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Recipe of the week: Chicken-fried steak: The ultimate all-American meal

Sales of this mainstay of the American diet were up 10 percent during the last three months of 2008. Here is how cube steak is prepared in Texas and Miami.

Suddenly, cube steak is hot, said Kim Severson in The New York Times. Sales were up 10 percent during the last three months of 2008. But “through good times and bad,” this unpretentious cut with a “mysterious” name has remained a mainstay of the American diet. The term “cube” does not refer to the shape of the cutlet, but to a cubing machine and the checkerboard of dimples it imprints on the meat during the tenderizing process.

Southerners like to countrify their cube steak under a mantle of onions and gravy. Texans, “who view the chicken-fried steak as a birthright,” bury it under cream gravy. Midwesterners bake it into a casserole. In the Southeast and Middle Atlantic states, the cube steak is usually served as “a smothered steak.” In Miami, it is “nestled alongside a pile of onions seasoned with lime.” Here are the Texas and Miami versions.

Recipes of the week
Chicken-Fried Steak With Cream Gravy
Vegetable oil for frying
2 cups flour
1½ tbsp salt
1½ tbsp pepper
2 cups milk
2 lbs cube steak, cut into 6 pieces

Heat oven to 200 degrees. Pour half-inch oil into cast-iron skillet; place over medium-high heat. Put flour, salt, pepper in large zip-top bag; mix well. Pour milk into large bowl. Dip each piece of steak in milk, shake off excess, shake in bag of flour, making sure both sides are well coated. Shake off excess. Lay steaks into hot oil until skillet is full but not crowded. Cook about 3 minutes a side, or until a good crust is formed. Move steaks to platter in warm oven as the others cook. When done, pour off all but about 4 tbsp fat from pan, leaving as many browned bits as possible; turn off heat.

Pour milk into saucepan; add enough water to make 3 cups. Heat over medium heat until just before boiling point. Turn heat under frying pan to medium. When oil is hot, sprinkle in 3 tbsp flour mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, quickly stirring until flour starts to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add liquid, stirring constantly to remove lumps; cook until thickened. Adjust seasoning. Serves 6.

Bistec de Palomilla
2 lbs cube steak, cut into 4 or 6 pieces
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
Juice of 3 limes
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
White rice, for serving

Season steaks with salt and pepper. Put steaks, juice from 2 limes, garlic in 1-gallon zip-top bag. Marinate at least an hour. Put oil and butter in heavy frying pan over medium heat. When butter stops foaming, add onions; sauté until soft and just starting to turn color, about 5 minutes. Remove onions to bowl, cover with foil, set aside.

Turn heat under pan to medium-high. Add steaks, being sure not to crowd pan; add more olive oil if needed. Cook about 2 minutes per side, flipping when juices come to surface. Remove to platter. Add any leftover pan juices to onions, along with juice from remaining lime, and parsley. Top steaks with onions. Serve with white rice. Serves 4 to 6.

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