Fathers’ Day 2018

Another Attempt at Chicken-Fried Steak

We had the pleasure of another Fathers’ Day with Grampy, and took the occasion to make another attempt at Chicken-Fried Steak.

As mentioned earlier, I became obsessed with this dish after a visit to Horseshoe Hill Cafe in Ft. Worth. This is the fourth time I’ve cooked it in the past couple months, and it was the best batch yet. I used bottom round steaks this time, which had the flavor and slight chewiness that you want. In addition to the beef, I breaded a batch of chicken breasts which turned out really good too. I managed to keep the peanut oil at 350°F in the cast iron Dutch Oven throughout the cook, and finally got a process in place to move from breading to frying to draining to holding in the oven as efficiently as possible. As always, the black pepper gravy was excellent.

Mrs. Noe made the mashed potatoes and steamed some broccoli with lemon butter, and she and Aunt Pat also pulled together a lovely green salad. I grilled some green onions with nice fat bulbs that I’d found at the Kankakee Farmers’ Market on Saturday. We also served some spicy pickled okra. Aunt Pat brought a delicious cherry pie and some soft serve from DQ for dessert.

One of the other little pleasures of the day was serving this meal on the plates that were used for Sunday Dinners at Claudia’s grandma’s. They’re a blue Currier & Ives pattern and, coincidentally, the same as the ones my mother had when I was growing up. So they hit the perfect nostalgic notes for both of us.

The ladies drank a nice California Rosé from F. Stephen Millier. I stuck with Shiners. My toast to Grampy for Fathers’ Day was “Here’s to us, and them like us. Damned few of us left.”

You can find the recipe for Grady Spears’ CFS at Texas Monthly. It calls for “round steak” but there are a lot of cuts that qualify. My best luck was with these bottom rounds, but some of that may have been more experience with prep and cooking. You could also use sirloin, eye of round or top round. Some will need more time with the mallet than others.

Valentine’s Day 2018 – Penne Alla Vodka

Penne alla VodkaOur Valentine’s Day celebration came a day late this year, since Claudia was out of town for work on the 14th. I wanted to make something special to welcome her home.

I had prepared  Penne alla Vodka once before, and it had turned out badly, the typically clumsy boozy and hot mess that gave the dish a bad reputation. This time around, I used a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, and was determined to get it right.

Improvising a bit, instead of canned whole tomatoes, I used diced, blending up half of them to help form the clingy sauce. Otherwise I followed the recipe down to the last detail, and it yielded the promised results, sweet, tangy, spicy and creamy.

Since the BTE link above is behind a paywall, you can check out the recipe at Urban Drivel.

At first I was thinking about a simple green salad for the side dish, but did a little research and decided on Italian Peas with Mushrooms. I let this cook just a bit too long, but otherwise it was savory and delicious.

Claudia is the baker in our household. She’s an ace with cookies and confections of all sorts, and I rarely bake (other than simple boules and Irish Soda Bread). But I did try these 4 ingredient Red Velvet Cookies last year for Valentine’s Day and they turned out well, so I made them again this year. They will probably make an annual appearance just for novelty’s sake.

We drank our “house red” (Bota Nighthawk Black), which was a fine accompaniment, although a dry Chianti might have been even better.

We’ll definitely keep these dishes in our repertoire.