Here's a little tutorial of how to make one of my favorite meals (Colton's too!) - Country fried steak (or porkchops) with gravy, mashed potatoes, and green beans. It's easy! No measuring. Like I've said before - I'm a big believer in learning to cook by the senses. Sight, touch, taste. It's faster, uses less dishes, and is more adjustable to personal tastes!
We'll start with the beans, as they need to be simmered for a few hours. Rinse them off in a colander, tossing them around a little to make sure you get all of them!
And snap them into a pot. Add water until there's about 1 1/2 to 2 inches between the beans and the bottom of the pot. I just stick my finger in and wiggle it around a little to estimate how much more water I need :)
Add two beef bouillon cubes (or the equivalent of the granules or that "better than bouillon" stuff), and a small handful of kosher salt. Put it on the stove and set it to "high".
Fry up a few slices of bacon. I used three since I'm making a big pot - for a medium pot, two would do just fine.
Our apartment has a gas stove. I like it now, but at first I was terrified that it was going to blow up.
While the bacon is browning, dice 1 onion.
Check out my new knife. It was a birthday gift. Thanks, mom! It's from the Calphalon Katana series. I absolutely love it, even though I accidentally sliced the tip of my thumb off a month after I got it, which hurt like none other.
Mmm, just look at that bacon.
I mean really.
Once the bacon slices are brown, drop them in the bean pot, and add your onions to the bacon grease.
Saute until they're beginning to soften and become golden brown, then add them to the bean pot. (Talk about a heavenly smell!)
Bring your pot to boil, then reduce the heat to medium low, or whatever gets it to a gentle simmer. Now you can goof off for an hour or so while your beans cook! Once they've been simmering for at least an hour, maybe two, you can taste one and see how they're coming along. If you taste them too soon, it's easy to oversalt them because they haven't absorbed all the flavors of the broth yet. I usually don't add any salt until 20-30 minutes before I intend to serve the meal.
About 40 minutes before I want to eat, I peel my potatoes (I like golden ones!), cut them into pieces, and put them on to boil.
Here's what my beans look like at this point. You want the broth to be nice and brown, and the beans to be soft. If they're not there yet, or if it looks like too much liquid, raise the heat a little.
Now we'll start the meat. Start by preparing your dredging bowls. I always like to start with more flour than I think I'll need. For three small breakfast steaks, I dumped about a cup of flour into my dish. Season it well! I add salt, black pepper, paprika, and creole seasoning to give it a little kick.
If you're feeling a little unsure about how much, give it a little taste. You want to be able to taste some of that flavor through the flour. If you can't taste anything, add more of your spices. If it's super salty or spicy, add a little more flour.
Crack an egg in a separate dish and add a splash of milk. (I like buttermilk if I have any, but normal milk is fine too!)
Give it a good beating with a fork so it's nice and smooth.
If you're using breakfast steak like me, whack away at it with the pointy end of a meat mallet. You can also use cube steak, which is already whacked, or pork chops!
Colton came to join in with the whacking. I think he liked it.
Pour just enough canola or vegetable oil to coat the bottom of your pan, and set the heat to medium high, or a little under.
Dredge your meat in the flour, then the egg wash, and finally the flour again. Make sure the sides are covered too! I usually tap the flour on with my fingers then shake off the excess. (Sorry about the lack of pictures on this step. I had a hard time snapping them with one hand.)
Once all your meat is breaded, it's time for frying! Add a small hunk of butter to the hot oil, maybe about a tablespoon. It should bubble and pop like this. If it doesn't look excited, increase your heat a little.
Now add your meat to the pan. Try not to splash oil over the top, like I did.
But if you do, it's okay. Just sprinkle a little more of the flour mixture on top and pat it down with the back of a fork.
Flip em' when they look nice and golden! Have a plate lined with paper towels ready by the side of your pan. Remove them to the plate when they're done through.
Okay, now here's the part that used to intimidate me. The gravy! It's really not that hard, though, I've come to find out. The key is whisking like a madwoman. Also, I recommend having the milk jug available next to you on the counter and already open right before you take the meat off. Once you remove the meat onto your plate, pour out the excess oil, reserving a little in your pan along with the brown bits. Start whisking! I mean it, people. With your other hand, sprinkle the leftover flour mixture, whisking it constantly, until you have a roux.
Let it cook long enough to get rid of that raw flour taste, but don't let it burn! It'll only take a minute or two. You want it to be a nice, nutty color. Be ready with that milk.
Pour in the milk while whisking, trying to combine it smoothly. Keep on pouring until the consistency is pretty watery.
You don't want it to be thick yet. You need some time to mash your potatoes! If it's getting thick too quickly, add a little more milk and reduce the heat.
I had Colton stir the gravy as it thickened while I mashed the potatoes. If you're alone in the kitchen, like I usually am, it's okay if you don't whisk constantly at this stage as long as you have the heat on low. But definitely give it a good stir every 30 seconds or so, or it'll stick. Once the gravy reaches your desired consistency, remove it to a bowl or gravy boat.
Now the easy part! I drain my potatoes and then dump them back into the same pot to mash them. I use alot of sour cream, and a good splash of milk or cream to thin them.
But you can add whatever you want!
Oh my! Oh my! (Colton gets two pieces because he's a hungry man.)
I never trusted gravy when I was a kid, but now I can't get enough of it.
And finally... don't try to put the green bean ends down the garbage disposal. Green bean water. Gross! I tried by good old alan wrench method to fix the clog*, but to no avail, so I spent about an hour this evening up to my elbow in this stuff.
* I have a terrible tendency to put things down the disposal that I shouldn't, so I've had to fix a number of clogs. It's actually pretty easy unless it's really bad (like if you crammed two cups of green bean ends in there). Look under the disposal. There should be a red button on the bottom - if it's not pushed in, push it in. It's sortof a safety trigger, so your disposal automatically shuts off if there's a bone or a spoon in there. Next, take a hexagonal alan wrench and stick it in the little hole close to the red button, and wiggle it back and forth until you can make a full rotation easily. Then turn on the water and try turning the disposal back on - alot of the time, it'll work! If not, call a plumber.