There are only a few cowboy cooks left in the U.S., and Kent Rollins is one of them. Along with his wife (photographer Shannon Keller Rollins), he offers sizzling steaks and down-home philosophy to the cowboys who herd cattle and show up mighty hungry at the Rollins' 1876 Studebaker chuck wagon.
The following recipe is from Rollins' recently published cookbook, "A Taste of Cowboy: Ranch Recipes and Tales from the Trail" by Kent Rollins and Shannon Rollins (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
It's safe to say I have fixed more chicken-fried steaks than any other person. It's probably the most requested dish from the wagon. First of all, it ain't chicken! It's beef: a cut from the sirloin. There are three secrets to this dish: our seasoning, the Golden Fry Batter, and a good cut of meat. I know this is good, because it's been cowboy-approved for years, but it sure doesn't hurt that it also beat Bobby Flay's recipe in a "Throwdown."
Chef Flay did give it a great effort, but you can't show up at a cowboy's wagon in the blistering heat, challenge him to a Southern fried specialty, and expect to win.
Throwdown-Winning Chicken-Fried Steak
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Makes 4 servings
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup seasoned salt
3 tablespoons lemon pepper
1 tablespoon garlic salt
Canola or peanut oil for frying
4 (5-ounce) pieces tenderized top or bottom round steaks (see Tip)
Golden Fry Batter (see below)
Creamy White Gravy (see below)
1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, seasoned salt, lemon pepper, and garlic salt. Set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, pot, or Dutch oven, pour in enough oil to deep-fry the steaks (2½ to 3 inches). Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches about 350°F.
3. Pick up one piece of meat with tongs and dip it into the batter and then into the flour mixture. Be sure both sides are well coated. Repeat, or as I call it, "double baptize." Repeat with remaining steaks.
4. Fry the pieces for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with the gravy.
Tips: "Tenderized" steaks, which are cut from the eye of round, top round, or bottom round, have been mechanically tenderized by the butcher. They look like a cross between a hamburger and steak. You can also buy sirloin and tenderize it yourself with a meat tenderizing hammer.
You can replace the Golden Fry Batter with a mixture of 2 cups milk or buttermilk, 2 large eggs, beaten, and 1 teaspoon baking powder.
Golden Fry Batter
I used to be a milk or buttermilk and egg fan when battering meat to fry, but it seemed that the coating didn't wanted to stick to the meat as well as I needed it to. This creates a thicker, crispier crust that is the secret to my chicken-fried steak and will work to create a golden crust on meats, veggies, or anything you dream of frying up.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Makes 3 cups
3 tablespoons powdered whole egg
3 tablespoons powdered milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
3 cups warm water
1. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, milk, baking powder, and paprika together.
2. Dissolve the mixture in the water.
Creamy White Gravy
I remember watching Mama and all those old women whip up batches of gravy with three simple ingredients: grease, flour, and milk. Gravy scares some folks, like my wife. Don't give up on a batch of gravy: You can always bring it back with a little more milk or flour. And be sure to give it enough salt and pepper. Whip this up for breakfast and serve with Sourdough Biscuits, or for an evening meal with mashed taters.
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 8 minutes
Makes about 2 cups
½ cup bacon, sausage, or other meat grease
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ to 2 cups milk, warmed
Salt and black pepper
1. Heat the grease over medium heat in a large skillet.
2. Sift in the flour and let it come to a boil for 2 minutes, stirring and mashing down constantly with a spatula.
3. Slowly stir in 1½ cups of the milk and bring back to a light boil. Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth and reaches the desired consistency, about 2 minutes. You can add more milk or water to thin the gravy, if necessary.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
Tip: A lot of times on ranches I use canned milk, which gives a very rich flavor, but sometimes I add a little water to thin it. You can also use heavy cream for a richer taste.
More recipes from Kent Rollins:
- All-Night Sourdough Pancakes
- Bread Pudding with Whiskey Cream Sauce
- Green Pepper Frito Pie
- Sparklin' Taters
Recipes and photography from "A Taste of Cowboy: Ranch Recipes and Tales from the Trail" by Kent Rollins. Copyright © 2015 by Kent Rollins and Shannon Rollins. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
For more info:
- "A Taste of Cowboy: Ranch Recipes and Tales from the Trail" by Kent Rollins (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- Follow @Kent_Rollins on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube