photograph by Matt Hulsman

Yield: 4 servings.

4 cube steaks (about ⅓ pound each)
1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt, divided
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups buttermilk

1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

For the gravy:
4 tablespoons grease (reserved from steak)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 to 3 cups whole milk

½ cup heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste

In a shallow bowl, whisk together flour, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, bak- ing soda, and baking powder. Set aside. In a separate shallow bowl, whisk together buttermilk, hot sauce, and eggs. Set aside.

Pat cube steaks dry with a paper towel, removing as much moisture as possible. Season with 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Let sit for 5 minutes and pat dry again with paper towel.

Dredge the cube steaks in the flour mixture, shaking off excess, then dredge in the buttermilk-egg mixture, letting excess drip off, and then a second time in the flour mixture, shaking off excess. Place breaded cube steaks on a sheet pan or metal rack and press any remaining flour mixture into the cube steaks, making sure that the entire steak is completely coated. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 250°. Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet over medium-high, heat vegetable oil to 340°. Place two steaks at a time into the pan and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Do not flip more than once.

Remove steaks from pan and drain on paper towels. Transfer to a wire rack and place in preheated oven. Reduce skillet heat to medium. Pour the remaining grease into a heat-safe bowl. Keep all remnants of meat in the pan.

For the gravy: Return 4 tablespoons of the steak grease to the hot skillet. Whisk in flour and continue whisking for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Combine the cream and milk and slowly drizzle about 2½ cups into the skillet, whisking constantly. Continue whisking and bring the gravy to a simmer. Cook until the gravy is smooth and creamy, about 5 to 7 minutes. If the gravy gets too thick, add a little more milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Lynn Wells is a personal chef with more than 20 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry and a degree in Nutrition Management from UNCG.