Chicken-fried steak

Chicken-fried steak (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Total time: About 1 hour

Servings: 6

Note: Adapted from "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" by Ree Drummond.

3 pounds cube steak

2 eggs

3 cups milk, divided, more as needed

2 1/3 cups flour, divided, more as needed

2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more if you can handle it

1 teaspoon black pepper, plus extra for seasoning the steaks and gravy

Salt

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

1. Begin with an assembly line of dishes for the meat, egg and milk mixture, and flour mixture.

2. Pound the cube steaks until extremely tender (if already pounded, pound a little more to make sure they're sufficiently tender), and cut the steaks into smaller pieces if they are larger than 5 to 6 inches in diameter (this will make them easier to bread and fry). Place the prepared steaks in the first dish.

3. Beat the eggs and 1 cup milk in the second dish with a fork.

4. In the third dish, combine 2 cups flour with the seasoned salt, paprika, cayenne and black pepper.

5. Lightly season a piece of meat with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Then, dip the meat into the milk and egg mixture on each side to coat. Place the meat on the seasoned flour, turning to evenly coat both sides. Dip the meat in the milk and egg mixture once more to coat, then the flour mixture once more to coat completely. Place the prepared steak onto a rack on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining steaks.

6. In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottom skillet, heat one-third cup oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is sufficiently heated (I drop a few sprinkles of flour, if it sizzles, it's ready!), fry 2 to 3 pieces of meat at a time (be careful not to crowd). Cook on one side until the edges start to look golden brown, about 2 1/2 minutes, then flip over and fry until the other side is golden, another 2 to 3 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed.

7. Remove the steaks to a paper-towel-lined plate and keep warm. Repeat until all of the meat is fried, adding a little extra oil if needed. Set the steaks aside in a warm place while you make the gravy.

8. To make the gravy, pour the grease from the skillet into a heat-proof bowl. Without cleaning the pan, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add one-fourth cup of the grease back to the pan, discarding any remaining grease.

9. Sprinkle one-third cup flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk, mix the flour with the grease, creating a golden brown paste, or "roux." You want the roux to attain a deep, rich color. If the paste seems more oily than pasty, sprinkle in additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the right consistency is achieved.

10. When the roux is golden-brown, whisk in 2 cups milk, then wait for the gravy to come to a slow boil. The gravy will thicken gradually, but if it seems too thick at first, add a little milk as needed, whisking to combine. The total cooking process should take 4 to 5 minutes. Add additional salt and pepper as desired, tasting to ensure that it's seasoned adequately. Under-seasoned gravy is one of life's great sacrileges.

11. Place the warm meat on a plate and drizzle over the gravy as desired. Serve this to a hungry cowboy and you've earned an admirer for life.

Each serving: 604 calories; 59 grams protein; 43 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 25 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 183 mg. cholesterol; 650 mg. sodium.