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.

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. I used Prego Traditional pasta sauce because it's my favorite. Use what you like, 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! 

  • 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

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. 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.