Is anything more dear to a Cajun’s heart than rice and gravy? I’m talking about not-too-thick, dark brown, garlicky gravy ladled over hot, slightly sticky rice. At my house, it’s most often beef gravy, but smothered pork chops or smothered chicken will generate righteous gravy when treated right; i.e., when gently braised in a covered pan on the stovetop. Just about any edible (vegetable or animal) will yield up a delicious liquid if subjected to a slightly wet stovetop braise–this is the legendary “smothering” technique central to south Louisiana cooking. It’s a way of tenderizing the tough that infuses the cooking liquid with the combined and reduced essences of everything in the pot.
Listen, that white, pasty stuff known as country gravy or cream gravy has nothing to do with MY gravy. My gravy is not eligible for Klan membership; my gravy is caramel-dark, coffee-brown, the color of a plowed canefield after a heavy rain. Honestly, the meat that generated the lovely gravy is, for me, almost an afterthought. It’s the gravy that matters. Read another gravyhead’s thoughts on the matter: Pableaux Johnson’s tribute to roast-rice-and-gravy.
This is Cajun soul food, all the way.
Smothered round steak, for rice and gravy
- 6 to 8 palm-sized pieces of top round steak, approximately 1/2″ thick and trimmed of excess fat
- 1 T flour
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- sprinkling of salt
- 2 T olive oil, bacon grease, or other fat (but butter tends to burn)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed & coarsely chopped
- 2-3 T water (optional, only if needed)
- 2 T tomato puree (or 1/2 T tomato paste)
- 1-1/2 cups beef broth (or if you want it to taste just like my Mama’s, you’ll use a can of Campbell’s beef consomme)
- 1 T finely chopped fresh parsley
- salt, to taste (optional; depends on the salt level of the beef broth)
Sprinkle round steak pieces on both sides with flour, pepper, and salt. Heat oil over high in a heavy skillet (one with a lid) until it shimmers, then add the seasoned meat. When undersides are well-browned, turn each over and continue browning the meat. A dark-brown (but not burned) crust should develop on the bottom of the skillet. Push meat to one side of the skillet. Add chopped onions and garlic. If the onions do not give off sufficient water to liquify the crust (aka “fond”) on the skillet’s bottom, add a few tablespoons of water to loosen the residue. Reduce heat to medium, and continue cooking onions until soft. Add tomato puree, beef broth, and parsley; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 50 minutes, or until fork-tender. Serve over hot cooked rice. Serves 4-6.