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

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius.magister at verizon.net
Fri Aug 25 08:42:05 PDT 2006

On Aug 25, 2006, at 10:48 AM, Kathleen A Roberts wrote:

> as a child and into teens, yes!  quite often.  it was my
> father's speciality.  but we are talking 45 years ago or
> so. 8)
> he used round steak, where a bit of smothering and
> braising worked nicely.  he used it because it was cheap
> and quick.  please remember he was a fighting army cook in
> the phillipines (WWII) so his recipes were often...
> interesting.

Yes, but this is exactly what I think I've been looking for. They may  
have been interesting, but there's a good chance a WWII army cook  
would at least know (if not always be able to practice in an  
industrial setting) the "essential" form of what may once have been a  
rather homely dish by some people's standards, but which now seems at  
some point to have crept up on the social scale, and now may be going  
out of fashion again to some extent.

See, this touches on what I've come to realize is a very important  
part of the way I work, both as an amateur of culinary history, but  
as a rather minimalist (in the Mark Bittman sense, although I may  
have been doing it for longer than he has) cook. I realize that a  
good deal of my style in this area has been a desire to get to what  
makes a given dish _that dish_ and no other, to find and take those  
essential qualities and ride them like a roller coaster as far and as  
hard as I can... if that makes any sense.

> he would fry the pieces of round in Crisco and remove from
> pan.

Thick? Thin? Pounded? Flour? Not that I'm being obsessive here or  

>   then he would slice up a metric buttload of onion
> and fry them in the pan.  then he would put the round
> steak back in the pan (pieces about the size of your hand)
> and mix it up with the onions.  salt, pepper, a bit of
> water, cover on and cook just a bit more to soften the
> onions and get that oniony flavor into the steak.

So, in theory, there's no gravy to speak of, other than the softened  
onions and a little bit of juice, eh?

> we would eat it as a main meat with mashed potatoes and
> canned peas (always canned peas -- almost a ritual)or on
> kaiser rolls as a steak sandwich with the juice making
> everything all messy.

I used to love canned peas when I was a kid; they had that nice  
metallic flavor whose appeal I now find impossible to understand, let  
alone explain... although there are still dark recesses of my palate  
where I liken the flavor of plain English mustard made with water to  
the sting of a nine-volt battery on the tongue, so I'm sure there's  
still a good deal of the primitive in me ;-).

> however, dear heart is a 'make it moo' steak eater, so i
> don't really use the recipe anymore.  i have become fond
> of rare-ish meat as well (tho i prefer mine a bit more
> done than he does).

I have been known to ask waiters to bring meat still alive... but  
there are times when it needs to be well-cooked, where the juice  
comes from collagen and fat. Depends on the cut and the dish; both  
are good.

>   maybe i might want to look at this
> again, since round is cheap-ish.
> my mother did liver that way too.  i still do.

That would be where you lose me. My mother was something of a well- 
done liver person, too, but I now vastly prefer it medium, at most.  
After spending years cooking it in restaurants, I've more or less  
determined to my own, and the clientele's, satisfaction, that well- 
done liver is something The Eternal never intended.

> wow... thanks for the trip down memory lane.

My pleasure. It's probably the fact that I don't have any strong  
memories of this from my own childhood, other than awareness that it  
is sort of culturally iconic for fine American dining (presumably the  
fancy short loin strip steak version, but still) that I'm interested  
in it. I figured I might find someone here on this list with direct  
personal knowledge of What It's All About, so to speak.


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