By Leslie Kelly

Chicken fried steak might not get as much attention as red hot trendy fried chicken, but maybe that's because it's a little tricky to pull off. I've eaten the best versions of this diner staple while traveling around Montana.

Chicken Fried Steak | Photo by Meredith

Executive chef Nick Steen from Walker's Grill in Billings is known for his ambitious farm-to-table fare. He perfected a high-end version of chicken fried steak while working at Lone Mountain Ranch near Yellowstone, and said starting with good ingredients is key. "Minus a few things like salt and pepper, everything on that dish came from the amazing state of Montana! It makes me so happy."

Agreed! Last time I visited lovely Lone Mountain Ranch, I took a fly fishing lesson (hooked five, caught and released on the Yellowstone River), and marveled at the amazing geysers on a guided tour of the stunning national park. But my favorite part of the trip was the food. I even talked chef Nick into sharing the recipe for the chicken fried steak, see below, and talked to him about how to make for a memorable version of the dish. It's not on the menu at his new place, but he's experimenting with a chicken fried meatloaf!

  • Use a kitchen mallet to pound the steak flat, placing the meat between pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap.
  • Season immediately with salt and pepper on both sides. Then season again after it's cooked.
  • Heat the oil in a skillet to almost smoking hot before gently adding the battered steaks. The temp will drop when the meat hits the pan. Cast iron works best.
  • Let the steak sizzle for about 4 minutes before taking a peek. You're looking for golden brown, and ideally only want to turn it once.
  • Serve sausage gravy on the bottom of the plate, with extra for passing, and slide a couple of perfect eggs alongside the crispy steak for a brunch that will stick to your ribs.
Photo by Leslie Kelly

Nick Steen's Chicken Fried Steak

6 8-ounce Wagyu Beef center-cut rib eye, cleaned and pounded out flat (use chuck if rib eye is too expensive)
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups buttermilk
Canola Oil

Season each rib eye heavily with salt and pepper. Cover in buttermilk and then dredge in flour, back into buttermilk, and then into the flour again. Allow to sit for 20 minutes so that the breading gets tacky, this will make for the crispiest skin possible.

Heat oil to 350 degrees and fry for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until internal desired temperature is reached.

Sausage Gravy

2 pounds Pork Breakfast Sausage
1 quart whole milk
1 quart heavy cream
1 onion, diced
6 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
Oil
Salt
Pepper
1/4-pound butter
1/2 cup flour
Sweat onions in oil over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until translucent. Do not caramelize or get color on the onions. Add the sausage and brown, and render fat and add thyme. Add butter, melt and add flour, stirring to a roux, and slowly add the cream and milk. Stir constantly until gravy thickens, turn to low simmer and reduce for 10 minutes while constantly stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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