David Theiss: What's in name? (recipe)

Chicken fried steak

Chicken fried steak

In researching some food ingredients, I couldn’t help but notice that some foods had interesting name choices. Finding some humor in it, I centered this article on foods with some of those unusual names — names that have seemingly no correlation to the food that it is made up of. In the meat business, for example, there are many names of meats that don’t really identify the product they are trying to market or explain.

Case in point: sweetbreads. This Basque delicacy consists of large beef glands — it’s neither sweet nor bread. Rocky Mountain Oysters, a.k.a. Prairie oysters, a.k.a. Veal fries, a.k.a. Huevos de toro in Mexico are not quite what they sound like. I even looked them up in French to see if they sounded more decadent… “des boules de veau…” nope. They’re veal testicles.

Cube steak: nope, not pieces of meat cut into cubes, it’s a tougher cut of meat generally run through a tenderizer called a “cuber.” Pork butt is then, unsurprisingly, not the cut from the butt, but from the shoulder.

History reveals that meat processors changed the names of product to market for better sales; they thought it would bring a better price on a cheaper cut with a tastier sounding name. But you don’t find examples of misnamed foods just from the meat market; how about Chili? It sounds cold, but it’s usually described as a spicy stew containing peppers to make it hot and flavorful.

Try Toad in a Hole, Egg in the Basket, Bullseye Eggs, Pirate Patch, or One-Eyed Jack- all referring to a piece of bread with a hole cut out with a fried egg in the middle. Then there’s a “bubble and squeak,” which maybe sounds like a bath, but is actually an English recipe made with leftover beef and cabbage fried together. Then there’s City Chicken which isn’t chicken at all, but a veal cutlet pounded and breaded. Veal in the mid 1900s was cheaper than chicken, so they used a lot of it to feed hungry families.

Which brings me to today’s recipe of and one of my favorites — Chicken Fried Steak, which has no chicken in it at all.

The origin of this delicious meal is highly debated, but is undoubtedly similar to dishes in South America. I was in an Argentinian steak house in New York and had this dish called Milanese. It’s very similar to what Texas owns as Chicken Fried Steak, but without the gravy. Chicken fried steak thought to have been brought to Texas from German and Austrian settlers in the 1860s, but they called it Wiener Schnitzel. They used cheaper cuts of meat out of ease and affordability, so they enhanced the flavor and textures by spicing and breading it before frying it, much like we would fry chicken (ergo chicken fried steak.) What makes chicken fried steak different from its early ancestor’s recipes is the gravy that goes along with it; peppery and creamy it’s a delicious accompaniment to this pan-fried goody. Combine a fresh batch of mashed potatoes and green beans and you have a delicious meal; I hope you love it as much as I do. Enjoy!


4 cube steaks

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon seasoning salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

2 teaspoon hot sauce

1 cup vegetable oil approx...


In medium bowl mix together dry ingredients: flour, seasoning salt, baking soda, baking powder, salt and black pepper, and set aside.

In separate bowl mix together eggs, butter milk, and hot sauce. Prepare your cube steaks by patting them dry, salt and pepper them lightly. Dredge cube steaks in dry mixture coating all sides, then dip into egg mixture getting the steak fully coated. Drip excess off and then back into the dry mix, again coat completely, and set on sheet pan. Repeat for all steaks. Preheat oven to 225 degrees for future use.

Heat about a ¼ inch depth (approximately 1 cup) of oil in large frying pan (cast Iron works great). Bring heat up to about 350 degrees, but not too hot as the oil should not smoke. You can test if the oil is ready by dropping a bit of dry coating in the hot oil- it should sizzle and pop slightly. Put two steaks in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Only turn once, as turning them more often loosens the crust. When steaks are finished cooking with a crispy and brown coating, remove from oil and put on a paper towel lined baking sheet and hold in the warm oven until ready to serve. Once the steaks are cooked, its gravy time!

Gravy ingredients

4 tablespoons grease

4 tablespoons flour

2 1/2 cups whole milk

½ teaspoon seasoning salt

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Gravy Directions

In making the gravy the best advice I can give you is: don’t scrape the skillet. Leave all of that crispy goodies in there from cooking your steaks. Simply spoon out some grease and add back in just enough to make the gravy.

Add the 4 tbsp of flour to greasy skillet. Let the flour cook and brown before adding liquids. This builds up flavor and removes that raw flour taste.

Using a whisk, add the milk and cream. Now you can scrap the bottom of the pan deglazing all those tasty nuggets into the gravy.

Season at the end. Adding salt and pepper to taste.

David Theiss is owner of Butler Gourmet Meats in Carson City.


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