How many times have you been working the reference desk and thought, man alive I could use a meal? Too many times, am I right? Born and raised in the deep South, my meals tend to lean toward the "chicken fried" variety, so I submit to you my own recipe for cooking up chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuits, and gravy in the library breakroom.
Before we get into it, let me go ahead and give you a word of warning. This should not be attempted by anyone other than a degreed librarian or an eighty-year-young grandmother. Cooking chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuits, and gravy is a harrowing experience in the best circumstances. Qualifications for attempting this in the library should include five or more of the following:
at least five years public library service
a MLIS or MLS from an accredited university
experience using an integrated library system
at least two grandchildren
the ability to say "bless your soul" and "dear heart" without sounding condescending
teaching experience or experience public speaking
cast iron aptitude
understand the difference between "oil," "lard," and "bacon grease"
MS Office Suite experience
Now that we have the warning out of the way and you know that you should not attempt this, here's how you attempt this.
The first thing you should do is gather your ingredients. Here's another bullet point list:
cubed steaks, about as much as you need
handful or two of flour
tube of store-bought biscuits because I have a word count limit
can of green beans if you do not have a garden and are okay with living like that
pinch or two of pepper
some Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
a week's worth of bacon grease
water if you are nasty (pretend you are nasty)
Once you gathered up all your materials, make sure you have some coverage on the reference desk. If not, make sure you insert "check on the desk" between each step.
Step 1: Boil and heat stuff
Let's get our potatoes, green beans, and biscuits ready to go. Get two pots going with enough water to cook with in each. Cut up your potatoes into small cubes, about the size of a square made three-dimensional. Dump the cubes in one pot as soon as the water gets going with good boil.
Open the can of green beans because otherwise they are a bitch to eat. Dump them in the second pot, fill the can with water, and turn that down from boil to simmer.
Turn on your oven and follow the heating instructions the tube of biscuits. Pretend to be a karate master while opening the tube, chopping down in a swift motion to hide the fact that it scares you when the tube pops. Bake as directed.
Set your cast iron on the heat warming to a medium high. Put in half your bacon grease and keep an eye on it. If it starts to smoke, consider your life choices.
Step 2: Prep the meat
Take that steak and beat the holy hell out of it like a red-headed stepchild in Walmart. Get them down to about ¼ of an inch thick.
Mix together flour, pepper, and Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning in a ziploc bag. Mix egg and milk in a bowl to make an egg wash. Put the steak in the ziploc and shake it around, then put the steak in the egg wash, then back in the flour. Continue doing this until the egg wash is no more.
Step 3: Cook with Grease
Fry the steaks in the bacon grease, about three to five minutes on each side. Put them off to the side to drain on a paper towel that is on top of a brown paper bag because that's what my momma did and that is what I do and I am not sure why. Make sure the dog can not get at them.
Step 4: Veggie-tale and gravy
By now the beans and potatoes should be done. Turn off the heat. Mix in some pepper and Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning in the beans and stick a slotted spoon in them. Drain the potatoes and mix in some milk and Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. Mash the crap out of them, adding more milk depending on how creamy you like them. Stick a big spoon in them. Serve them up.
Put the other half of the bacon grease in the skillet and just as it turns to liquid, whisk in the leftover flour. Add milk, pepper, and Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. Take it off the heat and continue stirring with a whisk until the gravy thickens.
Get the biscuits out of the oven.
Step 5: Eat
Plate up some food and enjoy. Fight off any patron who tries to get into the breakroom to get at your meal.
Image from Kent Wang