Maintaining proper perspective on emotions is a powerful key to health and strength. – J. Schindler
Today was one of those days that called for “comfort food.” For me, the best type of comfort food is food that simmers all day on the stove, bakes for hours in the oven, or cooks all day in the slow cooker — anything that fills the house with the scent of food.
A few of my favorites are sauerkraut and pork with dumplings, beef stew, short rib soup, bean soup, and chicken and dumplings. Thinking about these fills me with anticipation and warmth. These are the dishes that when the weather turns cold or ugly, and here in Michigan that can happen any time, I start early in the morning and drool over all day while it is cooking.
Today was a day filled with so many types of weather, it was impossible to know how to dress. I started out with jeans and a t-shirt, added a light sweater mid-morning, then by afternoon I had on a long john top, my thickest turtleneck sweatshirt, my fall fleece jacket, and thick socks. The temperatures were a deceiving 56°. With the wind, clouds, and squalls of rain that opened up every time I decided to venture beyond the front door, it felt more in the range of 30°. There had to be a wind chill in there somewhere.
Thankfully, this morning, I had the foresight to start one of my all-time favorite comfort meals — Cube Steak. Now the way my mother prepared this while I lived at home was awful. It was dry, tough, and barely edible — at least that was what I thought as a teenager. As I’ve gotten older, I have mellowed and somehow many of the meals my mother made that I found horrible back then, are now some of my favorites. Cube steak, the way she prepared it, is not a favorite, but I admit I have made it when I’m feeling nostalgic. No one really likes it when I make it, but they know better than to complain. To put up with my need to visit an old flavor once a year, isn’t too much to ask.
When I moved out on my own, I began experimenting with all sorts of recipes. I wanted to branch out and expand on what I learned from my mother, from the home economics classes I’d taken, and from watching my grandmother in the kitchen. So when I found cube steak on sale while shopping, I decided it was time to tame that tough, dry meat and turn it into something good. It took years of tweaking and trial and error, but my final recipe is one of our family favorites. It might not be the most original recipe out there, but it certainly warmed me up on a fickle Michigan Thursday afternoon.
All-Day Simmer Cube Steak
- 4-6 Pieces Beef Cube Steak
- 1 Cup Flour
- 1 tsp. Salt
- Bacon Grease or Lard
- Beef Bouillon or Stock
- Mushrooms – Dried or Fresh
Mix flour and salt in plastic storage bag. Drop cube steak, one piece at a time, into plastic bag. Lay bag on the counter and press the flour into the steak, making sure to flatten the steak while coating with flour.
Add floured meat and sear until brown.
Flip and sear other side, adding more grease or lard as needed.
Once the meat has been seared on both sides, fill the pan with warm water and add a tablespoon of beef bouillon. I used a paste-type, but cubes, granules, or store bought stock would work just as well. Turn heat down to 250°, cover, and cook all day on the stove or in electric fry pan. Check often to add more water and beef stock as needed.
An hour before you serve, add mushrooms to pan and cover. From this point, do not add any more water. You want to reduce the gravy so it thickens. If the gravy is too thin, make a roux of flour or corn starch and water and thicken.
Serve with mashed potatoes and a fresh vegetable.
Alternate method: Cook thinly sliced onions in bacon grease till tender prior to searing meat. Remove while searing meat and then return to pan with water. This gives the gravy even more flavor.
Some days it is harder than others to keep my focus or go with the flow. One way I have found to keep myself grounded when I feel myself slipping, is to cook something that will fill the house with warmth — true comfort food, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.