Thursday, October 21, 2010

Deep in the Heart of Texas

I decided some nice comfort food were on the menu tonight. Not for any reason in particular, just was in the mood. Inspired by my friend, Courtney, and her recipe, I made chicken fried portabellas with white creamy gravy, garlic mashed potatoes and oven fried okra.

Chicken Fried Portabellas

Portabella mushrooms, as many as you need
Soy milk, plain
Seasonings (I used salt, pepper and Bragg Sprinkle)
Olive Oil

For the gravy:
Earth Balance butter
Olive oil
Not Beef Bouillon cube
Soy milk, plain
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the gravy, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add some olive oil and the bouillon cube and mix well. Start adding flour, stir, add, stir, add, until you get kind of a crumbly consistency. Start pouring in and whisking the milk. Add until you get the creaminess consistency you want. Salt and pepper to taste.

To make the portabellas, dip them first in soy milk, then in the flour with seasonings added. Fry up nicely in hot olive oil until nicely browned on both sides.

Oven Fried Okra

Whole okra, frozen and thawed
Soy milk, plain
2 c. cornmeal
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
1/2 t. paprika

Dip okra in milk, then in the cornmeal mixed with seasoning. Lay on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray (I like using olive oil in a spray bottle). Bake at 400 for 35-40 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to keep them from sticking.

Play around with the chicken fried recipe, adding or substituting spices as you like. I think I might add some garlic and/or onion powder next time.

As for the okra, I had made this previously, thinking I could cheat a bit. I bought sliced okra, dumped it all in the milk and then into the cornmeal mixture, thinking to save time. What I got was more mushy and not very tasty okra at all. This time I used whole okra and dipped and battered each piece individually. MUCH better!

Chicken Fried Steak is kind of a staple here in Texas. My husband swears there is a difference between *chicken fried* and *country fried*, so I decided to do a little research. It seems chicken fried steak originated with German immigrants to the Texas hill country, who made schnitzel. Chicken fried steak was originally a way to use tougher cuts of meat by slicing the meat into round steaks and pounding them to tenderize. Recipes for chicken fried steak all require that the steak is tenderized, dipped in flour, coated in egg wash, and then dipped once again in flour. It is then fried in a cast iron skillet in oil and served with cream gravy. Brown gravy belongs east of the Sabine, while Central Texas makes it with breadcrumbs and West Texas without egg.

What about country fried steak? In most instances, it is another name for chicken fried steak (sshhhh, don't    tell my husband that!), but it might or might not have been dipped in egg. The gravy on top and side dishes will give away the origins of a "chicken fried steak". If served with brown gravy or anything else but mashed potatoes, you're looking at country fried steak.
I'm not sure which mine qualifies as. Mine is cruelty free, I didn't dip anything in egg, but did serve it with a white cream gravy, and did make mashed potatoes. I'm sticking with calling it chicken fried, I guess.
The portobello mushroom (also called portabella) is really simply a brown crimini mushroom in disguise. Evidently the usage of the two words "portobello vs. portabella" is nothing more than a marketing issue. Once the little brown crimini grows up to be about 4" - 6" in diameter he is deemed to be a portobello. No one seems to know how the name came about, but a few theories include:
•Named after Portobello Road in London which has many high end antique shops and other fashionable establishments.

•Named after a T.V. show called Portobello
•The portobello in Northern Italy is called "cappellone" which means "big hat".

Whatever the origin, it is a big brown mushroom that is very meaty, and can be grilled, oven roasted or sautéed, or in my case, fried. We like to grill them and serve them up on whole wheat buns, lettuce, tomato and any assorted other toppings we like (my daughter is partial to onions).

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