She wrote the book on chicken fried steak

From the “life could be worse” department…

jeremy parzen

Above: Despite Tom G’s admonitions, I went ahead and ate the Chicken Fried Steak on Sunday. After all, it’s not every day that you get to eat CFS made by the woman who wrote the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink entry on CFS and it’s not every day that you get to pair it with Chateau Clerc-Milon 1990 (Pauillac, 5th growth). Thanks, Kim and Alfonso! Photo by Alfonso Cevola.

Sunday found me and Tracie B in the home of IWG where his SO (significant other), the lovely and immensely talented food writer Kim Pierce, shared a meal of chicken fried steak and yellow summer squash casserole (by Kim) and mashed potatoes (by Tracie B) with us. Food critic Leslie Brenner, her husband, and their son were also in attendance. Her son showed me how to play the intro to Aerosmith’s “Dream On” on guitar and Kim graciously shared the text of her entry in the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Enjoy!

"Chicken Fried Steak"

By Kim Pierce

Chicken fried steak most likely developed as a way to make a tough cut of beef more palatable: The first step in preparation is pounding a cutlet to tenderize it. Then, mimicking the technique for Southern fried chicken, it is either dredged in flour or dipped in batter before being fried in hot oil in a cast-iron skillet. A cream, or milk, gravy made from the drippings is spooned on top.

Above: “Chicken fried steak most likely developed as a way to make a tough cut of beef more palatable” and is prepared by dredging cube steak in flour and then frying it. My good friend Jon Erickson and I both call our dads “cube steak”: they’re of the generation too young to have fought in the Second World War but old enough to remember it and as a result, they’re obsessed with WWII folklore and factoids. My dad was 12 when it ended (he turned 76 yesterday) and the one time he ate at Jaynes Gastropub (owned by Jon and his wife Jayne), he said it was good but that he preferred “cube steak” — a classic entrée for his generation. Photo by Tracie B.

There are several theories about chicken fried steak’s origins. One holds that it developed in cattle country — Texas and the Midwest — before beef was as tender as it is today. Another holds that it descended from Wienerschnitzel, courtesy of the Germans who settled in Central Texas starting in the 1830s. Recipes resembling chicken fried steak are not uncommon in historical cookbooks. In The Kentucky Housewife (1839), a recipe for frying beef steaks starts with cutlets from the tough chuck and rump. It instructs the cook to “beat them tender, but do not break them or beat them into rags.” The cutlets are then dredged in flour and fried in “boiling lard.” Instructions for making a cream gravy follow.

Above: I’ve seen other versions of chicken fried steak where the meat is soaked in milk and is breaded before frying. Kim’s version, simply dredged in flour, was superbly tender — thanks to how well the meat was tenderized and the frying temperature (I believe). Photo by Tracie B.

Whatever its origins, chicken fried steak was well established in home kitchens by 1932, when a reader submitted a menu featuring “Chicken Fried Steak With Cream Gravy” to The Dallas Morning News. In 1936, the year of the Texas centennial, the same newspaper reported that the president of the Dallas Restaurant Men’s Association had received cards and letters from out-of-towners praising his and other restaurants: “To them a chicken-fried steak, smothered in brown, creamy gravy is the tops in foods.” The first known recipe that refers to Chicken Fried Steak by name appears in the Household Searchlight Recipe Book (1949), published in Topeka, Kansas. Country fried steak and chicken fried steak are sometimes used interchangeably.

Above: Chicken fried steak and nearly-twenty-year-old 5th growth Bordeaux for lunch. Life could be worse.

Bryan, Mrs. Lettice. The Kentucky Housewife. Cincinnati: Shepard & Stearns, 1839.

Gee, Denise. “Dueling Steaks.” In Cornbread Nation 1: The Best of Southern Food Writing, edited by John Egerton for the Southern Foodways Alliance. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. “GERMANS,”

Household Searchlight Recipe Book. Topeka, Kansas, 1949.

“Today’s Menu and Recipe.” The Dallas Morning News, November 8, 1932.

“Waiters in Dallas Restaurants Easily Spot Visitors to Fair By Differences in Their Ways.” The Dallas Morning News, August 10, 1936.

How I stay so thin

From the “just for fun” department…


jeremy parzenPeople ask me all the time how I stay so thin when I work in the food and wine industry and indulge — perhaps too often — in the hedonist pleasures of eating and drinking.

Yesterday, after the nth photo of a Jaynes Burger (my favorite dish at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego) appeared on my blog, Tom G commented and noted: “You need a dietician, you return to Cali and go for the Burger and fries in the land of fresh fish and veggies, better lay off that Chicken fried steak for a week. I also think you need an extra dose of red wine.”

Tom, thanks for the comment and for the genuine concern. Unfortunately, Tracie B and I are headed to Dallas for a Saturday evening and lazy Sunday of unusual wines and chicken fried steak “prepared with native yeasts” by Italian Wine Guy. So, the diet will have to wait until next week.

Above: Cake tasting for our wedding celebration in La Jolla. Tracie B wondered out loud: “wouldn’t it be great if you could spit at a cake tasting the way we [wine professionals] spit at a wine tasting?”

In fact, I do pay attention to my health (that’s me, above left, on tour with Nous Non Plus in May, poolside in San Jose before the show; Tracie B and I got engaged the next night after the show in LA!).

Above: On an account call in Arkansas for lunch, I asked our waiter for the restaurant’s “signature” dish and she brought me Frito Pie. Sometimes, as a food and wine professional, you find yourself in situations where you have to make unfortunate food choices and so it’s important to take care of oneself. The pie wasn’t so bad and I only ate a small portion of it. It did pair well with Primitivo.

I try to follow these simple rules:

  • I never eat when I’m not truly hungry;
  • I only eat at mealtimes, at most three times a day;
  • I never eat something that doesn’t truly appeal to me, even if I am hungry;
  • I try to eat as many leafy greens as I can;
  • I try (not as hard as I should) to stay physically active.
  • Above: California is the Golden State (not so much these days, actually, with its budget crisis) and Texas is the Lone Star State but Texas rivals California on any given Sunday for its gorgeous produce. I’ve found it’s easier to find farm-to-table produce here than in my home state and that farm-to-table isn’t limited to higher-end eateries. That’s the insalata mista at Dough Pizzeria in San Antonio.

    I do believe wholeheartedly (pun intended) that as food and wine professionals, we have a responsibility to project balance (aequitas) and good common sense in our daily lives and eating habits.

    Above: Ceviche, camaronillas, and grilled mahi mahi tacos at Bahia Don Bravo in Bird Rock, La Jolla (San Diego). Photo by Tracie B.

    When we go home to visit in La Jolla, Tracie B and I do tend to indulge in foods we can’t find here in Texas, Asian cuisine in particular. On this recent trip, I took mama Judy to lunch at Spicy City (an excellent Szechuan restaurant in Kearny Mesa, San Diego, highly recommended). Or the superior seafood (see above) we find at places like Bahia Don Bravo in Bird Rock (La Jolla) or Bay Park Fish Company on Mission Bay.

    I’m not sure what Italian Wine Guy has in store for us tonight but I know tomorrow’s “supper” will center around Kim’s (i.e., IWG’s SO’s) secret recipe for chicken fried steak.

    Stay tuned… There’s more food porn to come. Thanks for reading, everyone, and happy weekend!

    Post scriptum: with this post I’ve added a new category to Do Bianchi — de santitatis or on health.

    Mourvèdre envy (and more on Giacosa)

    Mourvèdre envy in Freudian psychoanalysis refers to the theorized reaction of a wine lover during her or his oenological development to the realization that she or he does not have access to old Bandol. Freud considered this realization a defining moment in the development of palate and oenological identity. According to Freud, the parallel reaction in those who have access to old Mourvèdre is the realization that others have access to old Nebbiolo, a condition known as Nebbiolo anxiety.

    Above: Tracie B and I drank the current vintage of Tempier Bandol Rosé — made from Mourvèdre — by the glass with our excellent housemade sausage tacos at the Linkery in San Diego. Jay Porter’s farm-to-table menu and his homemade cruvinet are hugely popular. The food is always fun and tasty. Jay was one of the first San Diego restaurateurs to use a blog to market his restaurant.

    Tracie B and I have had our share of great Mourvèdre lately: we were blown away by the flight of old Terrebrune Bandol — rosé and red — we got to taste last month in San Francisco at the Kermit Lynch portfolio tasting. As the Italians might say, we’re “Mourvèdre addicted.”

    Above: Jayne and Jon serve Terrebrune Bandol Rosé in half-bottles at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego — a great summer aperitif wine and a fantastic pairing with Chef Daniel’s scallop ceviche. I was first hipped to Terrebrune by BrooklynGuy: it shows impressive character and structure and costs a lot less than Tempier.

    So you can imagine how I began to salivate like Pavlov’s dog when I read BrooklynGuy’s recent post on a bottle of 1994 Tempier Rouge that he had been saving. Like Produttori del Barbaresco, Tempier represents a great value and the current release of the red is generally available at about $50 retail — the upper end of my price point ceiling. In other words, it’s a wine that even the modest wine collector can invest in with fantastic results. Despite the acute case of Mourvèdre envy that he gave me, I really liked BrooklynGuy’s profile of this “natural wine” producer and his tasting notes.

    Nota bene: BrooklynGuy and I are both slated to appear in Saignée’s 31 Days of Natural Wine series. My post is schedule for June 20 and you might be surprised at what I had to say. Thanks again, Cory! I’m thrilled to get to participate with so many fantastic bloggers and writers.

    In other news…

    Above: That’s my lunch yesterday at Bryce’s Cafeteria in Texarkana on the Texas-Arkansas border. Chicken fried chicken steak and tomato aspic stuffed with mayonnaise. Tracie B is gonna kill me if that gravy doesn’t… They sure are proud of their tomatoes in Arkansas and tomato season has nearly arrived.

    So many blogs and so little time… I’m on my way back to Austin from Arkansas (where I’ve been hawking wine) and I wish I had time to translate Franco’s post on Bruno Giacosa’s decision not to bottle his 2006 Barolo and Barbaresco, the infelicitous manner in which the news was announced by the winery, and how the news was subsequently disseminated. Upon reading Decanter’s sloppy cut-and-paste job, one prominent wine blogger tweeted “note to self, don’t buy 2006 Barbaresco.” My plea to all: please know that 2006 is a good if not great vintage in Langa and please, please, please, read betweet the lines…

    Hillbilly rhythm and blues: JD Souther in Austin

    JD Souther

    One of the great things about living in Austin is how much great music comes through this town and how accessible it is.

    Last night Tracie B and I went to see songwriting great JD Souther do an acoustic set (photo by yours truly from the fourth row). If you don’t know his music, you might be surprised at how many songs by him you do know.

    He even played our favorite song, “White Rhythm and Blues,” which appeared on Linda Ronstadt’s 1978 double-platinum Living in the U.S.A. (lyrics below). We had a blast…

    JD Souther

    Tracie B warned me not to get the chicken fried steak but I am always a sucker for anything listed on the menu as “world famous.” She was right and I am pretty darn lucky and glad to have somebody in my life “who cares when you lose” and some “hillbilly rhythm and blues.” :-)


    White Rhythm and Blues
    —JD Souther

    I don’t want you to hold me tight
    Till you’re mine to hold
    And I don’t even want you to stay all night
    Just until the moon turns cold

    She said
    All I need is black roses
    White rhythm and blues
    And somebody who cares when you lose
    Black roses, white rhythm and blues

    You say that somebody really loves you
    You’d find her if you just knew how
    But honey, everyone in the whole wide world
    Is probably asleep by now

    Wishin’ for
    Black roses, white rhythm and blues
    And somebody who cares when you lose
    Black roses, white rhythm and blues

    You can close your eyes
    And sleep away all your blues
    I’ve done everything but lie
    Now I don’t know what else I can do

    Oh, the night time sighs and I hear myself
    But the words just stick in my throat
    Don’t you think that a man like me
    Might hurt much more than it shows

    Just send me black roses
    White rhythm and blues
    And somebody who cares when you lose
    I need some white rhythm and blues

    I need Black roses, white rhythm and blues
    And somebody who cares when you lose

    Just play a little hillbilly rhythm and blues