Friday, June 24, 2011

Cube Steak Neapolitan

Inexpensive and impressive. Did I say great tasting? Here, the humble cube steak
is garnished with savory tomato sauce, fresh basil, and a mixture of cheeses
to become the star of the show. 

Cube steak, sometimes known as "minute steak," is usually a tough part of beef round that has been run through a mechanical tenderizer. "Cube" refers to the square indentations left in the meat from the tenderizer. It is, indeed, a humble piece of meat literally put through the ringer.

Cube steaks are inexpensive. Traditionally, they are coated in flour then dipped in an egg wash, coated with crushed saltine cracker crumbs, and flash fried. It is served with a milk gravy made from the drippings and called "chicken-fried steak."

They are easily stuffed with spinach and cheese, rolled, and then wrapped in bacon and grilled. 

But my favorite way to prepare them is in the American-Italian fashion of tomato sauce and cheese. Cube steaks come in an array of sizes and shapes. I look for ones the size of a serving portion. The three pictured here were a total of one-half pound and cost $2.47. A real bargain. (Update: 2023 and the price has increased, but they are still inexpensive compared to other cuts of beef).

The recipe below is meant to be more of a guideline. It's the kind of recipe you make up as you go. "Neapolitan" refers to the "layers" of ingredients. Use pasta/marinara sauce you prefer or make your own. I also used a combo of pre-packaged, shredded mozzarella and Provolone cheese. I use canned Parmesan-Romano cheese from Kraft in the bread-crumb mixture. I purchased the cheeses and sauce both on sale. I grow my own basil--you should, too! 

Use "sandwich" pepperoni which most delis will have on hand and slice for you. You want it thin. Thin-sliced Genoa salami will also work. Here's a great trick: Flash fry the salami or pepperoni in a hot oil-less, non-stick skillet. It will only take a minute or so per side for it to become wonderfully crisp and flavorful as bacon. Remove to a paper towel until ready to use. Be forewarned, if you have never done this, you will most likely devour it, so have plenty of hand It's your call.

Avoid "pizza" pepperoni which is too thick, greasy, and filled with preservatives.

After frying your cube steaks, you could also fry up some colored peppers and onions until soft to top the beef. Again, it's your call.

This meal is worthy of guests and easily prepared ahead of time. Arranged on a nice platter accompanied by a bowl of cheesy/garlicky pasta with extra marinara sauce, and a nice side salad, you can't go wrong. For dessert, I suggest something "lemony."
  • 3 cube steaks, total 1/2 pound
  • 2/3 - 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 -1/3 cup grated Parmesan from a can
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, freshly crushed (don't omit)
  • Garlic powder
  • Cayenne pepper--a few shakes (optional)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • All-purpose flour
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or three slices)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3-6 thin-sliced pieces sandwich pepperoni or Genoa salami (see notes above)
  • Optional: fried peppers/onions

On a plate, mix together the bread crumbs, pepper, freshly-ground fennel seeds, canned Parmesan cheese and sprinkle or two of garlic powder and, if using, Cayenne pepper. Season the cutlets with a bit of garlic powder then dip in flour on both sides and shake off excess. (I didn't use any salt since the cheeses and sauce have plenty already.)

Dip each cutlet into the beaten eggs and then coat with bread-crumb mixture. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes.

Heat a frying pan with enough oil to not quite cover the cutlets. When hot, add cutlets and brown on each side over medium heat. This won't take long. They don't have to cook all the way through since they will also be baking in the oven. Remove to paper towel to drain and then place in a single layer on a baking dish. 

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes. Remove. If using, top with pepperoni or salami and a bit of your pepper/onion mix. Spoon 3-4 tablespoons marinara sauce over each cutlet. Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes. Remove. 

The humble cube steak all dressed up!

Stack the basil leaves one on top of the other. Now roll them like a tiny cigar. Cut into thin shreds or ribbons (chiffonade). Sprinkle evenly over each cutlet. Cover each one with mozzarella and then the freshly-ground Parmesan. Return to oven to bake just until cheese melts, about a good five minutes. 

Remove. Allow to sit for a bit and serve.

Notes: I'm not a fan of dried bread crumbs, but they work here. You may season them any way you wish, but don't omit the cheese.You may also use Italian bread crumbs. Don't cut the basil until ready to use or it will turn black. In a future version, for even more of taste zing, I imagine sauteing a bit of fresh mushrooms and garlic and then placing that on top of the cutlet with some sliced black olives before popping into the oven.

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