February 8, 2013

Mr. Bear Redefines Geography
(+ Chicken-Fried Steak)

Recurring Conversation with Mr. Bear:

Me:           But you should like [foie gras/cornichons/confit/Insert Rejected French Food Here].  
                You're French, for god's sake!
Mr. Bear:   What are you talking about?
Me:          Your name's Belanger, darling.  Where exactly do you think that comes from?
Mr. Bear:   It's Norman.
Me:          Norman.
Mr. Bear:   Yes.  Like William the Conqueror.
Me:          Who came from...?
Mr. Bear:   Normandy.
Me:          Which is in...?
Mr. Bear:   England.

-Long Pause-

Me:          So...William the Conqueror came to conquer England from...England?
Mr. Bear:   It's a big country.  And they didn't have cars.  It took forever to get around.
Me:          To get around from...?
Mr. Bear:   Normandy.
Me:          And where in England is Normandy?  Precisely?
Mr. Bear:   In the South.
Me:          Exactly how South?
Mr. Bear:   Extremely South.
Me:          More South than London?
Mr. Bear:   Definitely.
Me:          More South than the English Channel?
Mr. Bear:   Maybe.
Me:          And the country that lies across the English Channel from England is...?
Mr. Bear:   Normandy. 

If properly nurtured, this conversation can cycle for hours.
The man really doesn't want to be French.  I don't fully understand it.  
I think it has something to do with Freedom Fries.

And that is why, at this time of year, while everyone else in the foodblog-o-verse is posting grainy black-and-white photos of couples walking along the Seine and making heart-shaped creme brulees, I'm making steak.  And then I'm frying it.  And then I'm dousing it in gravy.  Which, by the way, is a transcendent experience, but that is neither here nor there.  

The point is, when it's Valentine's Day, the man gets what he likes.  And Pinterest fails me completely here, because what Mr. Bear likes isn't red-velvet cupcakes or a heart-themed bento box or anything constructed primarily with glitter, even if that glitter happens to take the form of teeny-tiny hearts.  In fact, especially if it's shaped like teeny-tiny hearts.  What he likes is whiskey.  And plaid flannel shirts.  And red meat made inexplicably and deliciously more caloric with the addition of gravy and boiling oil.  So that's what he's going to get.  Because I'm sweet like that.  And because it leaves more red-velvet cupcakes for me.

Happy Valentine's Day, Mr. Bear.  Let's have some meat.  Your Super-Southern British warrior ancestors would be proud.

Chicken-Fried Steak
by Alton Brown
I had never been remotely tempted to try chicken-fried steak, despite Mr. Bear's repeated pleas, until he finally ordered it at a restaurant and forced a life-altering taste past my pursed lips.  I should have won an Oscar for the "vaguely unimpressed" reaction I gave: he may be the smart one in this relationship, but I don't see any reason why he needs to know that.

Beef Bottom Round  [ 2 pounds, extra fat trimmed away ]
Kosher Salt  [ 2 teaspoons ]
Freshly-Ground Black Pepper  [ 1 teaspoon ]
Flour  [ 1 cup ]
Eggs  [ 3, beaten ]
Vegetable Oil  [ 1/4 cup ]
Chicken Broth  [ 2 cups ]
Whole Milk  [ 1/2 cup ]
Fresh Thyme Leaves  [ 1/2 teaspoon ]

1.   Heat oven to 250 degrees.
2.   Working with the grain of the meat, cut Beef into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
3.    Sprinkle all Beef slices with Salt and Pepper; turn over and sprinkle backs.
4.   Set out 2 pie pans; place Flour in one and Eggs in the other.
5.   Dredge Beef in Flour.
6.   Pound Beef with the spiked end of a meat mallet until 1/4 inch thick.
7.   Dredge one piece Beef in Flour again, then Eggs, and then Flour a third time.
8.   Repeat with remaining Beef.
9.   Let Beef sit 10-15 minutes before cooking.

10.   Place Oil in the bottom of a 12-inch pan.
11.   Heat over Medium-High heat until Oil starts to shimmer.
12.   Add Beef to Oil, a few strips at a time so as not to crowd the pan.  Cook until golden brown [ this will take 
            about 4 minutes per side ].
13.   Set cooked Beef on a wire rack on a cookie sheet; place in oven to keep warm while remaining Beef is cooked.

14.   Remove last batch of Beef from pan and add 1 tablespoon Oil to pan.  
15.   Measure out 3 tablespoons of dredging Flour and whisk into Oil.
16.   Stir in Chicken Broth, scraping up bits from bottom of pan.
17.   Whisk mixture until it boils and starts to thicken.
18.   Whisk in Milk and Thyme 
19.   Continue cooking, whisking regularly, until Gravy will coat the back of a spoon [ this will take 5-10 minutes ].
20.   Season with Salt and Pepper.
21.   Plate Steaks and top with Gravy.

Serves 4-6.

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