What’s for Dinner? Swiss Steak Edition, with a nod to Vegans. 20090725

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Good evening!  Ek asked me to post tonight.  I am pleased to do so.  It has been a long time.

Tonight we are going to talk about a very quick (as far as preparation time goes) and fairly inexpensive main dish.  Traditionally, it is made with meat but it does not have to be.  The results will be somewhat different, but still very good.

First, take a look at my Tiger Lilies.  The starts for these plants came from my grandmum’s yard many decades ago.  These lilies are “multipliers”, in that bulblets form where the leaves meet the stem, and they will come up and make new plants.  I made the second picture larger so you can see them.

Anyway, this has to do with food.  Swiss steak is a wonderful way to use cheap cuts of beef, like bottom round steak or chuck steak.  If you happen not to eat meat, I have a couple of vegetarian varieties that you will find tasty.  We will concentrate on the beef ones, and I shall insert the instructions for the vegetarian ones as we go.

First take the beef (either round or chuck steak) and carefully cut off all of the connective tissue and fat on the outside of it.  If you get a good piece, it will be only around 5% or so.  I took the cuttings to my dear neighbors, Elmer and Helen, and he fed them to his dogs.  Elmer is a 62 year old coon hunter, and his dogs are close in dog years to him.  He just turned 62 on Thursday, and Helen gave me some of his cake.  I gave him several of the new 2009 Lincoln cents with the new reverses, and he is going to make a shadow box showing them.  I have a few more other ones to give him.

Anyway, take the steak, and after taking off the gristle and fat, pound in flour with salt and pepper mixed into it.  I used a little garlic powder as well, and some MSG, but I understand that many folks do not tolerate MSG.  In any event, mix the seasonings well with the flour and get ready to pound it into the meat.  If you are vegetarian, read the next paragraph.  For the steak, use a steak mallet (one of those hammers with half octahedrons as the surface) after you cover the piece of meat with the seasoned flour to pound the material into the body of the meat.  I like to cut the pieces into dollar bill sized ones, but you can use any size that you like.

For vegetarians, there are two variations that work well, in my limited experience.  If you like tofu, get the firmest kind that you can find and work the seasoned flour into it.  The mallet is probably too much for tofu, but you can take a stout saucer and use the edge of it gently work the seasoned flour into it.  The same goes for the Portabella mushrooms.  In fact, just slitting either of those and working in the flour would be a good thing.  Crosshatching the slits would keep more seasoned flour, and hence a better tasting product.

Now, take a skillet and add some oil, just a little.  I use soy oil because it is bland, but olive would be fine as well.  Then take your pieces of meat (or tofu or mushrooms) and brown them slowly.  This is the most critical part of the process.  For the Maillard reactions to work to produce flavor and color, do not rush it.  I suggest a very large cast iron skillet or griddle, and half an hour.  Keep turning the floured stuff on medium heat, until it is just past golden brown, and the scent is very attractive.  Then take each piece onto a plate for a moment.

By this time the skillet likely has some good brown “crunchies” on the bottom.  Deglaze those with some water or wine, if you prefer.  I do not prefer cooking with wine, preferring that to go directly into the cook, but that is up to you.  The important thing is that the meat or the substitute for it, is well browned to develop flavor, and that the skillet is deglazed so that the wonderful tasting crunchies do not burn.  Take a spatula and work it around the surface of the skillet to make sure that nothing is stuck.

Whilst you are doing that, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Then take a quart of diced tomatoes (I used two pints that I canned last fall) and pour the liquid into the skillet.  If you skillet will not hold it, pour everything into a large casserole pan.  Then put the meat, tofu, or mushrooms on top of the liquid.  Add the solids from the tomatoes just over the top.

Now, take an onion and chop it into half inch pieces, and add that to the top.  The onion depends on you taste, but I love onions, so I use lots.  Vidalias are in season now, and they are wonderful.  If you like bell pepper, add some one quarter inch pieces now.  I used about a a quarter of a cup for the last batch, and it came out well.

If you seasoned the meat (or tofu, or mushrooms) properly, not much more will be required.  Put that skillet, or other vessel, tightly covered, into your 350 degree oven for an hour or more.  Less for tofu and mushrooms, more for round steak.

An hour before it is ready, start your brown rice.  I like brown rice, and the recipe is one part of rice to two and a half parts of water.  Put the water in a vessel with a very tight lid, bring it to a boil, and add a little salt and oil if you prefer.  Once the water boils, add the rice, stir a bit, and put the lid back.  As soon as it boils again, turn down the heat to the lowest that you can, and let it simmer for 45 minutes.  Never open the lid until the 45 minutes are past.

Now, check your main dish and the rice.  I suspect that they are ready.  I like to put the rice on the right and the main dish on the left, and mingle them slowly.  There is nothing wrong with putting the main dish on top of the rice.

This is easy to cook and is delicious.  Happy eating!

Warmest regards,


Crossposted at Dailykos.com


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  1. Hunter’s FP story made me smile too but that was the cynic in me.

    Yours was just a regular good old fashioned smile.

    I’m going to go to sleep on that one.

    • sharon on July 26, 2009 at 05:35

    thanks for sharing. how nice that they have been in your family, too!  my lillies were attacked by aphids while i was in maine and i am performing triage tomorrow.  heading off to the nursery in hopes that they have ladybugs in stock.

    recipe looks good although i am not a steak or tofu person.  🙂

  2. I am tearing up and choking to find the words for appreciation.

    All that I can say is “Thank you”.

    Warmest regards,


    • Adam on July 26, 2009 at 09:13

    Pony for the memories.

    She cooked it in one of those electric skillets.

    (but now I gotta deal with drool management)

  3. but the last time I had steak it was a top round.  An inexpensive cut (about half the price of sirloin) and usually not well-regarded.

    I took it out of the fridge about 1 or 1 1/2 hours before cooking so it would be room-temperature, then put it in a hot cast-iron skillet that had been prepared with a bit of corn oil, and fried it briefly (maybe 3 minutes?) on each side.

    The result was a perfect medium-rare steak that I didn’t need to embellish in any way.

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