Monday, August 26, 2013

Cube Steak Sandwich

My mother was a financial genius.  Anyone able to feed a family of 8 (six kids and two adults... well okay... six kids, one adult and one Dad.) as well as she did on the budget that she had is nothing short of a miracle worker.  So, needless to say, every single "budget friendly" trick I know, I learned from watching her.

Our primary source of iron was ground beef.  From her famous spaghetti sauce chock full of meatballs to her beef stroganoff to burgers that dad cooked perfectly on the grill, we rarely strayed from this staple of American cuisine.  However, both my parents were steak fanatics.  They absolutely loved a nice rare hunk of unadulterated beefy goodness on their plate.  Unfortunately, big juicy ribeyes (and of course, filet mignon for Mom) were not budget friendly enough to make this more than an incredibly rare treat.  So, to break up the ground beef monotony, mom would occasionally pick up cube steaks from the grocery store and pan fry them for us.  To us kids, it was awesome.  The portions were generous and we could drown those tough, beefy cuts in A1 sauce and devour them with our mashed potatoes.

So, when I "grew up" and started living on my own (you know, almost 10 years after graduating from college) I had an epiphany. I was walking through the grocery store, checking out the price per pound of various proteins and lo and behold, there was a small package of three cube steaks for about $4/lb.  After subsisting on ramen and $1.99/lb packages of chicken thighs, I thought I would treat myself.

When I got these three hyper-tenderized filets of beef home, I realized that if I was really going to treat myself, just sauteeing the meat and drowning it in A1 wasn't going to cut it.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all about nostalgia, but I wanted to try something new.

Enter Ree Drummond.

Long before she started whoring for the Food Network, she posted this little doozy.  The first picture got me hooked.  (and to be honest, the second picture kept me reading... sorry boys and girls, he's married.) I love love love steak sandwiches. (Going to college outside of Philadelphia can do that to a person). This was the perfect way for me to begin incorporating this cheap cut of beef into my culinary repertoire.

I'm not going to post a recipe, because Ree did a wonderful job of it herself.  I will say, however, that this recipe can stand up to a LOT of futzing.  (wow, spell check has no problem with the word futzing. Interesting.) It can be pared down very easily to make a single sandwich.  Use a single cube steak filet for each sandwich you want to make.  Cook as many onions as you want (I am a huge onion fan, as you will learn if I keep up with this blog).  And with the onions, add any other ingredients that you have on hand (I wouldn't make any special trips to the store here, the recipe is delicious without any embellishment). For example, for these pictures, I fried up sliced garlic chips with the onions and melted some sharp cheddar cheese onto the bread.  I didn't have any hot sauce on hand, so I made up for it with a generous sprinkling of crushed red pepper. I'm also considering a slightly asianified version of this to go over white rice. We'll see.

Lastly, don't let the butter content in the original recipe scare you away.  Yes, it is almost transcendent when you follow the directions exactly. But this is not entirely necessary.  Cutting back to even 1/3 the butter (bolstered by a dash of olive or canola oil) still makes a delicious sandwich. But seriously, try it Ree's way at least once. It's amazing.

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