GSA’s Sunday Eating Club: Southern Chicken Fried Steak

By Rachael Reagan

Rachael Reagan shares a little backstory and a recipe for chicken-fried steak, a Southern classic.  The Gastronomy Students Association hosts a bi-monthly Sunday Eating Club event.  To see all the GSA’s events, please visit our Calendar.

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Chicken fried steak and gravy with buttermilk biscuits and blackberry jam (Photo by Lauren Kauffman)

“So wait, is it chicken or is it steak?”

This question surely arises from both Yankees and novice Southerners alike anytime chicken fried steak appears on the menu. Even fine gastronauts-in-training, many of who attended the latest Sunday Eating Club function on September 28th, have questions regarding the nature of this indulgent, deep-fried dish. Referring to its cooking method, chicken-fried steak is steak that has been deep fried like chicken. Traditionally served as the star of any Southern meal, chicken fried steak is almost always served in a pool of peppery gravy flanked by mashed potatoes and buttermilk biscuits. A first-year student originally from Oklahoma, I gladly shared the southern classic with Gastronomy students Sunday night at the Gastronomy Students Association’s second Sunday Eating Club meeting of the semester.

Not forgetting the standards of southern hospitality, the evening began with two dips very common in Southern states: Rotel dip and white queso. Though white queso is mainly considered a Tex-Mex staple, it nevertheless appears in almost any kind of restaurant menu. Rotel dip, consisting of equal parts cream cheese and Rotel brand canned diced tomatoes (no other diced tomatoes will work) can be seen served at almost any tailgate throughout the south.

With the guests happily occupied with two varieties of cheese, the biscuit-making procedure began. Cutting in lard and butter into a sifted dry mixture, I explained the difference between a drop biscuit and a rolled biscuit. Though virtually the same, families have fought for years over the superior method. Rolled biscuits require a rolling pin, biscuit cutter, and patience. Drop biscuits, as their name suggests, are simply dropped by the spoonful onto a buttered and floured baking sheet.

The process of frying chicken-fried steak is a long one, and the evening had the laid-back nature of any southern meeting. Though long and intensive, the steaks were well worth the wait. The backdrop of easy conversation and sizzling oil made conditions perfect for enjoying a sinful fried steak with gravy.

Sunday Suppers are held by the Gastronomy Students Association twice each month and encourage students to share a food or food custom with their peers. Here is my recipe for Chicken Fried Steak:

Chicken Fried Steak

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons seasoned salt (preferably Lawry’s)
  • ¾ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 pounds cube steak (or top round), tenderized and cut
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Oil for frying (preferable neutral oil)
  1. Mix together whole milk and eggs in a shallow dish and set aside.
  2. Mix together flour, seasoned salt, pepper, salt, paprika, cayenne, garlic salt, and onion salt in a shallow bowl and set aside.
  3. Dredge meat in flour mixture then egg mixture, then again in flour mixture. Set aside dredged meat on clean plate. Repeat with all pieces.
  4. Add about an inch of oil to a large skillet.
  5. Add the steaks to the oil three at a time, cooking about three minutes on each side. Transfer fried steaks to paper towel lined plate.

Gravy

  • Flour
  • Whole Milk
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Without removing any grease from the pan, slowly add flour to grease whisking constantly until a thick consistency is reached
  2. When the flour has combined with the grease to form a paste-like consistency, add milk slowly.
  3. While whisking in milk, carefully watch the mixture to ensure desired consistency is reached. After desired consistency is reached, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately over steaks.

Say Cheese!

Photo by Audrey Reid
Photo by Audrey Reid

By Marleena Eyre

On February 22, 2014, an uncharacteristically warm day, members of the BU Gastronomy Students Association spent the afternoon stretching cheese curds into velvety mozzarella and turning fresh milk into ricotta. Microbiologist Dr. Benjamin Wolfe, who is teaching Microbiology of Food for the BU Gastronomy Program this semester, hosted the GSA’s Cheese Making Workshop. With a passion for all things microbial, Dr. Wolfe obtained his B.Sc. from Cornell, his Ph.D. from Harvard University, and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s FAS Center for Systems Biology with Dr. Rachel Dutton.

Walking past modern offices lined with complex equations written on windows in Harvard’s Northwest Lab Building, Dr. Wolfe led us to the kitchen where we were greeted by large stainless steel pots and a slew of ingredients ready for cheese making. Before jumping into the cooking portion of the workshop, Dr. Wolfe gave a brief lecture on microbes and the fundamentals of cheese making.

Photo by Audrey Reid
Photo by Audrey Reid

The acidity which separates the casein micelles – proteins in milk that make it appear white – from the whey, also helps to bind the proteins together. This can be done with the addition of rennet or acids such as lemon, vinegar, or citric acid. From these curds, a plethora of delicious cheeses can be made. Though the excess whey is not used in the rest of the process, it can be saved and used as a nutritional additive to smoothies, used to keep a block of feta cheese fresh, or even used as a liquid replacement in baking.

After walking through the various steps to making fresh mozzarella, Dr. Wolfe sliced a 10-pound block of pressed cheese curds and placed the pieces into bowls of hot salted water to induce the stretching process. Mozzarella making is all about physics and using physical manipulation to produce the desired textural attributes known for comprising this well-known cheese.

Photo by Audrey Reid
Photo by Audrey Reid

The pulling motion of stretching mozzarella helps to align the casein micelles which are indiscriminately assembled when the cheese curds are produced. Within a few minutes, our hands turned the chunks of rigid cheese curds into silky strings ready for consumption; it was as if we were transported back to childhood and playing with silly putty.

Rounding out the workshop, we had the opportunity to peek inside the lab where Dr. Wolfe and his colleagues spend hours researching and testing thousands of microbial strains. Amongst the lab equipment was a makeshift cheese cave showcasing the fruits of their labor. One whiff of the temperature-controlled refrigerator, a zone of concentrated microbes, was not for the faint of heart; it is an acquired scent prized by cheese enthusiasts.

As gastronomy students, we couldn’t go home without sampling some of the cheese we had made. We gladly piled our plates with caprese salad and ricotta and honey slathered slices of bread. There was even enough for each of us to take some home to share with family and friends.

Photo by Audrey Reid
Photo by Audrey Reid
Photo by Audrey Reid
Photo by Audrey Reid

Making cheese at home can be a fun DIY project, and fresh cheeses are the easiest to start with. Ricotta and mozzarella are a couple great examples for novices to try. Ideally, cheese should start with raw milk, but in the United States it can be difficult to come by, especially in the state of Massachusetts. Fresh cheeses, like these, are somewhat more forgiving and can be made with purchased cheese curds or pasteurized milk – you’ll just want to make sure that you get the highest quality milk for the best results.

If you’re interested in learning more about cheese making and the science behind it, visit Dr. Wolfe’s website. He strongly suggests picking up a copy of Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen as well. Missed out on making cheese with the GSA? Check out their event page for future workshops, panels, and more!

Marleena Eyre is a second year Gastronomy student, an editorial intern at NoshOn.It, and blogs at The Flex Foodie. When she’s not studying or writing about food, she can be found paging through cookbooks at her local bookstores or breaking the ice on the Charles River with her rowing team. IMG_8079