Crisp, crackling crust surrounding a tenderized slab of beef can only get better with cream gravy. But not just any gravy; it’s boudin cream gravy. This Cajun-Fried Steak recipe from the heart of South Louisiana ups the ante on our Texas neighbor that’s sure to start a feud. Time to lock and load; it’s a bonafide, chicken-fried showdown.
First, a little history lesson: Louisiana has never really jumped on the chicken-fried steak bandwagon. Oh, we love to eat it whenever we can, and it’s usually the typical Texas version of the dish with crispy fried steak, a drench of white cream gravy all served over a mound of mashed potatoes. Every Cracker Barrel eatery dotting the interstate highway landscape proclaims their version of chicken fried steak as their #1 menu item, and to tell the truth, it is quite good. (Note: Based on several reader comments (see below), I want to say (and I agree) that Cracker Barrel chicken fried steak should not be confused with a classic Texas chicken fried steak any more than Cracker Barrel’s gumbo (if they should ever serve it on the menu) should be confused with a classic Louisiana gumbo. Enough said.)
But, if you move further away from Texas and over to Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina, you are more likely to find the same menu item prepared in an entirely different way. Same batter-fried meat but the gravy is brown, and the crispy steak is smothered down in the gravy for a spell. It’s a much different experience, and some say, it is a definitive method for a proper country-fried steak. So, as Louisiana focuses on its gumbos and étouffées, it has once again (remember barbecue?) missed the culinary boat on defining a regional take on a Southern specialty.
Well, that just won’t do!
I set out to develop an original Cajun recipe for, oh, what do I call it? Chicken-fried steak? I think Texas owns that. Country-fried steak? Too generic. Ok, Cajun-fried steak it is.
The standard meat ingredient is beef round steak, and I have my butcher slice it thick and run it through his commercial cubing machine twice–once lengthwise and then horizontally for one more pass. And just before battering the meat, I pound it out even thinner. This extra tenderizing step creates a porous surface area and elongates the meat for a fork-tender, platter-sized portion. And the thinner meat will cook quickly and evenly before the crust has a chance to burn.
Here’s where we deviate from the traditional Deep South recipes: coating and gravy. I want an extra crispy crust with a spicy Cajun flavor, and Zapp’s Cajun Crawtator potato chips delivers just the right balance. I love cooking with this iconic Louisiana ingredient (remember my fried catfish recipe?) and with a quick whirl in the food processor, I’ve got the perfect crunchy coating for my Cajun recipe version.
And this recipe is all about good gravy. To be exact, cream gravy. Now I don’t know about you, but I was raised in a Southern family where gravy was praised as one of the basic food groups. Here in South Louisiana it is said that a real Cajun can glance over a rice field and tell you exactly how much gravy it’ll take to cover the rice. In these parts, good gravy comes with bragging rights and is most always a safely guarded family secret. And here at Acadiana Table, you’re family. We’re all about sharing and this homespun Cajun recipe for gravy just might be the ultimate.
Cream gravy, chicken gravy, sausage gravy, sawmill gravy–Southern cooks have a variety of names for it. But here in Acadiana, I’ve found a secret weapon in the quest for the holy gravy grail–boudin. Boudin is a sausage mix stuffed inside a pork casing and steamed. It is a livery, oniony concoction that is the perfect blend for infusing a béchamel-type milk gravy. Texturally, this gravy combines a smooth velvety creaminess with rough-hewn bits and pieces of grist and grit left over from the frying, and I like how the meat and rice of the boudin add body and bite, spice and specs of pungent flavor.
So, the next time you consider a traditional chicken-fried steak, think Cajun-fried instead, and be sure to top it with boudin cream gravy. Good gravy!
- Peanut oil, for frying
- 4 (8-ounce) tenderized beef round steaks
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 (9.5-ounce) bags kettle-fried potato chips, preferably Zapp’s Crawtator chips
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups buttermilk
- ½ pound cooked boudin sausage, removed from the casing (see link to recipe in Notes)
- 4 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
- 1 cup whole milk
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Mashed potatoes, for serving
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add enough oil to a depth of ¼ inch and heat to 375ºF.
- Using a heavy kitchen mallet, pound out the cubed steaks until they are thin. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
- Open the bag of chips slightly and squeeze the middle of the bag repeatedly until all the chips are broken up. Empty the bag into the container of a food processor and pulse until the chips resemble coarse Panko bread crumbs. Empty the ground chips onto a platter.
- Coat the steaks lightly with flour and then dredge quickly in the buttermilk. Add the steaks to the crushed chips and press on both sides until coated. Move each steak to a platter.
- Add the steaks one at a time to the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Move each of the steaks to a wire rack and keep warm.
- Pour off most of the oil from the frying pan reserving 4 tablespoons of the grease along with all of the remaining crunchy bits and pieces. Heat the grease over medium-high heat and add the crumbled boudin. Saute until the boudin begins to brown. Sprinkle with flour, stir into the oil, and make a blond roux by cooking it just long enough to remove the raw flour taste. Add the evaporated milk and stir to combine. As it comes to a simmer and thickens, begin thinning it out by adding the whole milk. Continue adding milk until it reaches a gravy thickness or thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If needed, add water to thin it out. Add salt to taste along with a heavy dose of black pepper. Keep warm for serving.
- On a platter, add a mound of mashed potatoes and top it with a Cajun-fried steak. Spoon the boudin cream gravy over the meat and potatoes, and serve with more gravy on the side.
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