I’m a firm believer in planning meals out in advance. It makes shopping much easier and efficient, and depending on what you are fixing, sometimes you can “cook once and eat twice.” For me, a good start to meal planning is a trip to my own pantry to see what I have on hand, what items are nearing their “best by” dates, and then to figure out how to build off those ingredients. But even with the best of planning, everything can fall apart once I’m in the store and see something that inspires me. I call them my “food muses” – these can consist of special deals, new items or just something I haven’t seen in a long time. This was the case with the recent purchase of some cube steak.
Cube steaks are thin cuts of beef, often from a top round, that have either been pounded by a tenderizing mallet or, in the case of many butcher shops, run through a cube machine. These machines make hundreds of piercings in the meat and in doing so, cut a lot of the connective tissue and make for a tenderer piece of beef. These were not on my shipping list, but were a manager’s special when I went into the store, so I brought some home.
Cube steak can be used for many different dishes. In some parts of the country, chicken-fried steak is very popular, and it is generally made from a cube steak. There is a Polish beef roll, which I will HAVE TO make for another episode, called “zrazy” that uses cube steak that is rolled with a thin slice of ham, onions and a pickle in the center. It’s dee-lish! But when I saw this beautiful cube steak in the meat case, my mind went to one thing: Swiss steak.
This is a dish that was in my mom’s regular rotation. It is basically a skillet meal, where the meat is braised in beef stock along with onions, celery and mushrooms. If you have an electric skillet, and I think everyone should, that appliance was made for a dish like this one. Once done, the meat should be fork-tender in a rich gravy and the vegetables soft and flavorful. Enjoy!
4 cube steaks (about 1 ½ pounds)
3-4 TBSP vegetable oil
1/3 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 medium onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms (can use canned mushrooms if necessary)
2 cups beef stock
Bring steaks out of refrigerator a half hour before cooking. Heat oil in skillet (if using electric skillet, you want about 360 degrees). Dredge steaks in seasoned flour and place in hot skillet. Brown steaks on each side and then remove to a plate. Drain skillet of excess oil and fat, but leave brown bits on bottom of pan. Add a little beef stock to skillet and scrape up brown bits from bottom with spoon until dissolved. Add steaks back into skillet and add celery, onion and mushrooms. Add beef stock to skillet so that it just comes up to the top of the steaks (without covering them). Set heat to simmer and allow cooking for about 40 minutes, and check to see if you need to add any more beef stock (it will reduce from evaporation). Add as needed and continue to cook for another 20-25 minutes for a total cooking time of an hour. Serve with mashed potatoes, seasoned rice or buttered noodles.