfs the way I like them, but others do eat it in other variations. I feel the same way about chili. Most chili I've tried here in Wisconsin does not seem to be what I consider chili, but who am I to yuck their yum?

                                                                                                        1. re: Olliegator

                                                                                                          When one gets to dishes, that have a strong "regional character," just a few counties over, can offer differences.

                                                                                                          CFS (like BBQ) can have variations, and different gravies.

                                                                                                          So, in the very end, "it depends." Also, there is the "personal taste" aspect, and that should count, most of all, at least IMHO.

                                                                                                          It is almost like asking, "what's the recipe for 'authentic' mole?" Well, are we talking about a particular state in Mexico, a particular region in that state, and then, which family in that region, or that state?

                                                                                                          As many dishes, that are considered "standards," seem to have sprung up in a parallel fashion, in several regions, I am not sure exactly how one can positively determine what is the "only, authentic" one.

                                                                                                          If one studies the recipes of the South, they will find that just being across a mountain range, can mean a different variation on what seems to be the same. It all depends on what grows, just across the ridge.

                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                2. re: Olliegator

                                                                                                  "Brown a tablespoon or so of flour, and add milk." Ya see, Olliegator, this is what I grew up calling BROWN gravy: gravy made with milk and BROWNED flour. I did not meet anyone who made gravy with water or stock until I was of voting age. Therefore, to me the best CFS is in fact made with brown gravy. MY kind of brown gravy. Pour any of that clear crap on there and I'm outta here.

                                                                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                                    I mis-spoke. I cook the flour enough to be not glue flavored. My gravy is white when I'm done with it.

                                                                                                  2. re: Olliegator

                                                                                                    Ollie,

                                                                                                    We did our CFS almost exactly the same. Only we used whatever kind of grease there was in the grease can and plain saltine crackers. My Grandmother would not abide by those fancy crackers such as Ritz. Torn white bread smothered in gravy instead of biscuits. That makes me retch a little bit now, but I always did prefer the the potatoes, gravy, and bread as opposed to the meat. Also, green beans instead of corn.

                                                                                                    Now if I happen to have the energy to go through the process of making CFS, I use vegetable oil with a few spoons of bacon grease from my secret stash in the fridge.

                                                                                                  3. I say use what you like as far a gravy. In Texas, no one would sell a CFS with brown gravy, but that doesn't mean it's not okay to make it that way. I make steak fingers (chicken fried steak fingers) with brown gravy.

                                                                                                    35 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                      So why bash a Chicago restaurant that serves mushroom gravy with CFS? ;-) After all, it's essentially brown gravy with additional bits in it. :-)

                                                                                                      Oh, wait, I guess in your view ONLY Texans are allowed to even think about using brown gravy, innit?

                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                        I agree with you. Though I have had many, many CFS dishes, and all over the Deep South, Texas, OK, and even AZ, and never experienced any "mushroom gravy," I am not enough of a culinary historian, to cast even a slight aspersion on that combo. If you like it, and if someone servers CFS that way, so be it.

                                                                                                        In the end, it should be about what you (or the other patrons) like best.

                                                                                                        I have been fortunate to have the same basic dish (not CFS here) from many different chefs, with their own variations. It's up to me, to choose the one(s), that I like best.

                                                                                                        Enjoy,

                                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                                          B/c the poster said the restauraunt was "highly regarded" as though that somehow made them CFS authenticity experts, and that meant they were "right" about how it should be made and served. Chicago has lots of regional specialties, but CFS isn't one of them.

                                                                                                          I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to regional specialties. If I got to Chicago, I am going to order my hot dog the way it is traditionally served. I also know that in Texas, it is close to, if not completely impossible to find a good Chicago style pizza. Restaurants try to make them, but they generally taste pretty mediocre at best. I'm pretty sure no one would jump on a native Chicagoan for saying that stuff you get in Texas is no good and not at all authentic. I certainly haven't had a good Philly cheese steak in Texas, and finding it with Whiz is basically impossible. They put all sorts of other cheeses and toppings on it, and in the end, these sandwiches bare no resemblance to what you get in Philly. They may taste okay, but they aren't a true Philly cheese steak. I have also yet to find a good creamy "chowda" that resembles any thing you would find in Boston.

                                                                                                          It's not a crime that states and regions have specialties. Sure, you can tailor them to your personal tastes, there is nothing wrong with it. But, it isn't in keeping with the spirit of a dish, and chances are, it isn't going to be as good overall as having the real McCoy made as it was meant to be eaten. Certainly no one would blame someone coming here from Philly and laughing at the mall cheese steaks. People outside of Philly may like them, but it's not the same. It's no different than me laughing at the idea of a Chicago place serving it with mushroom gravy and being cited as a highly regarded place.

                                                                                                          1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                            Wow, you really have your knickers in a twist.

                                                                                                            The restaurant in question is 'highly regarded' in a general sense, as a place known for tasty and well-prepared food in the epicurean sense. There is no presumption of *authenticity" (that word again) let alone "traditional rendition" in the term used to describe that restaurant and other similar restaurants.

                                                                                                            In fact, when one goes to many fine dining places one often finds novel spins on traditional cuisine; perhaps whimsical, perhaps avant-garde, perhaps deconstructed - but all tasty and delightful renditions, if the place is any good.

                                                                                                            As for CFS purity, you might notice that lots of folks even here have different ideas of what that is - and the gravy for it is up to the diner's preference. In fact you said so yourself.

                                                                                                            1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                              I totally agree with you. And for some reason, Texan regional specialties aren't given the same respect as other regional specialties. But CFS is a regional dish, there is an accepted norm of how it's served (sorry, but there is - and that means "cream" gravy), and if you're going to call it CFS instead of smothered steak or country fried steak or whatever, then yes, you can and should judge the dish by the regional standard.

                                                                                                              1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                Well, I am not sure that CFS originated in Texas. It has graced the plates of many states, and many of them in the Deep South.

                                                                                                                What it sounds like is that you are saying that your take on Texas CFS can only have white gravy. I can abide by that, but from the various links to CFS, I could not find that it was originated in Texas, and there are no regional variations anywhere else. Maybe you can provide the complete history of CFS?

                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                  It isn't that it can "only" have cream/white gravy, just that it's the norm - and anything else would be considered a variation. Variations aren't by their nature bad, just a deviation from the norm. Putting pineapple on a classic NY pizza isn't "wrong" - but would once have raised an eyebrow and be considered "off" in a NY or CT pizza place.

                                                                                                                  I'll have to research the origins of CFS as best I can & hopefully get back to you, but my understanding was that it came about thanks to the heavy German immigration in central TX plus the availability of beef. Beef wasn't a common staple in the US before the Civil War outside of Texas, so I'd have to guess that we get to stake (ha) the original claim to CFS.

                                                                                                                  1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                    If those Germans had beef, then they must have had beef stock as well, right? So why the white gravy as opposed to a brown one? Germans also like mushrooms and wine in their gravies, but I suppose that's too much to ask for in the Texas Hill Country. :)

                                                                                                                    Google books ngram does not find much for 'chicken fried steak' before the 1940s. Which is not to say it did exist before then, just that few print sources mention it. And the few print sources talk as much about it being 'southern' or 'western'. Of course, Texas qualifies as both.

                                                                                                                    http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?...

                                                                                                                    I mentioned earlier that a white gravy make sense in the context of quickly making a sauce after frying a bunch of CFSs. Just use the frying fat, some flour, and a bit of milk. You don't need anything else that's been prepared ahead of time. It can even be done in chuck wagon if you have some powder or canned milk. There are other rustic American examples of a white gravy - the sausage gravy used on biscuits, SOS of mess hall fame, and fried salt pork in milk gravy (a depression era staple). Even that staple of hot dish cooking, canned mushroom gravy, falls in this category.

                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                      Not only would they've had stock, but veal, as well. My guess is that the dish isn't German in origin, but in inspiration. Because if it were strictly Germanic, then why not veal?

                                                                                                                      So my guess, and that's all it is, is that someone tasted the German's schnitzel, decided it was a waste to slaughter a calf when they could wait and get more meat from the grown cow.

                                                                                                                      As to the gravy, in a cattle-based society, milk was plentiful, whereas the means to keep stock safe to eat would be a bit tougher. You'd either have to keep it at an almost constant simmer or make it only during harsh winter times - I mean, I'm sure food-borne disease was a legit concern. So it becomes kind of a tough choice on the range, I'd guess. On top of that cream gravy takes, as you mentioned, no time at all to prepare, and it thriftily uses the "remains" of the chicken-fried steak preparation by way of ingredients. No wasted flour from dredging the beef, no wasted drippings.

                                                                                                                      1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                        In a book about chefs by the French Culinary Institute, Dean Fearing (a Dallas chef) recalls:
                                                                                                                        "[in Huntington, WV] I always had the chicken-fried steak with real milk gravy. That's gravy where after you've cooked the chicken [sic?] you put a little milk into the pan to thicken up with whatever browned crumbs are still stuck to the bottom, and maybe thickened it up with some of the flour from the breading. Seasoning was strictly salt and pepper."
                                                                                                                        p118, Chef's Story.

                                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                            Interesting, though... that sounds like an odd gravy, where flour is an afterthought if used at all. That would essentially be fatty milk, if I am reading correctly.

                                                                                                                            It definitely seems that our "cream gravy" is based on the rahmschnitzel version of schnitzel, so I think that if anything is clear we can probably find some the origins of CFS wherever there were both pockets of German settlers and beef, and poor people. I say that because cfs is based on the age-old idea that you can take a tough piece of meat and render it edible if you pound the hell out of it and dredge it in something before frying. Also, cream gravy seems to differ from the rahmschnitzel version in that it uses the less expensive milk, rather than heavy cream. (My grandparents had a dairy farm and never had butter as the milk was sold by the butterfat content.)

                                                                                                                            1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                              I found one old recipe - for smothered steak - that called for dusting the meat with flour, and then pounding it with the edge of a plate. In that case the flour served more to reduce sticking than as a breading. After browning some water was added and the pan covered, so the meat simmered a while.

                                                                                                                          2. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                            Euro inspiration definitely, I read somewhere once (and it makes a lot of sense) the reason beef is so much more prevalent in the Americas than veal is that Europeans just didn't have the free-range space (or resources) in the 'old country' to let the calves get that big.

                                                                                                                            maybe it was Bourdain in Argentina hanging with gauchos.

                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                              Good point on the size of the cattle, and reasons.
                                                                                                                              Thus more praise appointed to Texans,
                                                                                                                              with larger their sizes of pastures,
                                                                                                                              led now to the chicken fried steak.

                                                                                                                          3. re: paulj

                                                                                                                            Now, while I love much German food, and part of Family comes from Austria (before it was part of GR), I do not recall any "white gravies," and mostly brown (beef/veal) gravies.That does not mean that there were NOT white gravies, but only that the Kabricks and Kramers did not do any, nor have any of the various GR restaurants, that I have dined at.

                                                                                                                            I have had hundreds of different schnitzels, and in many different places, and do not recall one instance w/ a white gravy, but then, my memory could be failing me.

                                                                                                                            Hunt

                                                                                                                          4. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                            It's not the "norm," by whom, and where?

                                                                                                                            I came to know CFS in the 50's, and in Mississippi, and the "norm" was a beef gravy.

                                                                                                                            Hunt

                                                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                              Bill, where do you believe chicken fried steak originated? In Mississippi?

                                                                                                                              1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                If Texans are allowed to make BBQ with beef, then Mississippians are allowed to serve brown gravy with CFS.

                                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                  Of course, and apparently I've gotten myself tied up in some regional pissing match.

                                                                                                                                  When your state brings you, shall we say, dubious political fame... you might try to overcompensate elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                  Apologies for my regionalistic fervor.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                    oh these intersections are just part of the fun

                                                                                                                                    1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                      This often happens with dishes that have a "regional flair." Many regions declare it, as their own, to the exclusions of others.

                                                                                                                                      It is a fact of food-life, so maybe it's time that you got used to it.

                                                                                                                                      Sorry, but I do not see how a state's political bent plays into this, but maybe I am just being dense. Were we not talking about CFS? Maybe I just missed something along the discussion. Not sure what you are insinuating, but cannot image that it plays a role here, but could be wrong? Please educate me.

                                                                                                                                      Enjoy,

                                                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                                                  2. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                    In my research, there does not seem to be a consensus. Some point to Arkansas, while others point to Missouri. One points to Texas, while some others point to other states, mostly below the Mason-Dixon Line. What does your research show? When was it "invented?" What was the very first reference to it in the US? Do you have that original recipe?

                                                                                                                                    I would be interested to know.

                                                                                                                                    Good luck, and TIA,

                                                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                      Bill, I've conceded that the world may indeed, never know where the "original" chicken fried steak was created, and I am certainly not qualified to act as the be-all/end-all authority on such historical food questions. Plainly, because it seems rather important to you: I was wrong to state that Texans have a claim to the original CFS. There is no proof of that claim.

                                                                                                                                      If you do find an original recipe, please do post. In the meantime, Paulj and I hammered through some interesting possibilities, if food-related navel-gazing is of any interest to you.

                                                                                                                                      As for the political comment - just a joke (during that concession) about my state's recent offerings to the political arena and our, shall we say, overall reputation at the moment.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                        I got your joke, but a certain poster from the midwest thought we didn't merit the last Top Chef episodes due to politics, as if every one here thinks the same way. I am lucky to live in Houston, great chicken fried steak within 15 minutes north, east, and south of here, not to mention, international delight in every direction.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                          Well, you seemed to cast aspersions that I felt CFS was originated in Mississippi. I have never indicated such. I only offered an historical perspective, that wen back into the 1950's, and an example of how a "regional" version of the dish was done then, and there.

                                                                                                                                          The ideas is that, going back 5 decades, there were then some ideas on the dish, though they might have been very regional.

                                                                                                                                          That should indicate that in some regions, things might be a bit different. However, many scream that "that is not how it's done in Texas!" I am sure that they are correct, but wish to know if the Texas version, is the only true version.

                                                                                                                                          You took me to task for mentioning Mississippi, and I asked you to step forward with the full history of CFS. It seems that you are unable to do so, but if I have missed something, would you please correct me. If that IS the case, then my question, and actually a pointed one, at that, would be "so what exactly is your point?"

                                                                                                                                          My mention of one version, and from Mississippi, was to show that there can be regional differences. You seem to have taken that as a gauntlet thrown down. Heck, I have not lived in Mississippi in over 40 years. Whether what I encountered there is "THE ORIGINAL," is immaterial to me.

                                                                                                                                          I have maintained, throughout this thread, that there are possibly regional differences. Some, however, seem to take offense at that notion. They claim that THEIR version can be the only TRUE VERSION, but have never produced documentations on their version's history, and thus claim to the throne.

                                                                                                                                          What is your "true version," and do you have ANY documentation that it is the absolute original, with none before it?

                                                                                                                                          If I read you correctly, you do not. However, and without my claiming that the version that I first experienced in Mississippi, is somehow disallowed, just because it was from Mississippi.

                                                                                                                                          Did I read you wrong? Do you have the definitive source on CFS? Like Bilbo Baggins, have you found the "one true ring?"

                                                                                                                                          If you have found the "one true source," then please share it. That will put this thread to rest, though I will still maintain that I have had several great iterations with beef/veal gravy, and not just in Mississippi. Please do not let your distaste for my home state tint your search for the origin. That will be horribly Quixotic, and counter productive. It was but an example with an historic date - nothing more.

                                                                                                                                          Good luck, and please let us know the URL's for your research. Inquiring minds [SIC] want to know.

                                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                            I've read all participating comments claiming to know the godhead of CFS as being more than a bit tongue-in-cheek. I suspect you all deep down agree everybody's own version is the 'real' one and any rivalry is meant in a good-natured joshing sort of way.

                                                                                                                                            just don't make it wrong (and I think we can all agree what wrong, just plain wrong is, no matter the gravy)

                                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                              With much "regional cuisine," I could not agree more. It is somewhat similar to "Mexican cuisine," where on never bothers to articulate the "State" in Mexico. What might play in Veracruz, might not work so well in Nogales. It just depends.

                                                                                                                                              As far as what is allowed, depends on whose recipe, we are discussing.

                                                                                                                                              What might be the norm in TX, might not be the norm in OK, MS, MO, or elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                                                            2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                              This is ridiculous, and bordering on not only obsessive, but rude. I have apologized for being a regionalistic jerk, I have conceded, it's done, Mr. Hunt. And I'm sorry, you have completely and utterly misread me if you believe I have something against Mississippi.

                                                                                                                                              Additionally, I don't recall using the "inquiring minds" phrase, but it is correct as it stands, for what it's worth, no notation to the contrary necessary.

                                                                                                                                              We've been friendly in the past, it's a shame to let a delicious fried food get in the way of that, but such is the internet. (And I have to admit, maybe one of the strangest internet arguments I've seen, let alone managed to provoke.)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                                Sorry that I misread. I was attempting to show that this dish, CFS, was regional, but some (fill in that blank ____) seem to think otherwise.

                                                                                                                                                What plays in Dallas, might be different from elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                I am only attempting to show that the dish might have developed in slightly different terms, across the US, but that does not seem to be accepted, as some claim that there is ONLY "one true CFS," and it is their version.

                                                                                                                                                I can be a lovely dish. My wife inherited my great-great-grandmother's iron skillet, but also her German recipe for what WE know as Chicken Fried Steak, though it was her Veal Schnitzel, but with a veal gravy. Does that make it right for all? No way, as they have likely grown up with a milk, white gravy.

                                                                                                                                                To me, it should be more about what one enjoys, and less about what someone else thinks should be the only way. However, that is just me.

                                                                                                                                                I am more inclined to find recipes that I enjoy, and am less concerned about what a recipe from 1500 might have listed. OTOH, many want to ONLY have "one true recipe," and feel that all others should be discarded. That is not my style.

                                                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                                                2. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                  There is some good information about the history of CFS from state historical societies online. Naturally, both the Texas Historical Society and the Oklahoma Historical Society emphasize their own state's perspective, but you can get a pretty good picture of what's known by combining the two versions.
                                                                                                                                  Early nineteenth century sources show related recipes using veal or pork were common in the South. Numerous late nineteenth century cookbooks, including a 1880s volume from Boerne, Texas, provide the recipe using beef, but always referring to it as pan-fried steak or country-fried steak. It may have first been called chicken-fried steak by Jimmy Don Perkins, a short-order cook in a cafe in Lamesa, Texas, in 1911. The Pig Stand restaurants, a small chain in Dallas, TX, had chicken fried steak sandwiches on their menu in 1921. By 1924, a recipe for chicken-fried steak appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

                                                                                                                                  Texas State Historical Society - http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/on...

                                                                                                                                  Oklahoma State Historical Society - http://digital.library.okstate.edu/en...

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Alan Sudo

                                                                                                                                    This Oklahoma link has this (and only this) to say about the gravy:
                                                                                                                                    " Flour, milk, salt, and pepper are added to this residue and stirred until a whitish or brownish gravy is produced. The dish is served with the gravy on the steak or on the side, along with mashed potatoes and another vegetable"

                                                                                                                                    The Texas one:
                                                                                                                                    "The Texas staple is most often served with mashed potatoes and covered with cream gravy."
                                                                                                                                    Much less emphasis on gravy or its color than we have been giving it in this thread.

                                                                                                                              2. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                                                If Texas was the only place in the US, where CFS was served, then it would stand that the methods employed there, would be the end-all/be-all, but CFS is common throughout much of the US, though it does predominate in the Deep South, and Texas.

                                                                                                                                With a dish, like CFS, the general choice of gravies, might well reflect the locale. Go to parts of Mississippi, where CFS is common, and it might be different. Just depends.

                                                                                                                                Even in MS, I have encountered CFS with ONLY white gravy, but some with ONLY brown (beef-based) gravy.

                                                                                                                                In my home, it was always white, but some of the best, that I have encountered, was with a brown gravy.

                                                                                                                                Which is correct? One would have to do the research to find the "mother recipe," and then decide what gravy was included with it. Even if one could trace the recipe to the very first iteration, one would have to ask - "is that the ONLY way to enjoy CFS?"

                                                                                                                                As mentioned up-thread, I most often see CFS (around the Deep South and TX) w/ white gravy about 70% of the time. However, I also must add that the ultimate, has always had a brown gravy, at least to my palate.

                                                                                                                                If one likes CFS with white gravy (and any particular variation), then that is what they should ask for. If they like it with brown gravy, if available, then it's request time. If they like a brown gravy, with mushrooms (do not ever recall that, but it might be a Midwest thing?), then another request should be made.

                                                                                                                                In the end, it should be about what one enjoys most, at least IMHO.

                                                                                                                                Enjoy,

                                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                                                1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                                                  Like I originally said, here in central TX, many restauraunts offer both. Maybe they don't realize they are in TX!

                                                                                                                                  Usually, it is a thicker, flour based "gravy" with no milk. Someone mentioned that it is most common maybe at restaurants that also serve other items that need brown gravy - that's why it's an option.

                                                                                                                                2. The gravy can be brown for one of several reasons:
                                                                                                                                  - you brown the roux before adding milk
                                                                                                                                  - you use beef stock (or imitation) instead of milk.
                                                                                                                                  - you add some other dark flavoring

                                                                                                                                  The browned roux milk gravy will taste about the same as one with a blond roux. The stock version has the potential of tasting quite different. Red eye gravy is a classic Southern sauce (for ham) that uses coffee. In Europe a red wine might be used. And there msg-rich seasonings like Maggi.

                                                                                                                                  1. Such good discussion of the genesis of gravy..

                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                                                                                      At one time, there were but the "Mother Sauces," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category...
                                                                                                                                      and that was it. Then, the variations began creeping in, and things were not so clear cut. In time, even the variations began to evolve, and often regionally.

                                                                                                                                      Now, centuries later, things can seem very confused.

                                                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                        Which came first - the mother sauces and their variants, or Escoffier's systematic catalog of the sauces - was it Carême with his 4 mother sauces?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                          Unfortunately, I am not a food historian, so I am not qualified to comment. However, the "Mother Sauces" HAVE been around for quite sometime.

                                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                                    2. So much effort and so many words on such a simple subject.

                                                                                                                                      As I noted above, My Mother, (THE final word on such subjects!), always made a milk based gravy by browning a couple of tablespoons of flour in a couple of reserved tablespoons of the frying fat, (usually bacon grease BTW), whilst scraping up the little brown bits, (which we now know as the "le fond") and then thinning with whole milk. A little salt and a little pepper and dinner was on.

                                                                                                                                      HOWEVER, even here in Houston, there are numerous restaurants that will ask whether you want brown or white, (or cream) gravy with your steak and mashed potatoes. Usually these are diner type places which will also serve pot roast or something else that will typically be served with a thin brown gravy, BUT they do ask.

                                                                                                                                      Note that it will almost always come over the top unless you request it on the side.

                                                                                                                                      But just like everything, everywhere else, there are certainly variations even within the geographical subset.

                                                                                                                                      The bottom line: "MY" Mama's is the best, so suck it!

                                                                                                                                      12 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: DoobieWah

                                                                                                                                        Words softly spoken are the nature of Coowhound
                                                                                                                                        andeven to

                                                                                                                                          1. re: DoobieWah

                                                                                                                                            I think there are several reasons for using a white sauce on CFS:
                                                                                                                                            - it is the quickest and easiest sauce to make after frying up a bunch of steaks.
                                                                                                                                            - it uses common ingredients (red wine, beef stock, mushrooms are not common in the Texas hill country)
                                                                                                                                            - your Mama did that way.
                                                                                                                                            - most customers expect it.
                                                                                                                                            - thin red-eye gravy may work with ham, but would soak into the breading of CFS.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                              Heck, I don't have milk at home. Now I'm thinking of making CFS at home, then adding flour to the pan, browning a bit, then adding shallots and mushrooms - maybe a slight bit of dijon, then topping the steak with it (or serving it on the side). I won't tell my mother!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: rudeboy

                                                                                                                                                I don't have fresh milk either, but do keep a can of Nido on hand for the occasional cooking need.

                                                                                                                                                http://www.cartermuseum.org/edu_guide...
                                                                                                                                                claims chuck wagons were stocked with canned milk, not fresh.

                                                                                                                                                http://chuckwagonrecipes.blogspot.com...
                                                                                                                                                " While our recipe below will call for milk, only can milk was available during the later trail drives and water often was used to make gravy mixed with bacon grease."

                                                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                  Boxed milk is also a great thing to have in the pantry. In Austin, all HEBs carry it (Borden brand). It's on the baking aisle with the canned, evaporated milk. I don't know why I never think to buy it for myself since I buy it for my mother regularly...

                                                                                                                                            2. re: DoobieWah

                                                                                                                                              "So much effort and so many words on such a simple subject."

                                                                                                                                              Probably like asking for thoughts on "authentic BBQ" on the Carolina Board. You will receive 500 replies, and zero consensus. It's about a "holy" item to many.

                                                                                                                                              There are "regional" considerations, "personal" considerations and then there are those, who claim that Moses had three tablets, and one was the recipe for Carolina BBQ. Not sure about that "third tablet," but CFS comes close to "Carolina BBQ," and there are some, who feel very, very strongly about exactly how it's done.

                                                                                                                                              In the end, I feel that it's about what YOU like best, and little more. Even if we could trace things back to the very first time, that a cook did CFS, that would only authenticate what they did, and not what everyone enjoys most.

                                                                                                                                              Now, I give your Mama the nod, and will just let her dictate rule!

                                                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                [Quote] There are "regional" considerations, "personal" considerations and then there are those, who claim that Moses had three tablets, and one was the recipe for Carolina BBQ. Not sure about that "third tablet," but CFS comes close to "Carolina BBQ," and there are some, who feel very, very strongly about exactly how it's done. [/Quote]

                                                                                                                                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE7tTT...

                                                                                                                                                1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                                                  Dang, I had forgotten that Mel Brooks bit.

                                                                                                                                                  Though anything BUT a Biblical scholar, I think that I know what some of those "other" Commandments were: CFS, BBQ and maybe Tex-Mex food?

                                                                                                                                                  Thanks for the memory jog,

                                                                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                    But apart from the gravy question--is the meat well done? Gray or pink? Or is it different strokes for different folks?

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: femmevox

                                                                                                                                                      Oh, definitely gray. But not dry. Maybe the slightest touch of pink. Now that I think of it, a little pink is nice. But not anywhere close to rare.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: femmevox

                                                                                                                                                        In my experiences, gray, so I'd typify it as a strong Medium. However, as Plano Rose mentions, it is NOT dry, at any level, but moist and also tender.

                                                                                                                                                        Great CFS also has little, to no connective tissue in it. It has been pounded until marvelously tender, and then fried (in grease used to fry chicken) to perfection.

                                                                                                                                                        The gravy is less of a concern to me, as with either a brown, or white, I will get it on the side, and use it, as I see fit. It is about the cut, the pounding, the seasoning, the breading and the grease first. Everything else comes down the line, but that is just me.

                                                                                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                                                                              2. When I often embark into chicken fried steak
                                                                                                                                                it begins with a kiss to the pan.

                                                                                                                                                That iron has been with me for so many years
                                                                                                                                                that its glaze and patina evoke many meals, sometimes tears.

                                                                                                                                                I am lucky have butcher who preps up the round
                                                                                                                                                so that thin slab of meat does not require pound.

                                                                                                                                                The breading, just flour, and salt pepper cumin.

                                                                                                                                                It hits the hot pan and it fries in own ecstasy.
                                                                                                                                                Then, sent the plate, it is time for the gravy,
                                                                                                                                                Which is white with the flour and milk and the crunchies.

                                                                                                                                                1. Chicken-fried steak in a creamy white pepper sauce is one of America's great sins -- a masterpiece of guilty classless pleasure. The best I ever had was in a roadside joint outside of Kansas City. Ah, I want some now...it's been years.

                                                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ptrichmondmike

                                                                                                                                                    Out of curiosity, is schnitzel, or maybe any version of a breaded/fried meat, also "classless"? Or just CFS?

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                                                      ptrichmondmike is using 'classless' in the sense of a quality dish that can often be found in low-brow settings (e.g. roadside joint). While a dinner owned by someone of German or Austrian heritage might serve schnitzel, there aren't many of those in the USA. Plus the authentic Viennese version uses veal, a relatively expensive meat. Likewise a good milanesa might be found in a taco truck, but it isn't common in the USA. CFS is only Americanized version.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                        Milanesa is all over Houston. I am less than five minutes away from good milanesa at a small Mexican/American restaurant, plus at taco trucks on virtually every corner. I am also five minutes away from above average CFS at a cafeteria, fifteen minutes away from outstanding CFS in two different directions, plus less than five for veal schnitzel at a Polish restaurant, I know it's not authentic Polish food, but it's wonderful, and fifteen minutes from a German place that also serves veal. On one street, there is a great TexMex place, two Mexican restaurants, one with the city's best cabrito, authentic Mandarin, plus a half dozen Korean places, all ringed by 3 or 4 Ostionerias. As a local poster says, I love living in Houston.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                          For same reasons, I love OKC. And less traffic. Good Milanesa about every three blocks, interspersed with some shiny sweet taco trucks,

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                          Lol...I'm not quite sure exactly what I meant by "classless," but I do know great KITSCH when I taste it. And THAT is Chicken Fried Steak. In addition to KC, I had another great CFS encounter in Ely, NV....oh, about 25 years ago. Yum...so bad for you, and so very delicious.

                                                                                                                                                    2. Yes, it was Germans,
                                                                                                                                                      who settled in Texas
                                                                                                                                                      still holding a memory
                                                                                                                                                      of meat that was schnitzeld.

                                                                                                                                                      They applied it to beef
                                                                                                                                                      and so good did it be
                                                                                                                                                      as gained popularity
                                                                                                                                                      and place in food history.

                                                                                                                                                      1. Curiously I can't find CFS in earlier versions for Joy of Cooking, though there are a couple schnitzels under veal. The 1997 edition does have a standard CFS, with the milk gravy and mash.

                                                                                                                                                        The intro is:
                                                                                                                                                        "... popular in the South and Southwest, where it is prime truck-stop fare."

                                                                                                                                                        In a sense, you either learned it from your mom, or ate it at the town cafe. It wasn't something you learned from a book. But 1997 adds a lot of 'ethnic' dishes, including ones that cooks no longer learned at home.

                                                                                                                                                          1. Epicenter and origin down here in Southern Plains.

                                                                                                                                                            So those of on a seek of best CFS

                                                                                                                                                            Had best get their ass
                                                                                                                                                            to close radius of Dallas
                                                                                                                                                            or bit north, OKC.

                                                                                                                                                            It is here we'll asplend you
                                                                                                                                                            not just of crispness of steaks
                                                                                                                                                            but creamy of gravy.
                                                                                                                                                            We've pride to bestride the epicenter
                                                                                                                                                            of the CFS.