Chicken-fried steak is unabashedly Texan, the kind of dish that unites billionaire oil baron, the average working man and everyone in between at the lunch counter, dinner table or weekend picnic.
It is simple. It is tasty. It is Texas wrapped up in one savory bite, coated always with cream gravy, but who can take just one cut?
The traditional chicken fry is beef, be it high-end ribeye or lowly round steak, but if you’re looking to use some of those venison packages in a pinch and enjoy the taste of wild game, this spin on the normal routine is just right for you. The Lone Star State annually brings out about 600,000 hunters pursing white-tailed deer beginning in September with archery gear and continuing all the way into February on ranches under the Managed Lands Deer Permit program.
That’s a lot of deer meat, but if you’re like most hunters, you quickly eat the choice cuts of the tenderloin and backstraps, often relegating roast and steak trims to the freezer for months on end. However, those portions are ripe for the traditional chicken fry staples of flour and seasonings adhered with a coating of egg wash — doubling up on the fluttering of flavorful flour.
Follow these steps and you’ll wonder why you didn’t eat those cuts of meat first. Included is peppery gravy that you simply can’t leave out. In fact, make more than you might think and coat your cutlets accordingly. This is Texas after all.
Venison Chicken Fry
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
4 tablespoons paprika (I love the stuff so I add at least two more pinches)
1/2 cup buttermilk (milk from the carton if you don’t have any)
1/2 cup beer (optional; Shiner Bock is made in Texas and works great)
canola oil or peanut oil, enough to cover meat halfway (vegetable oil can work, too)
2 pounds of tenderized venison cutlets, pounded into half-inch or smaller thickness
Mix the flour, salt, pepper and paprika on a shallow plate, wax paper, aluminum foil (or almost any other way without sending a cloud skyward) and set aside.
Whisk your eggs (not too thinly) in a medium-size bowl, adding in the buttermilk or milk and choice of beer (it’s advised to drink the remaining two-thirds while still chilled).
In a cast-iron skillet (personal preference; other heavy skillets are fine) fire up your oil to roughly 375 degrees.
While the oil heats, run each steak through the flour and spices, coating them thoroughly before laying each into the egg mixture. Then ply them back into the flour mixture once more, evenly dousing them wet spots with flour. The aim is for the outside to be completely dry.
Test the temperature of the oil with a drop of batter (it will sizzle nicely) and once it hits the desired degree slide the steaks into place, taking care not to splash the situation anywhere. In a large cast-iron skillet you can get at least three or four cutlets sizzling in unison, but each should take about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Also be careful and try not to break the battered crust when flipping or extracting your venison steaks (it kind of defeats the whole purpose of making a delicious batter).
Once the steaks reach a nice brown hue remove them and let them drain on paper towels placed on a sturdy plate or dish.
Top them with the pepper gravy below and enjoy. The recipe could feed four adults but if you’re greedy, well, there’s nothing wrong with that when chicken fry is involved …
1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons salt
5 teaspoons pepper
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Add flour after it melts, whisking until it cooks and turns light brown. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking continuously to keep lumps from forming. Add salt and pepper and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.