A tried and true recipe from a man who knows his chicken fried steak — click here to read Thomas Ryder's tribute to this Southern delicacy.
For the meat:
Cover each slice of meat with plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or something similar until meat is somewhat less than ¼-inch thick. (It will expand in size substantially.) Leave covered and allow to come to room temperature. When ready to cook, slice into 4 pieces, sized according to appetite.
For the wash:
Add all ingredients to a relatively large, shallow bowl and mix thoroughly.
For the dredge:
Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly in a large, shallow bowl. When blended, pour buttermilk over dry ingredients and mix with fingers. This will form small clumps that will help make the steak crispy.
Preheat oven to about 225 degrees and arrange a wire rack on a cookie sheet. Heat Crisco or lard on the stove in a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven to about 375 degrees. The oil should be about an inch deep in the pan, so depending on the size of your pan it may take more or less than a cup. Dip a piece of meat in the wash covering both sides then dredge in the flour mixture until thoroughly coated and all wet spots are covered and look dry. Carefully transfer 1-2 pieces of meat to the hot oil, depending on size of each. Do not crowd the meat. Cook until golden brown on each side. This will take less than 5 minutes on the first side and around 3 minutes on the second side. Watch carefully and don’t leave your post. This is where most mistakes happen. When done, use tongs to transfer meat to wire rack and leave in the warm oven until all meat is cooked and gravy is ready. (If you don’t have a wire rack, use paper towels.) Pour off all but ¼ cup of oil and leave the residue of the steaks and breading in the pan.
For Fat Tommy’s classic cream gravy:
Warm the half and half in a separate pan or in the microwave. Heat the drippings and butter over moderate heat in the pan in which the steaks were cooked, stirring in flour until thick. Gradually add half and half until gravy is thick but pourable. Add spices and cook over low heat until blended. Taste and correct spices. Now give your honey a high five! Pour over steaks and enjoy. You will probably have enough gravy left to pour over your biscuits and mashed potatoes as well just in case your caloric intake for the day is lagging.
Variations: Sausage Gravy
This is a simple protein-supplement variation that makes spectacular gravy. Sauté ½ chopped medium sized onion until soft in the pan drippings and butter above. When almost done, add ½ pound of Jimmy Dean’s sausage pinched off into small pieces and cook until browned. Then add flour and continue as above.