March 11, 2009
Once upon a time, I had a great Chicken Fried Steak. I was driving through Texas on Route 10 at a unique moment in Twentieth Century weather history: January, 1985 saw the greatest accumulations of snow in the area since 1898. They were trying to clear the road with graders, having no dedicated snow removal equipment, and I’m sure that none of us were really surprised that the graders only graded the snow, leaving a very nicely graded foot and a half of it to be crushed into a sheet of ice by the trucks. Not being a natural daredevil, I decided to stop for the day. The diner of the motel was a nice little place. I saw Chicken Fried Steak on the menu, I’d heard of it but had never eaten it. Wow, what a revelation.
That particular example was perfect in every detail. Some kind of skirt steak or other, pounded thin, floured, salted and peppered, and fried in the manner of fried chicken. Perfect. With perfectly delicious, scratch made white gravy. That was it, though. Since that first, fortuitous encounter, I have never again found a great Chicken Fried Steak.
I tried again tonight, at the diner of my motel here in Gila Bend, Arizona. The menu said, “genuine Black Angus beef,” so I gave it a try. I’m sure the description was accurate, but it must have been some kind of Black Angus Salisbury steak patty, which is the typical kitchen solution for commercial enterprises with their little hearts set on anything that can be duplicated day after day without too much talent or trouble. That and gravy from a can.
That first Chicken Fried Steak cannot have been the only decent example in the country. I’m sure that lots of places in the Southwest serve a great Chicken Fried Steak. I give up trying to find it though. Until I get a fabulous recommendation from someone who has a license to have an opinion I am suspending my interest in the dish.