A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 02, 2006
Chicken Fried Steak (CFS); Country Fried Steak

Chicken fried steak (CFS) is one of the most popular dishes in Texas. It contains no chicken. The exact origins of the dish (sometimes called “country fried steak") are unclear.


Wikipedia: Chicken fried steak
Chicken fried steak (also known as country fried steak) is a piece of beef steak (tenderized cube steak) coated with seasoned flour and pan fried. It is associated with Southern U.S. cuisine and hospitality. Its name is likely due to chicken fried steak’s similarity in preparation to fried chicken, though the dish is also similar to the classic Viennese dish Wiener Schnitzel, a tenderized veal cutlet, coated with flour, eggs and breadcrumbs and fried.
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Preparation
Chicken fried steak is prepared by taking a thin cut of beef steak and tenderizing it by pounding. It is then either immersed in egg batter and/or dredged in flour to which salt, pepper, and often other seasonings, have been added (called breading). After this, the steak is fried in a skillet or, less commonly, deep-fried. The frying medium has traditionally been butter, lard, or other shortening, but in recent years health concerns have led most cooks to substitute vegetable oil. Country fried steak, as it is called in states east of the Red River, is made without egg wash.

The cuts of steak used for chicken fried steak are usually the less expensive, less desirable ones, such as chuck steak, cubed steak , round steak, and occasionally flank steak. The method is also sometimes used for chopped, ground, or especially cube steak. When ground beef is used, it is sometimes called a “chuckwagon”. Chicken Fried Steak is traditionally served for lunch or dinner topped with cream gravy, and with mashed potatoes and vegetables, and biscuits served on the side.

The “CFS”, as it also known, can be served on a hamburger bun as a sandwich, cubed and stuffed in a baked potato with the gravy and cheese, or cut into strips and served in a basket with fries and gravy, which is then known as “steak fingers”.

What’s Cooking America
In Texas, the reigning queen of comfort food or down-home cooking is chicken-fried steak, or as Texans affectionately call it CFS. Every city, town, and village in Texas takes prides in their CFS.
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You might be surprised to learn that there is no chicken in Chicken-Fried Steak. It is tenderized round steak (a cheap and tough piece of beef) made like fried chicken with a milk gravy made from the drippings left in the pan.
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Although not official, the dish is considered the state dish of Texas. According to a Texas Restaurant Associate, it is estimated that 800,000 orders of Chicken-Fried Steak are served in Texas every day, not counting any prepared at home.

1844-1850 - The origin of the Chicken-Fried Steak probably comes from the German people who settled in Texas from 1844 to 1850. As Wiener Schnitzel is a popular German dish that is made from veal, and because veal was never popular in Texas and beef was, the German immigrants probably adapted their popular dish to use the tougher cuts of beef available to them.

Texas Cooking
Chicken Fried Steak - A Texas Tradition Revisited
by David Bulla
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Why is it called “Chicken Fried Steak?” Well, in the descriptive name we can find the reason for all the problems associated with the dish. It’s supposed to be a piece of steak, fried in a pan in the same way that you would make real old-fashioned fried chicken. But these days, 99 percent of the restaurants selling fried chicken tend to use a deep fryer to cook the chicken. So, logically, restaurants also tend to use a deep fryer to cook a piece of beef that resembles fried chicken! So, let’s not call this dish “chicken fried” any longer. The term is a little confusing. Instead, let’s call it “pan fried.” It’s a more accurate description.

So, now we’re talking about have “Pan Fried Steak”. Well, that sounds a little bland and non-descript, and could be anything. Let’s make sure everyone knows where it’s from. Why not call it something like “Texas-Style Pan Fried Steak.” But what is the “steak?” Cubed steak? Well that would work, but not for our purposes here. I don’t even know what cut of beef a cubed steak comes from! We need to lift this up to a new level. Let’s describe a cut of steak here. Sirloin would work well, and it’s inexpensive. You definitely don’t want to use an expensive tender cut that would defeat the whole purpose of the dish. Who would want a chicken fried filet mignon? So we arrive finally at the properly descriptive and tempting “Texas-Style Pan Fried Sirloin.” Not bad at all.
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Now we get to one of the most important components of this meal—the gravy. I would consider the gravy as a side dish because it’s that significant. You could almost consider it a food group in itself. Of course, when we are talking about gravy, we are talking about cream gravy. The fact that this goes against all the traditions and rules of classic European cuisine is part of what makes it so special. The French would laugh, until they tasted it! It’s a rebellious combination that works very well, and part of the reason why the dish is infamous on certain levels. A thick sauce made from pan drippings and a bastardized combination of a volute and b├ęchamel sauce, studded with a ton of black pepper. It’s rich, it’s creamy and oh so good! The main ingredient that makes this gravy special is the pan drippings. They are all too often forgotten in restaurant versions of this dish. For this meal, we will get it right.

8 June 1914, Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette, pg. 10:
Have You Tried Our
CHICKEN FRIED STEAKS?
PHELPS
111 E. Bijou

19 June 1914, Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette, pg. 6:
A Summer Dainty
Chicken Fried Steak
Served at
PHELPS
111 E. Bijou

22 January 1918, Kansas City (MO) Star, pg. 9:
I cooked the steak for dinner that night. It was not quite as tender as beef that has hung longer, but I pounded in some rye flour, remembering wheatless day, and made it like chicken fried steak, cooking it very slowly. I made a delicious brown gravy with it, seasoning it well with salt and pepper. I cooked rice to eat with it and it made a fine meal, with a dessert, corn muffins and coffee.

2 February 1919, Kansas City (MO) Star, pg. 4A:
Forum Cafeteria
1003 Grand Avenue, Downstairs
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Chicken Fried Steak, Pan Gravy...$.11

23 August 1919, Fayetteville (Arkansas) Democrat, pg. 4 ad:
Country Fried Steak

10 April 1921, Dallas Morning News, pg. 6 ad:
BROOKS’ CAFETERIA
(...)
Country Fried Steak

21 February 1923, Los Angeles Times, pg. II4:
The muscles of the human jaw exert a force of 534 pounds. And still they are not equal to some of the “chicken fried” steak one gets at the rapid-fire lunch counter.

5 April 1924, Los Angeles Times, pg. A6:
CHICKEN FRIED STEAK
R. W. S., Long Beach, wants a recipe for chicken fried steak.

We have never made this dish and this is the first time that we have ever heard of it. If any of our readers will send us the recipe we will be glad to print it.

19 April 1924, Los Angeles Times, pg. A7:
CHICKEN FRIED STEAK
F. C. M., Los Angeles, writes that chicken fried steak is beef steak rolled in flour, fried in a pan, and served with country gravy, the gravy being poured on a hot platter and the fried steak placed over it.

13 March 1928, Los Angeles Times, pg. A9:
CHICKEN FRIED STEAK
H. E. M., Long Beach, Cal. For the chicken fried steak take a piece of top round and pound as much flour into it as it will take up. Place in a saute pan sufficient shortening and fry the steak. Remove to a hot platter, make a cream gravy, pour on a platter and place the steak over it.

The Portal to Texas History
The Coffee Shop (menu)
The Stephen F. Austin
“A Baker Hotel”

Mineral Wells, Palo Pinto County, TX
October 12, 1929
Chicken Fried Rump Steak, Marinated en Milk Gravy 65

29 December 1929, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 18A ad:
Chicken Fried Steak 30c
(The Gunter Hotel “Cave”—ed.)

23 April 1935, Washington Post, pg. 15:
This steak, no doubt, is what many call a chicken-fried steak and is a piece of top-round, which is prepared in the following manner: Have the steak cut one-half inch thick. Pound it well on both sides with a wooden potato masher or mallet. Rub the steak on both sides with flour which has been mixed with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Sear it quickly on both sides in a little grease in a frying pan. Then cover and place in a moderately low oven (325 degrees F.) for about 20 to 30 minutes or until tender. This type of steak is excellent when served with mushroom or tomato sauce .The pounding tenders the naturally tough fibers of the meat.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Wednesday, August 02, 2006 • Permalink