Youth – it tastes like chicken.

6 Aug

As a kid, your lunch can truly make or break your day and in no case is this more apparent than Wednesdays at FHS, where I teach.  Each and every hump-day, the high schoolers walk with a little extra spring in their step.  By fourth period, they will answer any question, take any test, run any errand, and, quite frankly, do anything I ask of them in exchange for getting out one minute early so that they can  be first in line for Chicken Fried Steak day.  In a way, I completely understand their enthusiasm.  A long-time “bringer” of my lunch (as opposed to my brother, a “buyer”), I couldn’t resist trading in my peanut butter and honey sandwich, a capri sun, cheez-its, orange, and a perfect dessert of swiss cake rolls on days when “South of the Border Taco Rolls” were on the menu.  While it sounds gross, any product of the Arlington ISD will agree that fried taco meat and nacho cheese deep fried in a tortilla and topped with more cheese is enough to bring purpose to your day.  The same goes for CFS day – there’s something about a crispy, fried meat, mashed potatoes and TWO rammekins of gravy that will undo any injustices that the public school system has burdened them with.  The thing is, you truly have to be a legal minor to appreciate this food (sort of like the way my parents never particularly understood the allure of the taco roll…), and try as I might, I really can’t get on board with the cafeteria chicken fried steak.  The problem is that every Wednesday I’m reminded of the most outstanding CFS of my life, the one at Mary’s.

Many of my childhood summer days were spent at our lake house on Possum Kingdom, which meant many summer nights were spent making the trek to Strawn to dine at Mary’s Cafe.  Mary’s is an unassuming shack in the middle of nowhere.  The line is always long, the gravy is always plentiful, and the chicken fried steaks are second to none.  In the many years it has been since I’ve dined at Mary’s, I’ve never found a restaurant capable of duplicating their steak, though not for lack of trying.  When my parents received their share of a 400lbs steer, named Rusty, we thought we may have stumbled on a meat with enough quality to attempt our own.  We are staying with my parents this month, so it seemed the perfect time to try.

We started by marinating the (very thin) steaks in buttermilk for several hours.  While I usually like a process picture, bloodly buttermilk may not have the appetizing affect that a food photo should.

Then the steaks were dredged in flour, re-dipped in buttermilk, and given a second coat of flour before frying outside in a peanut oil/crisco blend.

(Yum, crisco.)

Golden brown perfection!

We served these babies up with some mashed potatoes, biscuits, black-eyed peas, and plenty of delicious gravy.  I daresay we have stumbled on a little known secret of North Texas.  So, if you find yourself with a plentiful amount of grass-fed beef, give it a try.  If not, pay homage to Mary’s ASAP; you won’t be disappointed.

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One Response to “Youth – it tastes like chicken.”

  1. Lori August 7, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    Next time we must remember to make a Mary’s salad, white iceberg and 1000 Island dressing in a squirt bottle!

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