March 8, 2010

Comfort Food

Comfort Food: Chicken Fried Steak w/ Diced Potato Gravy, Spicy Mac & Cheese, and Creamed Spinach w/ Crispy Fried Onions

Mac & Cheese w/ Toasted Bread Crumbs

Creamed Spinach topped with Crispy Fried Onions

I have been quite busy over the last couple of weeks and have really missed cooking with B. So this weekend we made it a point to go all out with a "Southern Comfort" dinner that consisted of chicken fried steak, diced potato gravy, spicy macaroni and cheese, and creamed spinach topped with fried onions. Intense right? The meal, or at least the protein of choice, was B's idea. He caught the end of a Cooking for Real episode with Sunny Anderson on the Food Network and was totally sold on making some chicken fried steak. I naively thought that it was just another form of chicken...

It dawned on me that chicken fried steak was probably one of the most unhealthy foods imaginable (outside of a fast food joint). I got a clue when my colleagues abruptly stopped breathing mid-sentence—like a clogged artery—when I spoke those three magical words. I have a new theory: you know the food can't be good for you if it references two types of livestock in the name.

So in order to "prep" our digestive tract to handle this, we hiked around (in the Bronx, no less, since we had to sign up for a hunter's safety class... stay tuned for that adventure: duckies will go down in my book this year) and ate a vegetarian lunch (Bimini: bilberry juice + champagne, butternut squash soup, and portobella panini from Cafe Blossom). After a quick power nap, we gathered supplies from Fairway (all of the ingredients except for fried onions), Westside Market (fried onion success!), and Zabar's (Le Creuset Stoneware Square Dish, Oxo Good Grips PRO Grater, Oxo Good Grips Meat Tenderizer, Pyrex 2-Quart Oblong Baking Dish).

B took full control of the chicken fried steak: from tenderizing to breading, frying to eating. Meanwhile, I made the spicy mac & cheese, gravy and creamed spinach. The mac & cheese was a lot of fun to put together. It wasn't difficult, but it came out sooo good. Since the mac & cheese and creamed spinach both require the oven to be on different temperatures, I made them in sequential order. We fried the steaks last so that they'd arrived on everyone's plates still sizzlin'. The meal was accompanied by a bottle of spicy and bright Grenache that B's buddy (BCS) brought over. T also dropped by for dinner. By the time all of the food arrived on the table, we threw calorie-counting-caution to the wind and really enjoyed ourselves. Afterward, we played some Drinking Wii Bowling (1st game: good idea, 2nd game: not so much) and Mario Kart (no matter what I do, I completely suck at this game) until 2 in the morning. Now that's comfort for you.

More pics can be found here

Chicken Fried Steak with Diced Potato Gravy
From Sunny Anderson, Cooking for Real
Prep time: 20 min / Cooking time: 20 min / Ready in: 40 min
Yields: 4-6 servings (1-2 steaks per person + half cup of gravy)


2 eggs

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 lb cube steak, cut into individual steaks

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

Vegetable oil, for frying (or half butter, half oil..)


1. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper, to taste. Add the steaks, stir to coat, and let sit 10 minutes. In a paper bag, combine the flour, cornstarch, a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

2. Remove the steaks from egg mixture and put into the paper bag. Roll the top of the bag to close, and shake until the steaks are evenly coated. This may be done in batches. Let the coated steak rest on a sheet tray lined with a rack for 10 minutes.

3. In a deep, heavy-bottomed skillet add enough oil to reach 1/2-inch up the sides. Heat the oil over medium heat to 370 degrees F. (When a wooden spoon inserted into the oil creates tiny bubbles, the oil is ready.) Make sure that the oil is sizzling! Otherwise, you'll get a sadly soaked steak instead of a nice and crispy one.

4. Fry the steaks, in batches if necessary, flipping only once when color is golden and a poke releases no red juices, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a serving platter and serve with Diced Potato Gravy.

: : :

Diced Potato Gravy

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 bay leaf

2 1/2 cups beef broth

1 large russet potato, diced into 1/4-inch cubes (or 3 small red potatoes)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley, for garnish (or dried parsley flakes)


1. In a large straight-sided skillet heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until tender, about 3 minutes.

2. Whisk in the flour, stirring to combine with the butter. Add the bay leaf and broth and bring to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened, then add the potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are tender and the gravy has thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

4. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and the parsley. Serve poured over the chicken fried steak.

: : :

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese
From Sunny Anderson, Cooking for Real
Prep time: 15 min / Cooking time: 55 min / Ready in: 1 hour 15 min
Yields: 6-8 servings


2 cups (16 oz) elbow pasta, cooked until almost al dente

16 oz Cheddar cheese, 1/2 cubed, 1/2 shredded (I used mix of sharp and extra sharp)

8 oz Monterey pepper jack cheese, cubed

2 tsp all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp dry mustard

1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

4 Tbsp sour cream

1 large egg, beaten

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup half-and-half

4 slices bread (whole grain, not white)

1 Tbsp butter

Special equipment: 2-quart baking dish


1. Preheat oven to 350┬║ F.

2. In a large bowl, toss together pasta with the cheese cubes and pour into the baking dish.

3. In a medium bowl mix together the flour, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, dry mustard, nutmeg and sour cream, egg, heavy cream and half-and-half. Pour over the pasta and cover with shredded Cheddar.

4. Bake uncovered until top is just beginning to brown, about 35 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, cut the bread into crouton-sized squares. In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter, add cubes and toast until golden. Sprinkle the bread cubes on top of the macaroni and cheese and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes more.

: : :

Creamed Spinach with Crispy Fried Onions From Sunny Anderson, Cooking for Real
Prep time: 15 min / Cooking time: 30 min / Ready in: 45 min
Yields: 6 servings


4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan

1/2 red onion, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons red chili flakes

1 3/4 cups heavy cream

1 cup shredded Parmesan

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup sour cream

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1/2 cup packaged fried onions (recommended: French's)


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees┬║ F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking dish.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Saute for 3 minutes, then add the garlic and red chili flakes and saute for 2 more minutes.

3. Add the heavy cream, Parmesan, and nutmeg. Heat until the cream is just beginning to bubble, stirring often. Turn the burner off and stir in sour cream and spinach.

4. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top evenly with fried onions.

5. Bake until golden and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.


Sunny Anderson said...

I am truly honored you guys threw calorie and carb caution the the wind and took on a full menu from the show ... thanks SOOOOO much for watching, you guys are my kind of foodies!!!

Zabar's said...

Thanks for shopping at Zabar's for the equipment for this culinary adventure! And um, sounds delicious.

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