3 lbs. cube steaks or round steak, trimmed of fat

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 cups cultured buttermilk

1 pint EggBeaters

1 tsp. red pepper sauce

2 cups Frank Davis Chicken-Fried Mix

2 cups Crisco or Wesson Shortening

The first thing you want to do is cut the steaks into serving-size pieces. Then tenderize each piece by pounding it to 1/4 inch thickness with a meat maul. Immediately thereafter, set up the breading trays on the countertop.

Side-by-side, starting on the right, fill a shallow baking pan with all purpose flour and put it on the counter; then set a shallow pan filled with the buttermilk, EggBeaters, and hot sauce next to it; and then finally place a third pan filled with the Frank Davis Chicken Fried Mix next to the buttermilk pan. By the way, to make the dredging mix for the first pan simply combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and salt and pepper, taking care to mix everything well. Note: If you'd like your steak to turn out super spicy, go ahead and sprinkle a touch of cayenne into the flour mixture right about now.

When you're ready to cook, dredge the steak in the first pan and coat it evenly. Then lift it out and shake off the excess flour. Next, dip the floured steak into the buttermilk, carefully coating both sides yet allowing the excess to drip off. Then place the steak into the chicken fry mixture, once again coating it well and shaking off all the excess. Repeat the process with all the steaks, and when they're all done place them on a sheet of either waxed or parchment paper and chill them for about 15 minutes before frying them.

To fry 'em, heat the shortening to medium-high (365 degrees) in a large high-sided skillet. Then with a long-handle fork or a chef's meat hook, fry two or three steaks at a time until they brown nicely on both sides, turning them only once (cooking time is about 3 to 5 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the meat). Repeat the process with the remaining cutlets.

When you remove them from the skillet, transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels and drain them briefly. Then set them aside on a wire rack in a 200-degree oven to keep them warm and crispy while the gravy is being prepared.


The Mashed Potatoes

8 large white or Russet potatoes

1 gallon salted water

1 stick salted butter, as desired

3/4 cup heavy cream

Salt & black pepper to taste

Sour cream topping to garnish

First, using a potato peeler like a soldier on K.P., strip away the outside peel from the potatoes and cut them into medium-dice chunks. Then place the pieces into a bowl of cold water to keep them from turning a yucky brown.

In the meantime, while you're prepping the spuds, bring to a rolling boil a 6- to 8-quart stockpot filled halfway with salted water. Then drop in the 'taters; but as soon as the water comes back to a boil immediately reduce the heat to low to create a true 'simmer.' This will allow the potato chunks to 'poach' gently and retain their starchy creaminess. Then when they are tender (a fork or ice pick will pierce the pieces easily), drain off the hot water and transfer them to a large mixing bowl.

At this point it's time to season and flavor the chunks. First drop the butter into the bowl and, with a potato masher, work it completely into the pieces until fully melted. Next, a little at a time, pour in the heavy cream and thoroughly incorporate it into the buttered tubers until it becomes fully absorbed. And finally, sprinkle in the salt and pepper to taste, once again using the potato masher to distribute the seasonings evenly throughout the bowl.

When you're ready to eat, spoon out a generous helping of the creamy 'taters next to a crispy, crunchy chicken fried steak and crown the pile with a dollop of sour cream.


The White Country Gravy

1/4 cup reserved pan drippings

2 Tbsp. butter

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 cup warm milk

1 cup chicken broth

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 quart milk as needed

In the same frying pan you used to do the steaks, save about a quarter cup of the pan drippings and heat them over a medium flame, along with the couple of tablespoons of butter. By the way, be sure to keep as many of the browned bits (the dregs) in the pan-this is where the flavor intensity of the gravy will come from.

When the skillet is deglazed, go ahead and whisk in the flour (and, yes, it's okay to use some of the leftover flour from the dredging pan). When the full measure is in the drippings, cook and stir the roux mixture for about a minute or two. Then very slowly add the cup of warm milk and the chicken stock, stirring constantly until uniformly blended.

At this point, bring the gravy base to a boil, but immediately reduce the heat and cook until the resultant gravy is thickened (now's the time to whisk in more milk if you want to thin out the gravy a tad). Of course, take special care to stir the mixture continually until it turns smooth and silky.

All that's left then is to season the gravy to taste with salt and pepper and ladle it over the hot, crispy steaks and mashed potatoes. Incidentally, white country gravy is supposed to be thick, but if a thinner gravy is more to your liking, simply add more milk.


Chef's Notes:

If you can't find cube steaks already pre-cut, tenderized, and packaged in the meat department of your supermarket, you can always buy a 2-pound piece of boneless beef top loin and slice it crosswise into 8 (4-ounce) cutlets. Then, using a glancing motion, pound each cutlet thinly with a moistened maul or the side of a heavy cleaver. Of course, if push comes to shove, t'ain't nothing wrong with using a couple big ol' half-inch-thick round steaks either (you might want to ask your butcher to run 'em through his tenderizing machine, though).

The Texans claim to have originated chicken-fried steak. The country folk from Oklahoma to West Virginia say it was all their idea. And the New Orleans Creoles insist the recipe originally came from them. Who knows who did it first? One thing is for certain, though-we all agree it's doggone good!

If you don't have a chef's meat hook but would like to get one, they can be obtained by going to www.cookperfect.com.

Three disposable aluminum pans placed side-by-side make ideal breading trays. And after they've been used, they can be emptied out, crumbled up, and placed in the recycle bins, with little or no cleanup required.

While many recipes call for a traditional egg wash (3 eggs + 1 cup of milk) when prepping chicken fried steak, I've found that a pint of Egg Beaters (which are little more than liquefied egg whites) work a whole lot better to produce a crispiness in the finished steak.