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.
I use Kid Cayenne’s mama’s recipe to do this, but it calls for a water instead of broth and a tablespoon of brown gravy mix powder. I’m going to try your recipe next time. I think I would like it better. Not that her recipe is anything to sneeze at. Boy, do I love smothered anything.
I’m with you. Dark gravy rules!
@ NOJuju, gravy mix and/or instant roux powder are pretty common ingredients; I tend to like a thinner (but still flavorful) gravy so I don’t use either one. @Sara, how do people eat that pasty white stuff? Blech! It is suitable for sealing envelopes, but not much else.
An old fashion way of darkening gravy in southwest Louisiana is to caramelize sugar until almost burnt. If you have a store that carries Savoie products look in the Louisiana dry goods section. You might find Mrs Savoie version of it. I have some sitting in my frig.
Ah yes, caramel coloring. It is the main ingredient in Kitchen Bouquet, yet another ingredient (like Zatarain’s liquid crab boil) used by so many in south Louisiana.
Yes, my mother in law’s recipe uses Kitchen Bouquet as well. I’m getting hungry for some smothered pork chops now.
T-Coons has the best in Lafayette. Try the rabbit rice and gravy. Mmmmm. Those prairie cajuns make the best.
I made your recipe for my sister and her husband who are visiting from Indiana last night, but with pork chops instead of round steak. Well, actually made a bit of a hybrid btwn my MIL’s and yours. It was your gravy with the addition of carrot and bell pepper with the onions and garlic. Absolutely wonderful. I’ll probably make my gravy this way from here on out. Thanks!
Aw, yeah: show the Midwesterners some real home cookin’. Glad you’re feeling well enough to cook!
I got help with the chopping and prep. It’s great to have my sister here. She’s an excellent sous chef. Tonight is chicken spaghetti. I hardly had to chop a thing! 🙂
Wow–pretty sweet. You know, the refrigerated, pre-chopped seasonings (onion, celery, bell pepper mixture–look for Guidry’s brand) aren’t so bad. Just might be a helpful thing for when you can’t chop. Don’t bother with the frozen stuff, though.
Looking forward to trying this!
My granny used to make this for me all the time as a kid, since she passed I’ve been trying to recreate the recipe. Thank you for this.