I grew up a military brat. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it means the child of a member of the United States Military. As many members of the military move frequently, it often implies someone who has had that experience as a child. I moved quite a bit as a child.
From pre-school until grade 7, I was in the same school only twice (2nd and 3rd grades). I lived in several different communities in southern California, in the Denver area, outside of Washington D.C. and 10 months in Montgomery, Alabama. To be honest, I typically phrase it as “10 months of hell in Alabama”.
I spent 4th grade in Alabama, having just spent the previous three years in Denver and it was a big change in culture. First, I had trouble with the accent. Being a kid, I really hadn’t heard a deep southern drawl much and it really took some time to get used to it. Second, they had bugs as big as your head. We had crickets in the wheat fields near our house in Denver, but we had an army of cockroaches IN our house in Alabama. Lastly, we were immediately pegged as outsiders, and treated as such (my bike was stolen).
I went to Peter Crump Elementary School. (As a side note, while Peter Crump has a school named after him, he does not have a Wikipedia entry. Isn’t that a bit weird? Anyway, it looks like he started the Dixie Electric Company maintaining the electric streetcars of Montgomery in the 1920’s). I don’t remember much of the school but I do recall one of the classroom responsibilities.
Like many classrooms, some students have regular jobs (clean erasers, pass out books, etc…). My 4th grade class had a rather unusual job in the winter. There was a rather (and disturbing) amount of frogs that lived on the school grounds. Being cold-blooded creatures, they would seek ways to warm up on cold winter nights. One way they did that was to climb up to the windows of the school and stick themselves to the windows. The heat from the other side of the glass would keep them alive as the cold temperatures worked on their backs.
One job during the winter was to knock the frozen frogs off the windows (as they were an endless distraction to 4th grade kids).
Chicken Fried Steak
Until recent years, I didn’t have much appreciation for southern food, but that has changed. It was time for me to make some Chicken Fried Steak.
I started with thin cut sandwich steaks and tenderized them.
The gravy is the key to this dish.
So awesome. An no frozen frog in sight!
Chicken Fried Steak
Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Cook Time: 25 Minutes | Servings: 8
3 pounds Cube Steak (tenderized Round Steak That’s Been Extra Tenderized)
1-1/2 cup Whole Milk, Plus Up To 2 Cups For Gravy
2 whole Large Eggs
3 cups All-purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne
LOTS Of Black Pepper. Lots.
Canola Oil, For Frying
Salt And Pepper, For Both Meat And Gravy
Begin with an assembly line of dishes for the meat: milk mixed with egg in one; flour mixed with spices in one; meat in one; then have one clean plate at the end to receive the breaded meat.
Work one piece of meat at a time. Season both sides with salt and pepper, then dip in the milk/egg mixture. Next, place the meat on the plate of seasoned flour. Turn to coat thoroughly. Place the meat back into the milk/egg mixture, turning to coat. Place back in the flour and turn to coat.
(So: wet mixture/dry mixture/wet mixture/dry mixture.) Place breaded meat on the clean plate, then repeat with remaining meat.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop in a few sprinkles of flour to make sure it’s sufficiently hot. Cook meat, three pieces at a time, until edges start to look golden brown; around 2 to 2 1/2 minutes each side.
Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm. Repeat until all meat is cooked.
After all meat is fried, pour off the grease into a heatproof bowl. Without cleaning the pan, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup grease back to the pan. Allow grease to heat up.
Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk, mix flour with grease, creating a golden-brown paste. Keep cooking until it reaches a deep golden brown color. If paste seems more oily than pasty, sprinkle in another tablespoon of flour and whisk.
Whisking constantly, pour in milk. Cook to thicken the gravy. Be prepared to add more milk if it becomes overly thick. Add salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until gravy is smooth and thick. Be sure to taste to make sure gravy is sufficiently seasoned.
Serve meat next to a big side of mashed potatoes. Pour gravy over the whole shebang!