From a short-order cook’s mix-up, a Texas culinary legend was born
Legend has it that in 1911, short-order cook Jimmy Don Perkins, at a cafe in Lamesa, Texas, accidentally mixed up two separate orders — one for fried chicken and one for fried steak — and created one of the Lone Star state’s most iconic dishes — chicken-fried steak.
Turned out, it was the perfect marriage of meat, batter and grease, consisting of a cut of beef round pounded thin — but not too thin — breaded and fried with the drippings used to create a cream gravy. There are three distinct versions of this dish, notes Robb Walsh, a Texas culinary historian. The East Texas version is dipped in egg and flour, the Central Texas version trades bread crumbs for the flour, and West Texas dispenses with the egg and just pan fries the steak. Chicken-fried steak traditionally is served with mashed potatoes and is considered Texas comfort food at its finest.
Inside round steak (7-ounce portions) pounded thin
2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons mesquite seasoning or smoked paprika and pepper
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons seasoning salt and pepper
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
In a bowl, combine the buttermilk, mesquite seasoning and egg.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, seasoned salt and pepper, baking
powder and cornstarch.
In a Dutch oven with 3 inches of frying oil, heat over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 350 F.
Pick up one steak and dip it into the batter and then into the flour mixture, repeat. (We call that double baptizing in Texas.)
Fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden brown and has no red liquid. Cool on a wire rack and serve with cream gravy.
Phil Newton is a Galveston baker/cook. He’s the owner/operator of Stiglich Corner with partner Cindy Roberts.