How about heading south for dinner this week?
There's no better tour guide than James Villas, who has authored numerous cookbooks on southern cuisine.
His latest book, "Southern Fried" ($29.99, hardcover, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is a tribute to that most southern of all ways of preparing food - frying it.
From chicken and crab cakes to fritters and fries, this book covers it all with more than 150 recipes for southern favorites. The recipes are very authentic, right down to the bacon grease and lard, including this easy and affordable classic, Country-Fried Steak with Onion Gravy.
Country-Fried Steak With Onion Gravy
Makes 4 servings.
For the steaks:
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 cup dry bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
4 beef cube steaks, 4 ounces each
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. bacon grease
For the gravy:
2 tbsp. bacon grease
1 large onion, minced
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To fry the steaks, combine the milk and egg in a small bowl and whisk till well blended. In another bowl, mix the bread crumbs, salt and pepper, and cayenne till well blended, and transfer the mixture to a plate. Dip each steak into the liquid, coat with bread crumbs on each side, and place on a plate.
In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the oil and bacon grease over moderately high heat till quite hot. Add 2 of the steaks to the pan, cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown, transfer to a plate, and keep warm. Repeat with the other 2 steaks and reserve the pan drippings.
To make the gravy, heat the bacon grease in the same skillet over moderate heat, add the onion, and cook, stirring for about 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and stir for 1 minute longer, scraping up any brown bits from the pan. Add the heavy cream, milk, salt and pepper and whisk until the gravy is thickened and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes.
To serve, place the steaks on individual plates and ladle gravy over each.