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

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius.magister at verizon.net
Fri Aug 25 09:00:01 PDT 2006

On Aug 25, 2006, at 10:26 AM, ysabeau wrote:

> 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
> way.

Many people do. I don't think it's especially unique, but it just  
seems like restaurant menus no longer proudly proclaim that they  
serve steaks smothered in onions and/or mushrooms as often as they  
used to. You can still order a steak, and get the onions or  
mushrooms, but it's not the same as it used to be, I think. Maybe the  
mystique of red meat just isn't what it used to be, and this is some  
sort of collateral damage.

> 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.

One of my more treasured possessions is a cookbook from Luchow's  
(pronounced LOO-khov's, it turns out) German restaurant, which spent  
about 100 years on 14th Street, not far from Union Square, in  
Manhattan. The recipes generally seem to hark back to the nineteenth  
century, with occasional modernized touches courtesy of the Space Age  
of the 1950's and '60's. Woo-hoo! I'll have to check there for their  
take. I'm sure there'll be something, even if it's among their  
various nods to the contemporary American cooking of the period  
(around 1961, I think).

> 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?

Very possibly. I think smothering in the Southern sense (generally a  
form of braising) is an offshoot of English cookery, and it's quite  
possible that the branching off of the broiled, sauteed or grilled  
steak topped with cooked onions may have emerged in the 20th century  
when both broilers and outdoor grills started showing up in [most]  

> Ysabeau (who is now craving steak smothered in onions, dang you!)

You too, huh?


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