[Sca-cooks] OOP: Query on Steak Smothered In Onions...

ysabeau ysabeau at mail.ev1.net
Fri Aug 25 07:26:40 PDT 2006

Hmmmmm...I eat this on a regular basis. I think...I don't consider 
it unique or different. I thought everyone ate their steaks this 

I routinely saute onions in a bit of whatever I have - butter, 
olive oil - and then deglaze the pan with whatever I have - white 
wine, red wine, beer, even orange juice one time (very 
interesting). I either grill the steak or saute it (usually 
between the onions and the deglazing). I usually put the onions on 
the plate first (just because I've cooked them first and need 
someplace other than the pan to put them and don't see a point in 
dirtying another dish) then the steak, then drizzle the sauce from 
the pan over the top. My dad would add mushrooms to the mix. If 
I'm in a hurry or only cooking for myself, I'll cook the onions 
and the steak at the same time on different sides of the skillet. 
If I'm grilling, I'll prepare the onions a couple of hours ahead 
of time and just reheat them. One of the things I've started 
seeing in the stores here are sauces that are designed to be used 
for deglazing pans to create a sauce...most have some kind of 
alcohol base - whiskey, wine. 

The other version I don't make at all, I usually order it at the 
ubiquitous roadside restaurant, usually the seedier the better. 
They basically take a chicken fried steak, put grilled onions on 
top, and then a brown gravy. Sometimes they add those canned fried 
onions you see in green bean casseroles. How breaded the steak is 
depends on the restaurant and whether they are using the pre-
breaded frozen ones or if they are breading them themselves. I 
prefer the lighter breaded ones. It is usually a round steak that 
has been tenderized to the point of almost hamburger. There is a 
restaurant here in Austin that serves a good smothered whatever 
(chicken, pork chop, or steak) called Hoover's. I haven't been 
there in years though. 

I seem to remember eating some schnitzel in Germany that was 
similar - maybe zigeuner schnitzel? but it was a pork steak. 

I never really thought of it, but maybe it is a southern thing? I 
know smothered pork chops and chicken are considered "soul food" 
in these parts and usually served with a side of greens. The best 
restaurants for that kind of food is usually on "the wrong side of 
the tracks". The price of beef is much higher so most people 
prefer to not sully the flavor of a good steak as much as they did 
in the "old days" when the cuts were tougher and needed to be 
braised. I think the smothered steak may have gone out when 
barbecuing and grilling hit the main stage and that became the de 
rigeur way of preparing steak...maybe?

Ysabeau (who is now craving steak smothered in onions, dang you!)
Barony of Bryn Gwlad, Ansteorra

---------- Original Message ----------------------------------
From: "Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius" 
<adamantius.magister at verizon.net>
Reply-To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>
Date: Fri, 25 Aug 2006 09:29:42 -0400

>Hullo, the list!
>I'm not sure if we talked about this before, and I don't think 
>necessarily the kind of thing that would find its way into the  
>Florilegium, so here's what I'm wondering about...
>I'm interested in the sorta-kinda-archetypal dish of steak 
>in onions, and any relationship it may or may not have to other  
>smothered dishes, such as chicken (which I gather is somewhat 
>to some people's concept of a fricassee), and pork chops (which  
>appear to be a basic braise).
> From what I'm seeing, the "steak smothered in onions" thing 
seems to  
>have reached its height in the US in the 1940's and '50's, but as 
>as I can tell it's mostly a presentation/method of service, and 
not a  
>specific cooking method, at least by that time: the steak gets  
>smothered on the plate, not in the pan.
>I believe I've seen references to SSIO as a Depression-era truck 
>lunch-counter type of item, cooked on a griddle alongside such  
>yummies as the world-famous Hamburger Steak Sandwich (for which  
>latter some early recipes exist indicating that the beef is 
>ground nor chopped, but repeatedly pounded). The steak would be 
>cheap cut, possibly pounded, seared until brown and then 
>among a pile of fried/sauteed onions on the cool spot at the rear 
>the griddle, similar (I think) to the modern Midwestern "pepper  
>steak" (which is neither the Cantonese dish nor tournedos au 
>I believe Andy Smith (not the late SCAdian duke, the food 
>with the tomato fixation) sent me an e-mail which included a  
>nineteenth-century recipe for smothered steaks which featured 
>and ISTR it was pretty similar to a smothered pork chop recipe, 
but I  
>now can't locate the message.
>I was just wondering if anyone had actually eaten this, possibly 
as a  
>child, and whether it was cooked in combination or assembled on 
>plate. It seems to be one of those things that has become a sort 
>cultural icon, but which few of us have probably eaten within 
>past year. You'd have to be certifiably insane to cheerfully 
spend an  
>evening setting up side-by-side taste tests on things like this,  
>wouldn't you?
>BTW, when I did the taste test, the winner for sheer essential-
>was the very lightly floured, pounded piece of boneless chuck, 
>or less country-fried and then left to macerate in a mound of 
>soft, almost conserved, sauteed onions in an iron pan over a low  
>flame for 20-30 minutes.
>Sca-cooks mailing list
>Sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org

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