Cook's exchange: Sawmill gravy a comforting topper for chicken-fried steak

May 7, 2014 

Chicken-fried steak hits the top spot on my top 10 of comfort foods. Yes, the native Texan comes out once again. After all, chicken-fried steak was created in Lamesa, Texas, which has a festival each April honoring this special dish.

Chicken-fried steak is similar to fried chicken in that the steak, usually thin round steak, is battered and fried. The traditional batter contains eggs, flour, salt, pepper and milk. Some folks substitute beer for the milk. The steak is dipped in the thick batter, dredged in flour and fried in hot oil. Even though it is fried, chicken-fried steak is not greasy if it is properly cooked. Of course, the fried steak is not complete without cream or sawmill gravy, certainly not the brown stuff. My native Texan grandmother made the best ever. She would serve it with mashed potatoes, cooked cabbage and cornbread. It makes me drool just thinking about her fried steak.

My husband knows when I have had a hard day. He comes home to chicken-fried steak, cream gravy, mashed potatoes, cabbage and jalapeno cornbread, the only twist on my grandmother's meal.

Just for fun, I am sharing a sawmill gravy recipe that is good on steaks, chicken or biscuits. No, it is not low-calorie, but ever once in a while, it sure tastes good.

SAWMILL GRAVY

1/4 cup bacon grease

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups milk, heated

1- 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste

Heat bacon grease until hot in skillet, then mix in flour. Pour in heated milk gradually, stirring constantly. Whisk until slightly thickened and smooth. While gravy

simmers, add pepper and salt. Simmer until thick. This makes about 1 quart.

-- Recipe from Good Eats Cafe in Houston.

Pistachio cake found

Paul Goll of Florida asked for a good pistachio cake recipe, and Betty Smith of Palmetto shares her recipe.

"I received this recipe from a co-worker more than 50 years ago and have made it many times," Smith said. "It is easy to make and goes over big when you serve it."

PISTACHIO SHEET CAKE

1 box lemon or yellow cake mix (make to directions)

Bake 20 minutes or until done in a cookie sheet with sides. Let cool.

1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese, softened and whipped

1 small package instant pistachio pudding, made to directions

Mix whipped cream cheese and pudding together. Set aside.

1 (1 pound, 4-ounce) can crushed pineapple (this must be very well drained)

Spread drained pineapple on cooled cake, then spread on the cream cheese and pudding mix. Over this, spread:

1 (9-ounce) carton of Cool Whip

Sprinkle with chopped nuts or 1 cup of coconut, or use both if desired.

Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.

-- Submitted by Betty Smith

Meatless meals ideas

Nedra Baldwin shares some meatless main dish meals that make use of fresh vegetables that are in stores and farmers markets now.

SKILLET VEGETABLE 'LASAGNA'

3 tablespoons oil

1 eggplant, peeled, coarsely chopped

1 zucchini, sliced

1 yellow squash, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup Polly-O Original Ricotta Cheese

3 tablespoons Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese

1- 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce, divided

1- 1/2 cups Kraft Shredded Mozzarella Cheese with a Touch of Philadelphia

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash, cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in garlic; cook on medium heat 5 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove vegetables from skillet; set aside. Mix ricotta and Parmesan.

Spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce onto bottom of skillet; top with small spoonfuls of ricotta mixture, cooked vegetables, remaining spaghetti sauce and mozzarella. Cover.

Cook on medium-low heat 20 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes before serving.

-- Submitted by Nedra Baldwin from "Best-Loved Recipes, Vol. II"

ZUCCHINI-PARMESAN BAKE

3 eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

3 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 pound)

1 cup reduced-fat biscuit/baking mix

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and oil until blended. Stir in remaining ingredients. Transfer mixture to a greased 10-inch ovenproof skillet. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Serves 6.

-- Submitted by Nedra Baldwin from Taste of Home magazine

Andrea Yeager, can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net.

or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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