Did you ever eat something so bad that it was actually good? That would be the perfect way to describe the oddly named “steak fingers” we were served in my elementary school cafeteria. They were really nothing to write home about, and were surely mass-produced and most definitely frozen at some point in their lives. These steak fingers bore little resemblance to their homemade counterpart, real country-style chicken fried steak.
No matter how awful the cafeteria’s steak fingers were, I couldn’t help but adore them. Something about that tasty combination of steak, formerly-crunchy breading with lots of black pepper, served with a big pile of mashed potatoes and gravy was just magic to me.
For this recipe, I decided to stay true to the cafeteria’s version in shape only, and go the traditional route for everything else. Real, down-home, crispy chicken fried steak with boatloads of creamy, peppery gravy and a heap of mashed potatoes. Can I get a hell yeah?
This dish is not healthy in the slightest. I feel like I should warn you of that in advance, in case you had any lingering questions. It’s perfectly acceptable eaten in moderation, though it is a bit difficult – it’s just so good. All month long, I’ll be bringing you some childhood nostalgia in the form of re-vamped — and dare I say delicious? — recipes from those days of eating from plastic lunch trays with your friends by your side.
Previous back-to-school recipes:
Week 1 – Tart Cherry Crisp with Oaty Crumble Topping
chicken fried steak fingers with country gravy
makes 3 servings
1 # beef cube steak, cut into 2 inch wide strips
1 1/4 c (177 g) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1 c milk
3/4 c vegetable oil, for frying
In a somewhat shallow bowl, stir together the flour, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, thyme, pepper, salt and paprika.
In a separate shallow bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low/medium heat.
Cut each piece of cube steak into 2-inch wide pieces. Dip each piece in the egg/milk mixture. Coat each piece fully in the seasoned flour mixture. Dip into the egg/milk mixture again, then back into the flour mixture. Set aside on a plate while dredging and dipping the other pieces.
Once the pan of oil is hot, fry three pieces at a time for 2 – 3 minutes per side. Use a thermometer to take the temperature along the way if you want to take the pieces out when they’re a little pink in the center (140-150 degrees). When done, the steak fingers should be golden brown and crispy on all sides. Set aside on a clean, paper towel-lined plate and fry the second batch.
To make the country gravy: When the pieces are all fried, pour off the oil from the pan except for 2 tablespoons, and don’t you dare scoop out those little browned bits, they’re going to provide a ton of flavor. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of the seasoned flour mixture that you coated the steaks with, and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat until bubbly, one minute or so. Whisk in 2 – 2 1/2 cups of milk and cook until thickened. Feel free to add more milk as needed, to get the gravy to the consistency you like. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as needed.
Make a big pot of super creamy mashed potatoes to go alongside the steak fingers. Smother everything in gravy, cause it’s only the natural thing to do in this situation.
I wish my cafeteria’s steak fingers were as good as this version. If they were, everyone would have loved Steak Finger Day (not just me)!