Monday, March 31, 2014

Southern Style Steak

When I was a kid one of my favorite books was Stone Soup. A cheerfully illustrated story of a wandering cook (or rather a wandering eater) who professed to make soup from a humble stone as villagers amazed at his progress each contributed just a turnip, a cabbage or a bone to add extra flavor. In the end every one shared in the soup and marveled how it had been created from just a single stone.

I consider myself a pretty adaptable cook. I love to look into the fridge where others see nothing and come out with dinner. My own rotating version of Stone Soup.

But tonight when I looked in the cupboard and found no garlic -- I admit I was stumped for a bit. Everything I had been thinking of making -- primarily hummus with spicy roasted chick peas (I have the cooked legumes waiting in the fridge) -- would fall flat without a hint of garlic.

Pouring through the freezer I came across a package of round steak from our CSA box-- another puzzler. Round steak can be very tough and most often I use thin tenderized slices for chicken fried steak. I suppose I could have done that. I was hoping for something a bit more hands off. Suddenly I thought of smothered steak, a long cooking stove top braise that makes its own gravy as it simmers.  A favorite of soul food spots and Southern meat and three diners.

I started a bit of oil heating in a pan and added in a couple slices of bacon for extra flavor (garlic isn't the only flavor trick I guess). When the bacon crisped I set it aside and added the round steaks seasoned with cayenne, S&P, paprika, and a bit of powdered garlic I found hiding in the back of the spice drawer and dredged in seasoned flour into the pan. I browned the steaks on both sides and set them aside. I added one sliced onion and a half basket of white mushrooms into the skillet. I think I might have tossed in a little butter at that point while I sautéed the vegetables for about 5 minutes. Then I sprinkled in about 1/3 (maybe 1/4) cup of flour and gave it a good store around coating the vegetables and cooking just long enough to lose the floury taste. Next I poured in about 3 cups of chicken broth, gave everything a stir and added the steaks and crumbled bacon back into the pan. When the liquid came up to a boil I covered the pan and let everything simmer on the lowest heat for about an hour.

Meanwhile I had all the time in the world to whip up mashed potatoes to hold that savory mushroom bacon gravy and crisp butter coated green beans.

Admittedly for just our two steaks this recipe made way too much gravy. One day down the road James may see that gravy again as the base for soup or with tender meatballs but for now it's flavor waiting to happen tucked away in the freezer. No garlic needed.

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