There are some dishes that are extremely hard to photograph in an attractive manner. This is one of them, there’s just something about pictures of saucy foods that I haven’t figured out how to capture well. So, bear with me. This recipe is pure comfort food. This simple recipe will probably be a home run if you like a classic meatloaf with a slightly sweet glaze. If however, like many people, you cannot stand a mix of sweet and beef, skip this dish. I promise you won’t hurt my feelings.
Cube steak refers to a mechanical tenderizing process rather than a specific cut of meat. It’s called cube steak as the machine leaves squared dents in the meat. The process of cubing breaks down tough muscle fibers, helping a cheap cut seem more tender. Still, it’s important to understand that cube steaks need to be cooked in a manner that won’t render it a piece of leather. This recipe uses acidity as a chemical means to promote tenderness.
- 1 lb cube steaks (trimmed of any fat or gristle)
- seasoned flour: ( 1/4 cup flour + 1/2 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper + 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
- ~ 3 TBSP olive oil (just enough to barely coat the bottom of a heavy skillet)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
- 1 bell pepper cut into strips
- 1/2 cup chili sauce (found near the ketchup on the condiment aisle)
- 1/2 – 1 TBSP brown sugar
- 2 TBSP vinegar (use white, cider or red wine)
- 1 – 2 tsp (depending on your taste) Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- salt / pepper to taste
Remove the steaks from the fridge 10 – 15 minutes before cooking. This isn’t critical, but yields better results.
While the steaks rest, mix up your seasoned flour and slice the onion and bell pepper.
Barely coat the bottom of a heavy skillet with olive oil and heat over medium.
Dredge the steak in the seasoned flour while waiting for the oil to heat.
Make sure both sides are thoroughly coated with the flour. Check your oil to see if it’s hot enough. To do so, sprinkle a droplet (notice that’s a droplet, a tiny, tiny amount) of water into your pan. If it sizzles, it’s ready. Do not chuck a splash of water into your pan, it’ll spatter, you’ll get burned and I really don’t want to hear the whining. Got it?
Cook each steak two minutes per side. You can do several steaks at one time, but don’t overcrowd the pan. If you double the recipe, you may need to add a little oil during the cooking process. Some of the flour is going to stick to the pan. This is a good thing, but be careful to not let the pan get too hot. Remember black is bad, but brown means flavor.
After the steaks have been cooked on both sides, set them aside on a plate for a few minutes. Add the sliced onions to the pan. Carefully add your 1/4 cup of water to the pan and use your wooden spoon or a plastic spatula to scrape up all the browned flour. The browned flour adds flavor through the Maillard reaction.
The addition of water should make this step easy.
As soon as the onions start to soften, add the bell pepper. Then the chili sauce, Worcestershire, dry mustard, brown sugar, and vinegar. Stir until well combined, then return the steaks to the pan. Bring the sauce to a simmer, turn the heat low, cover, and cook for 15 – 20 minutes.
This recipe would translate well to a crockpot, but it comes together fairly quickly, so I never bother Brown the steaks before placing in the crock. Then add the onions and peppers and pour the sauce mixture over the top. Allow to cook for several hours on low.
Serve over rice or mashed potatoes.
Original photo included for posterity and a reminder that eventually, photo skills improve.