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Aug 23, 2011 08:12 PM

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
    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.
      "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:

                  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?