1 pound pre-tenderized cube steaks, or round steaks (4 steaks)
Salt, for seasoning the meat
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt, for breading
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Canola oil, peanut oil, olive oil, or other fat for frying
For the gravy:
3 tablespoons pan drippings
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 cups milk (a little more or less, depending on your preference)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pound the steaks evenly:
If you are using round steak instead of pre-tenderized cube steak, you will need to pound the steaks thin or they will be way too chewy. (Already tenderized cube steaks can also use more attention from the meat mallet to be made thinner.)
Place each steak between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, rubber mallet, rolling pin, or empty wine bottle, pound the steak until it is very thin, less than 1/4 inch.
As you pound the steak, turn it over often and spread out the plastic wrap, which tends to wrinkle as you work.
Repeat with all the steaks.
Salt the meat:
Sprinkle a little salt over the meat.
Preheat the oven to 200°F. Put a wire rack over a baking sheet and place in the oven. You’ll use the oven to keep the finished steaks warm and crisp while you cook the gravy.
Bread the steaks:
Prepare two wide, shallow dishes (such as a Pyrex casserole dish). In the first one, whisk together the eggs and milk. In the second, whisk together the flour, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne.
Working one at a time, dredge a steak in the flour. Using the heel of your hand, press the flour into both sides of the steak.
Lift the steak, shake off the excess flour, and dip the steak into the egg wash, coating it on both sides.
Lift the steak out of the egg wash, shake off the excess egg wash, and then dredge the steak in the flour a second time. Again, press the flour into the steak on both sides.
Set aside on a plate. Repeat with the remaining steaks.
Fry the steaks:
Pour enough oil in a large frying pan to cover the bottom by 1/4 inch. Heat the oil to 350°F or until it sizzles when you drop a little flour into it. If the oil doesn’t sizzle, it isn’t ready; if it burns, the oil is too hot, reduce the heat.
Working one at a time, lay a coated steak into the hot oil. Use a metal spoon to spoon some of the oil over the steak. This sets the coating.
Fry until you see the edges of the steak turn golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn the steak over in the pan, and fry for 2 more minutes.
Once both sides of the steak are golden brown, tip the steak up with a metal spatula to drain the excess oil. Remove it from the pan and place if on the wire rack in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining steaks and leave them in the oven while you make the gravy.
Make a roux for the gravy:
Turn off the heat under the pan. Pour out all but about 3 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of flour and turn the heat on to medium.
Cook until it’s the color of milk chocolate, about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Finish the gravy:
When the flour-fat mixture is smooth and a lovely milk chocolate color, slowly add the milk and cream, whisking constantly. Note that the mixture will seize up initially, and will loosen as you whisk in more liquid.
Add milk to your desired thickness for gravy. If the gravy is too thick for you, add more milk. If it’s too thin, let it cook longer.
Season with salt and lots of black pepper, to taste.
Serve chicken fried steak with the gravy and a side of mashed potatoes or your choice of side.