There are three factors that go into making the perfect chicken-fried steak. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that the steak must be tender. Chewing food that’s tough as shoe leather is unappetizing. Period.
White gravy, the second of the three factors, should be served on the steak and not on the side. Why? If the crispy coating is cooked correctly, it will adhere to the steak and not allow the gravy to soak in. Should a restaurant serve you gravy on the side without you requesting it, they don’t have a lot of confidence in their version of the chicken-fried steak.
The third component is that fried, crispy coating and possibly the most important of the three. It is not an easy thing to master the perfect coating. Too thin and everything turns soggy. Too thick and it might seem like you’re chewing on bits of cement. But when you find that perfect coating on a tender steak with white gravy so good you could eat it like soup, you will understand why we Texans (and our neighbors) take our chicken-fried steak seriously.
When I was just a young-un’, that steak was at Beam’s Restaurant in my hometown of Lufkin, Texas. Mom was an excellent cook, but even she couldn’t match the cook at Beam’s. It was also the only time she could get me to eat a salad.
Last month I went back to Texas to visit family and discovered T-Bone Tom’s in Kemah. Well, not so much discovered as “was introduced to.” That plate-sized steak was so delicious, especially with a side of fried okra and Texas toast.
I’m looking forward to my next trip home and more chicken-fried steak discoveries. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Seating capacity of:
- FedEx Field (Washington Redskins) – 91,704
- Reliant Stadium (Houston Texans) – 71,500
- M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore Ravens) – 71,008
- Texas Stadium (Dallas Cowboys) – 65,675
Population of Lufkin, Texas (my hometown) – 36,830
No insights. I just find it extraordinary that every citizen of Lufkin can fit into the smallest stadium with almost 29,000 seats left empty.
While researching another article I came across some facts that I must have known on some subconscious level, but I’d never had them “in my face” at the same time before this morning. It makes me long for Home all the more.
In comparing Home with Here, let me define the two. “Home” is East Texas; specifically Lufkin in Angelina County. I lived on Allen Gin Road (aka FM2680) at the intersection with Kenner Road.
“Here” is Pasadena, Maryland, in Anne Arundel County. Where doesn’t really matter because this overly crowded place is pretty much the same as that one. Twenty steps Here gets you on someone else’s property. Twenty steps back Home gets you halfway to the mailbox.
I’m afraid I may be giving away the ending with these little hints that only someone who doesn’t know the meaning of the word can call subtle. But please, read on. There will be facts. I promise.
As stated earlier, I am from East Texas, an area comprising some 41 of Texas’s 254 counties. I can also narrow it down and state that I’m from the Piney Woods of East Texas; a region of roughly 25 or so counties. Refining further still, Angelina is one of 12 counties that make up Deep East Texas.
According to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments, there are 368,675 people living in the 9,790 square miles of Deep East Texas. By comparison, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 5,615,727 people living in the 9,774 square miles of the state of Maryland.
Obviously I knew there were more people in Maryland than in my little neck of the woods, but I didn’t realize that my little neck of the woods was larger than the state of Maryland (even if only a little).
Home wins. Missing Home.